Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Early Exits

In keeping with the sort of lighthearted subject matter normally found on the Square Peg, we turn today to yet another—suicide.

A disturbing report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not only reports that suicide is up 24% since 2001, but that it is up across all demographics. Age. Race. Gender.

The biggest increases were seen among middle-aged white men aged 45 to 64 and young girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

Of course, the overarching question is why? Why, in a country we are told from birth is the greatest in the world, are people voluntarily ending their lives in record numbers? Unrealistic expectations? The economic realities of post-recession America? Hopelessness?

Teens have traditionally suffered from a high incidence of suicide. At a stage of life that can be confusing and even terrifying, high hormonal levels can abet intense emotional swings which escalate uncomfortable events into tragedies.

Historically, the elderly have also suffered, the most obvious reason being declining health. Coupled with limited financial resources, an inability to live independently and a lost sense of purpose it can be a time of deep distress and despair.

The appearance of pre-teen girls and middle-aged men is new.

I will speculate that this group of girls may be extremely apprehensive about the onset of puberty, and whether they will be physically attractive and otherwise able to fulfill the increasingly high expectations our society holds for women.

Be a Nobel Prize-winning physicist-slash-model and raise Nobel Prize-winning children or risk being considered a failure. 

Hey, no worries. 
 
The last group I am quite familiar with, and that is middle-aged white men. A group that constitutes 18% of the population now accounts for 33% of all suicides.

In certain quarters, this might elicit muted satisfaction. Or even not so muted satisfaction. 

White men have enjoyed the best of everything and are to blame for everything, so it's only fair that now they kill themselves in record numbers, right? This is cultural payback. A societal market correction.

Before we sign off on this conclusion and move on to the next thing, I'd like to point out that the white men terminating themselves aren't the white guys you hate. The white guys you hate are still in positions of power, immensely wealthy policy-makers largely untouched by the ravages of the Great Recession.

The middle-aged white men killing themselves are being cast into the insidiousness of poverty despite spending 35, 40, 45 years doing all the stuff they were told would prevent it.

It's one helluva mind-fuck.

So. Our kids and our dads and just about everyone else are killing themselves in numbers never seen before, leaving behind a scarred and grieving trail of friends and parents and siblings and children.

Are we going to take a long, hard look into the mirror and ask why? Are we going to ask ourselves how do we stop this?

Or does this conflict with the 'It's all good' ethos? 

Just asking. 

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