Dramatic rise of suicide among middle-agers reported

May 2, 2013

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If you're between 35 and 64-years-old, you're considered middle aged. You're probably working, have children, and possibly elderly parents that you help care for, as well. This is also the time when many chronic health conditions appear.

Toss in some tough economic times lately, and it adds up to a lot of stress.

That may be why Michigan has seen a bigger spike in middle-aged suicides than almost any other state.

The Centers for Disease Control says in Michigan, suicide in this age group jumped 42 percent from 1999 to 2010. That compares to a national increase of 28 percent during the same period.

Pat Smith is with the Michigan Department of Community Health. She says there's still a stigma around seeking mental health care.

"A lot of this increase is among men. You can't even get them to go to the doctor, let alone a mental health professional," Smith says. "It's really been kind of a hidden issue, and I'm really glad to see that now it's going to be on people's minds and looking at it and going to be talking about it."

Smith says she noticed the trend a few years ago.

"It's something those of us who have been working in suicide prevention for a while have noticed. It's a population that's not been looked at or discussed in terms of suicide prevention at a state or national level."

Smith says suicide prevention efforts have mostly focused on youth and the elderly. She says the new statistics should help do more for the middle-aged population.

Smith says there are signs:  Family members and colleagues may notice someone has withdrawn, or is isolating him or herself. "But overnight, they're feeling better. Sometimes when somebody has made the decision to take their life, they suddenly feel better."

Smith says if there isn't a local suicide prevention hot line, there is a national suicide prevention lifeline available.

"That will link you to someone you can talk with," Smith says. "That's always a first step."

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

To see the report: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6217a1.htm?s_cid=mm6217a1_w