Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Suicide Question Continues

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 9, 2013


“A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a nearly 30% increase in the suicide rate among adults 35 to 64, with the most significant increase in those 50 and older. Why the suicide rate is climbing in this age group is a question without a simple answer.”


Stuck. That is how I feel when I ponder these statistics. What is this change about? I am not satisfied with the stress factors of unemployment, recession, or the floating ideas about access to prescription drugs, or the stress of growing up in the baby boom generation. None of these hypotheses hold together, since every generation has had major environmental stressors, and yet this statistic is a drastic change. Yes, in the United States, there is a tremendous favoritism to youth. Historical perspective is hardly valued. Yes, life can be painfully disappointing, with little vision about how to pivot to make things better. Yes, mental illness can lead to suicide, but none of these suggestions explain the drastic change. I am going to continue to post about this, as the explanation, it seems to me, will shed a large light, on the issues we face in our society.



5 Responses to “The Suicide Question Continues”

  1. Ashana M said

    Think of the major world events that have occurred in the last 50 years that people of these ages have been affected by–either directly or indirectly. I’m not especially surprised that the children and grandchildren of traumatized war veterans, torture victims, and genocide survivors are more likely to commit suicide. Never before have so many people been so capable or so willing to kill one another, and that affects both the victims and their perpetrators, their children and their grandchildren. I think the answer is Hiroshima, WWII, POW camps, the Holocaust, the Korean War, the Vietnam police action, Bosnia, Sudan, Afghanistan…American citizens and residents have witnessed, perpetrated, or fled from more atrocity than my great grandparents would have thought possible. Suicide in the young tends to be an impulsive act. We are looking at suicides that are less about impulse-control and more about ongoing despair.

    • I agree that mid-life suicides are about ongoing despair, but I am not sure that the world has become more traumatic. Trauma seems to persist through history, and yet suicide rates change over time. Thanks.

      • Ashana M said

        I think our world is more traumatic. The scale of violence we are capable of is simply so much greater. It took James Humberty 77 minutes to shoot 40 people in 1986. James Larimer shot 70 in only about 4 minutes last summer. Math is somehow horrifying. Scale makes it harder for our minds to grasp and also means more people are affected. However, I didn’t read carefully. They are looking at a jump in suicides in an 11 year period, so it would be a question of what happened between 1999 and 2010 that would be significant. That’s unlikely to be trauma-related.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: