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Middle-age suicide on the rise

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In the past 10 years, more people died from suicide in the United States than from car accidents.  The rate of suicide for people between the ages of 35 and 65 has jumped almost 30 percent.

That's a statistic that Anna Ruth Williams knows all too well.  These days, her constant companion is Roscoe.  He used to be her father's dog, and she says Roscoe was with her as she dealt with the death of her father.  

Williams' father, Mike, committed suicide four and a half years ago.  She says she was keeping Roscoe that day, and her father called to check on him.  She says in retrospect, she thinks it was her dad's goodbye.

Looking in from the outside, Mike Williams would be the last person one would think would kill himself.  He was a southern Baptist minister, and Anna Ruth says that means lots of people would come to him with their problems.  She says she thinks her dad carried the burdens of a lot of people, and she knew he had been depressed in the months before his death.

Williams' dad was a diabetic, and he was in between churches.  That's something psychologist Nadine Kaslow says plays a role in middle-age suicide.

"If their whole life has been wrapped up in their work and it is tied to their identity, then they may feel they no longer have an identity and no longer have a reason to live," explained Kaslow.  "They have no purpose."

As with many survivors, Anna Ruth still struggles with the what-ifs.  Dr. Kaslow says the signs may be subtle, or they may be more obvious.

"A change in behavior-- somebody who used to be engaged in the workplace, or school setting-- now they are disengaged, they seem really isolated," said Kaslow.  "There's a deterioration in performance.  They are not doing as well academically or occupationally.  Somebody who has become socially isolated."

Anna Ruth never sensed her father's serious troubles.  Now, she finds comfort in the little things that remind her of him.  She says she's determined to speak out in hopes of helping others.

"We have such a stigma about it," said Williams.  "Maybe if we had talked about it, or if someone in our family had picked up on signs and said, ‘I's okay.  Depression is like any other disease.  It's no different than breast cancer or ovarian cancer,' then maybe we could have gotten my dad the right care."

Most suicides are preventable.  For more information, click here for a link to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

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