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Are teens most at risk of committing suicides?

No, they are not. Teen suicides are on the growth, far outpacing other *age groups. But a an American teen is not the most likely person to suicide next. Most at risk are some of those at the opposite end of the age spectrum. Specifically, white males over the age of 80 have the highest suicide rate. And if grandpa owns a gun, his risk accelerates since firearms remain the most frequent means of suicides among men.

It's not hard to understand why older men are more likely to commit the act:

  • His bones hurt.
  • He's 80+, so everything else hurts, too. And sometimes his bowels surprise him.
  • His eyes are bad.
  • His hearing is worse, so his connection to other people has diminished.
  • His dentures don't fit correctly since he lost weight.
  • His food tastes like cardboard because he can't have any salt.
  • He takes a handful of pills and vitamins every day. He doesn't know what they are all for or necessarily which are which.
  • He can't drive a car and go wherever he wants to go.
  • He used to go to the movies and sports stadiums; now he only goes to Walgreens.
  • Even if he could go for a drive in the countryside, the "countryside" isn't there any more. It's full of condos, housing developments and new roads that didn't used to be there. It's confusing to many of us, but he feels left behind by life.
  • If he is alive, perhaps his wife of 50-60 years is dead and she was the only person who understood him and interpreted for him. He doesn't have a 60+ year history with anyone else.
  • His kids don't call unless the want money (he thinks).
  • If the grand kids or great-grand kids come around, they sit and fiddle with their cell phones and video games instead of listening to his stories. (This is true.)
  • He's wearing a belt AND suspenders, just in case.
  • On occasion, he soils himself in public. It is humiliating.
  • And of course, he is spending $4,500+/month to live in a studio apartment the size of his former guest bedroom when he owned his own house. Back in the day, he may have worked full time for three months to earn $4,500 when a cola was a dime and long distance calls were three minutes.
  • A foreign language speaking maid comes on Tuesdays. He doesn't know who she is and doesn't want her to touch his stuff.

Then, dangerously, suppose he has a pistol in the night stand drawer. 58% of all male suicides are by the use of a firearm. For him, this is an act of self-reliance and independence. So if grandpa is old and cranky and has a pistol in the night stand, hide his ammo from him for the times when Fox News has his blood pressure escalated. That's the business Fox News is in. Frankly, being angry all the time makes grandpa feel alive and connected again.

Certainly, I know all this, and grandpa's death is tragic. But I'll have to be forgiven for choosing to focus instead on teenagers. Losing grandpa is regrettable. But he had his life. Is it a greater loss that he dies by his own hand at 85 rather than from heart disease (provided he doesn't miss and shoot through the wall of his independent living apartment and wound the neighbor)? I believe it is MORE tragic when 14 year olds who have only 14 years of life and can't even imagine being 18, hang themselves in the garage because they can't deal with the challenges in their lives or because mom and dad fight all the time. Their trust is knowing mom and dad will find them. And that their bodies will be cared for.

I'm not on board with the expression, "self harming" or "thinking about hurting yourself." It sounds like political correctness.

"Thinking about hurting myself? No, I hope it doesn't hurt at all. But I am thinking about dying as quickly as I can because I hurt all the time and I need an escape."

Depression is physically painful. I know that because for a span of years, it was all I could do to swing my own feet out of bed in the morning. Even then, getting up was to diminish the pain of living with the memory of a suicided son. Getting up and going to work was a convenient way to hide from the real problem and deal with it some other day.

* Other age groups. There are few long term studies on suicide. One such study measured suicide rates from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s. During this forty year period, suicides overall grew by 78%, or roughly 2% per year. During the same forty year period, suicides among teens grew by an astounding 600%.

Steve Stewart Seminars | 276 N. El Camino Real #184 | Oceanside CA 92058 | 760-298-8146/Direct 760-216-1353/Cell | www.Steve-Stewart.com/ChooseLife