I found out this week that two people that I knew took their own lives recently. This has shaken me, as I had worked with both of them a number of years ago and am surprised they took such drastic action. It has really had me thinking and doing some research.
I have discovered that according to a study by the CDC the suicide rate in America has increased by 24% from 1999 to 2014, after decreasing for more than a decade. The increase has been more dramatic for those age 35 to 64 - a nearly 30%increase, and even more so for women aged 60 to 64 - a 60% increase and men in their 50’s - a 50% increase. It is the second leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24.
Research has shown that the suicide rate typically increases in difficult economic times, but the increase has been pretty steady since 1999, even though we have seen more improving economic conditions than bad.
Often, suicide rates will also increase in times of military conflict, as combatants struggle with adjusting to coming home off of the battle field. While we have seen the shockingly high suicide rates of our veterans returning from Middle East, this has also been declining, as the number of combatants has been declining. Thank goodness!
So what explains this increase? There are a number of theories, but mine goes back to what I wrote about last week - comparison. In today’s world of hyper connectedness due to social media and 24/7 news and entertainment, we are more aware than ever of how others live. But the lives we see in social media and TV aren’t real. They’re the cherry picked - the best of everything.
The reality is that we all have issues from time to time. We have bad days, weeks, months, or years. We struggle. We make mistakes. We screw up! It's ok.
This is a subject that is close to home for my family. For those who didn’t know, Nancy Lee struggled with postpartum depression after Sam Henry was born. It was a difficult time for her and for all of us as we tried to help. She was able to get help and, thankfully, is doing much better today. The biggest lesson that I took from that time was that there is a fear of a stigma cast on those who are open about their struggles. While there are some who walked out of our lives during that period, many of our friends were supportive and willing to help. Please be a friends to those who are struggling around you.
I have very personal conversations with people on a daily basis as I help people with their finances. There is not much more personal than someones finances. Sometimes those conversations are difficult. Just this week, I had a conversation with a widow who is struggling to get her hands around her finances because her husband had always taken care of it and she is feeling over whelmed by it all. We will work together and, while it will take time, we will get her in control and in a good place.
If you are struggling with anything, please find someone to have a difficult conversation with. Maybe a family member, a close friend, a pastor, or a counselor. You don’t have to go through this by yourself. Life is hard, but you are not alone.
If you know of someone who is struggling, take time to have a difficult conversation with them. If you don’t feel comfortable having that conversation, help them find someone who can. Please don’t let them feel alone.
We must all admit that we make mistakes and have difficulties in our lives. No one lives a perfect life. And let's not be afraid to have difficult, real conversations.
Also - if you or someone you know needs it, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.