So, please don’t read if it will bother you.
Here’s a chart that shows the number of suicides in the U.S. by age from 1999-2011. I’m fascinated by these numbers, but then I’m not. I’m surprised because what we generally hear about are teenagers and young adults committing suicide. That’s where all of the emotion and drama is on this. But the statistics show that the highest numbers are in the 40-54 age range. Yes, the numbers in the younger ages are horrendous (almost one child between the ages of 10-14 committed suicide every day during that period!), but the numbers increase significantly in those older groups and considering that there are all sorts of other things that kills us along the way, there are fewer 40-54 year olds then there are 15-30 year olds.
Here’s why I’m not surprised. You grow up. When you’re a child, you look at adults and think they have it made. Adults have money. They can stay up late and drink beer. They can do whatever they want. There’s no mom or dad yelling at them and making them do their homework. Adulthood is the dream state for most children. It means freedom.
Then you get out of high school and you’re focused on college and a career. Marriage and a family. There are a lot of things that keep pulling you through the years. That childhood dream of adulthood kind of seems to be holding steady. Yes, there are problems, but there are many years ahead and plenty of reason to have hope.
And something happens. Maybe there are financial woes that can’t be resolved. The kids become teenagers and they scream right back at you. The marriage may not be champagne and caviar. Hell, maybe there isn’t even a marriage anymore and you’re living alone in a one room apartment and child support is eating up your check and what’s really killing you is you can’t see your kids as much as you want, even if they hate you.
And you look around and there just aren’t as many years left as there once were and you wonder whether this is really all there is. And, if the circumstances are all wrong and you can’t see your way out … well. I think that explains the statistics that contradict what we get from the media. There’s a whole heck of a lot that can go wrong in those almost middle-aged years.
One of the things I have a real problem with is when people get judgmental about people who commit suicide. Calling Robin Williams a coward or accusing those who do this as being selfish, for example. I know I’ll never commit suicide, but I get why people might. I totally get it but I could never possibly claim to be able to put myself in their shoes and come to a different result than theirs. I could never judge somebody who reaches that point. It would be nice, instead of judging, if we could take a different approach. I’m not exactly sure what that approach is and nothing will eliminate suicide from the human race, but maybe more understanding might help. More love and support, rather than questioning and judgment. Maybe we should recognize that there are moments in time when some people just … can’t … do … it … anymore and just because you can, doesn’t make them weaker and less of a human being than you.
Those are my two cents. Look around you, see who needs help and lend a hand. Offer a shoulder. Share a few words. You never know what you might be able to do to stop somebody from committing suicide, but I think being more observant and connected to those around you and offering what you can could go a long way.