NY Times Letters: Trying to Understand Midlife Suicide

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Here is one:

Re “Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers” (front page, Feb. 19):

As we try to understand the increase of suicide in this age group, one of the most descriptive phrases in the article is “inexplicable gloom.”

As a rabbi in one congregation for 25 years and as a professor of a course on death for the last 30 years, I have observed this gloom (or sadness, ennui, feeling of emptiness) in this age group.

It is not so much the means as it is the psychosocial and spiritual condition of boomers — what Émile Durkheim described in his 1897 pioneering book on suicide as anomie, referring to a lack of regulation or a breakdown of norms.

To quote one statement from his writings, “Man is the more vulnerable to self-destruction the more he is detached from any collectivity.”

Anomie as a cause of suicide is rare when human beings share their lives in intimate connection with others, when there is a sense of mutual interdependence in the human community.

The breakdown of personal relationships has been a major cause of depression and anomie among boomers. With the impermanence of friendships, unremitting mobility, job insecurities and the breakdown of the family structure, it should not be surprising that the suicide rate in this age group has increased.

Jack D. Spiro
Richmond, Va.


Read them all.




Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology

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