LISTEN – Suicide Rates Of Middle Aged Men in Rocky Mountain Region On The Rise
The pressure of aging with the addition of health problems of middle-aged men in the Rocky Mountain region is leading to an alarmingly increased rate of suicide.
An article in The Guardian led to a conversation with Karl Rossten, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.
"A study released late last year by two Princeton academics, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who won the 2014 Nobel prize for economics, revealed that the death rate for white Americans aged 45 to 54 has risen sharply since 1999 after declining for decades. The increase, by 20% over the 14 years to 2013, represents about half a million lives cut short."
"Among middle aged men, there seems to be growing issues of financial problems, health problems, and relationship problems," Rossten said. "The group from 45 to 65 years of age seems to be the most susceptible to suicide. Around that age, men begin to look at retirement and whether you have enough money. You're got mortgages, student loans for your kids, and relationship issues. This seems to the time that divorce and breakups can occur. That's a high stress factor for suicide."
Rossten said men in the Rocky Mountain west, and specifically Montana, are brought up to discourage a man in asking for help with emotional problems.
"Our suicide rate has been high for over a hundred years," he said. "We have that cowboy mentality, in that we don't talk about our problems and the stigma is a major issue. They think there's something wrong with them, and the word I hear a lot if they think they're a burden, and if you think you're a burden, you're less likely to ask for help. That's something that is significantly different than other areas of the country"
Rossten said alcohol is also a major factor in suicide, and that depression is highly treatable.
"Last year, nearly 50 percent of suicides in males 45 to 65 had alcohol in their system," he said. "Most use it to self-medicate to help deal with other emotional issues. Men need to learn to ask for help."
"The thing about depression is that it is now seen as one of the most treatable of all the psychiatric disorders," he said."Your primary care providers have treatments available. It's vital that you talk about it and ask for help because it's out there. Suicide is never the only option."