What pushes middle-aged white men to take their lives?

Older men appear more frequently in suicide statistics

Studies show that middle-aged white men appear to be committing suicide in increasing numbers. News4Jax discovered this trend from Lori Osachy, who operates the Body Image Counseling Center in San Marco.

“I think just knowing this is a group that’s vulnerable is a great first step,” said Osachy, who said multiple studies have been conducted that show middle-aged white men are outpacing most demographics in the United States in suicide.

She points to multiple factors such as approaching retirement, children moving out and natural physical aging as some of the contributing factors. 

“I think retirement, or not being able to retire. They both are triggers,” Osachy said. "It’s hard to re-imagine your whole identity, especially when you’re in authority and now you’re not in authority anywhere -- someone is taking over. Hard to figure out what you’re going to do in retirement. People are living longer, it’s harder to fill those years, (to) figure out who you are."

One man shared the story of his son-in-law who committed suicide at age 52.  

“Well, he took his life in the car in the garage,” said Bob, whose last name isn't being used using to protect the identity of the family.

He said his son-in-law had a 7-year-old daughter and showed no signs of being suicidal before closing up the garage with his car running.

Signs and symptoms of suicidal person

These behaviors may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide:

•    Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
•    Talking about feeling empty, hopeless or having no reason to live
•    Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
•    Talking about great guilt or shame
•    Talking about feeling trapped or that there are no solutions
•    Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
•    Talking about being a burden to others
•    Using alcohol or drugs more often
•    Acting anxious or agitated
•    Withdrawing from family and friends
•    Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
•    Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
•    Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
•    Talking or thinking about death often
•    Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
•    Giving away important possessions
•    Saying goodbye to friends and family
•    Putting affairs in order, making a will

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

“I don’t know exactly what it was. He seemed to be doing fine to me,” Bob said. “Healthy people don’t take their lives. How do we tell he was going to and someone else isn’t going to (kill themself). I don’t know."

He said he believes men often bottle up emotions and it’s hard to tell who’s considering suicide.

In 2015, the National Academy of Sciences published a study that shows men between 45 and 54 are dying more frequently than Hispanic men and men in other countries. It cited drug use and suicide as two ways men are dying. Other studies show similar statistics.

Osachy said one reason men tend to die more from suicide is the mechanism they use to kill themselves. 

"They tend to use more … they tend to use methods that succeed," she said. "I hate to use that word, but they tend to use guns more, where where women tend to use pills, and it’s easier to be found and brought to the hospital when you took pills than when you shot yourself."

She said families need to be aware of this trend and know the signs to look for: things such as withdrawing from any social interaction and making comments about killing themselves.

There are multiple resources to help families dealing with suicide. One is the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  

Some other websites with resources include:

About the Author:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.