Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Why Are Middle Aged Folks Exiting By Choice?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 7, 2013

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-us.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1367947995-fLB3U1rPSyYHkxZQ7I3rmA

 

“The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent, to about 30 per 100,000. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent, to 7.0 per 100,000.”

Puzzled. That is how I feel, reading this new statistic. Baby boomers, poor economy, accessibility of narcotics, rapidly changing technology leaving older people to feel left out,  none of these reasons satisfy my sense of the human condition. Fear of old age, disability, burdening loved ones, this might account for elderly suicides, but middle-aged suicides clearly point to a profound hopelessness, or a profound narcissistic injury, yielding a dramatic and final solution to human suffering. As one commenter said, ” Shakespeare expressed some of the same grief in his sonnet 66 — ‘Tired with all these, for restful death I cry.” Leaving both children and parents, seems so harsh, and yet, I can imagine that their pain runs so deep, that thinking of others is nearly impossible. Some statistics stir questions. These numbers stir disturbance and questions.

4 Responses to “Why Are Middle Aged Folks Exiting By Choice?”

  1. Jon said

    In his wonderful novel, Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbins wrote:

    “Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not.
    Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning and an end.
    Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm.
    There is only one serious question. And that is: Who knows how to make love stay?
    Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself.”

    Sadly, (if we take Mr. Robbins’ philosophizing seriously – and I think we very much should!) it appears that too many middle aged folks have not figured out how to make love stay. I offer this up as an unfortunate, but reasonable, answer to the question posed by the title to this post.

    • Yes, Jon, but I would add that making love stay involves forgiveness, both for one’s own foibles and that of others. To love, is also to feel loveable, and some deeds, in the mind of the person doing the deeds, are simply unforgiveable. In essence, one cannot talk about love, without also speaking about how guilt is a major obstacle. Perhaps guilt settles in deeply in middle age, such that the person sees no path to forgiveness. Debt could be a symbol, for example, of many wrong turns, feeling so discouraged that right turns will never get him/her back on the path he/she imagined for him/herself. Death is then seen as a relief. The question, remains, though, why is this trend different than in years past? That is the puzzle. Thanks, as always.

  2. Shelly said

    Sometimes, one’s friends and children can’t help bring back the sunshine in life. Not that I condone suicide in any way, but I do remember my father speaking often of being “tired,” tired of all the burdens in life. When he passed away, I imagine it was a relief to him that all the burdens were behind him. I remember my sister and I feeling abandoned and that even we weren’t enough to make him feel his life was worthwhile. While I can’t pretend to know what death is like, I can only imagine that it feels like nothing–and that in itself is peace.

    • Yes, there may be peace at the other end of this journey, and yes, given one’s relationship to one’s life, the need for that peace may be quite strong, but as I posed to Jon, what in society, if at all, has changed to make this a more popular route out of this material world? Thank you for adding on that the remaining loved ones feel so abandoned, whether that was the intention or not, it is hard to be left at the party without anyone to snuggle up to.

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