The depressing news, from The New York Times:
From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.
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.
And the really depressing news, from The Associated Press:
INDIANAPOLIS — The suicide rate among Indiana's middle-aged population surged nearly 54 percent from 1999 to 2010, an increase nearly twice the national rate and one of the highest among the 50 states, according to a federal report released Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report shows Indiana's suicide rate among people ages 35 to 64 rose from about 12.7 suicides per 100,000 residents in 1999 to about 19.5 suicides per 100,000 in 2010. Indiana's nearly 54 percent suicide rate increase over that time frame was the nation's eighth-highest.
Over the same period, the national suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed 28 percent.
The Times piece has a lot of speculation about the possible causes of the increase, including this: ". . . some of the possible factors behind the increases could include the baby boomer generation's historically higher suicide rate, rising substance abuse — particularly prescription drug abuse and overdoses — and the impact of economic turmoil and uncertainties." That's interesting, but suicide is one of those tricky things to make educated guesses about. There are as many reasons for suicide as there are suicides. Coming up with one policy -- or even a set of them -- that would make a difference across the board doesn't seem possible. It is worth remarking on that most attention on suicide is focused on the young, who think their problems are insurmountable, and the elderly, who have more obvious reasons to check out early. This is the first major reporting on middle-age suicide.
The Associated Press story goes further into what has become a real problem -- cuts to mental health spending:
Alice Jordan-Miles, director of the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition, said state and federal budget cuts over the years may have played a role in the increase by reducing the availability of mental health care for many people who might not be able to afford it.
"There are still a lot of people whose families are facing budgetary constraints," she said. "If they have a session that costs $25, $35 an hour versus putting food on their table, what do you think they're going to do?" she said. "It's all about access to mental health care."