Most people have heard of having a “midlife crisis” before. It is a transitional experience marked by extreme anxiety and turbulent emotions, usually regarding an individual’s identity and a need for change. The concept is popular within the media as well, which has generated multiple academic endeavors to find out how prevalent it actually is. Most sources state that the transition’s effects are minimal among all people as a whole. However, when only taking those with mental illnesses into account, the consequences of midlife disruption are intensifying.
A recent report from the United Kingdom claims that middle-aged men are a predominantly at-risk group for depressive symptoms and suicide. According to the University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide (NCISH), the amount of men who committed the act and also came into contact with mental health services had risen by 29 percent. For those between the ages of 45 and 54, the number had increased by a staggering 73 percent.
When compared to the United States, the data is remarkably similar. One of the latest organizations to measure California-based deaths has been the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA). Data from its latest report show the state has had a consistently lower rate than the rest of the nation; however, men and adults make up the majority of intentional deaths in California. Specifically, adults between the ages of 20 and 59 account for 71 percent of suicides, while the suicide rates for men are four times greater than their female counterparts.
These related findings may signal a greater, global trend in how modern men receive care. This is supported in a broad sense by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Mental Health Atlas report for 2014. According to this international survey, the quantity of people with a mental disorder now constitutes 10 percent of the world’s entire population.
Stopping middle-age from becoming the ending age
The topic of increasing access and awareness to mental health resources has been brought up time and time again, both in the U.K. and the U.S. However, the issue is not a simple one with a single solution. “The problem is not simply that they don’t seek help – they are already under mental health care – so we have to understand better the stresses men in this age group face,” said the director of NCISH, Professor Louis Appleby.
Other examinations may provide a more detailed picture of these changing suicide demographics. In a 2010 study led by Julie Phillips, Ph.D., the research team proposes that generationally specific vulnerabilities of baby boomers might contribute to the increase in mortalities. The study compared the suicide rates of people born between 1945 and 1964 during adolescence and within the last few years. Both time periods had notably high numbers, suggesting that baby boomers without adequate mental health protection were more susceptible to suicidal tendencies.
In addition to further research, mental health treatment providers should take advantage of specific strategies that have been shown to cater to middle-aged generations. In response to the tragic death of Robin Williams, who belonged to this age group, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a statement about their future plans to improve suicide prevention for people entering midlife. While also identifying other key factors that make suicide more likely, such as unemployment, the organization is trying to reach out to middle-aged men in new ways by funding programs across the country. So far, SAMHSA has awarded New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee with national strategy grants.
Sovereign Health of California offers high quality and comprehensive addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health treatment programs for adults and adolescents, including support services for family members as well. Sovereign Health’s treatment programs specialize in addressing underlying mental health conditions and other behavioral health problems. Call (866) 819-0427 or live chat with a representative online for more information.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer