PART TWO: Why are we killing ourselves?

By Sara Belsole

COLUMBUS, GA – Health officials say the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans has jumped 28% from 1999-2010.

And among white Americans, it shot up 40%.

One theory is that the recession caused more emotional trauma for the baby boomers, ages 35 to 64. But there are many other factors.

“Greater access to guns, lack of gun control, mental illness seems to be a common thread in all these publications we hear about, and a social stigma around depression and mental illness, David Wallace, New Horizons Community Board, says.

13 of the 17 Muscogee County residents who have killed themselves so far this year are baby boomers, including 54-year-old Joseph Jenkins.

His widow, Phyllis, says she is still searching for the answer to why her husband shot himself in front of her in their kitchen.

“I wish I could have said something to him,” Phyllis says.

But Wallace says there are almost always warning signs.

“Sometimes people don't understand what the signs and symptoms are so they are reluctant to try and address those issues,” Wallace says.

The Centers for Disease recognizes risk factors that they say make someone more like to commit suicide. Those include a family history of suicide, mental illness, a history of substance abuse and previous suicide attempts.

Looking back, Phyllis Jenkins says she noticed her husband acting depressed. She said he was dealing with the murder of his brother, a recent cancer diagnosis, and had attempted suicide more than 20 years ago. 

“He seemed like he was worried about something, but every time I asked him he said nothing was bothering him,” she says.

Wallace says if you notice any suicide symptoms, it's better to be cautious.

“I would much rather work with a family who says we have to apologize to a loved one because we overreacted then to have a funeral and say God I wish we had done something, I wish we had known,” Wallace says.

For any help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-talk 24 hours a day. The Pastoral Institute has an on-call emergency line at 706-640-6500, and you can call New Horizons 24 hours a day at (706) 323-0174.

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