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CDC: Baby Boomer Suicide Rate on the Rise

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Baby boomers are taking their own lives at alarming rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“If you wanted to help someone who had lost a loved to suicide don't ask ‘why?’ don't ask ‘what happened?' because nobody knows and it doesn't matter."
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Baby boomers are taking their own lives at alarming rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Baby boomers held the mantle as America’s largest generation for decades.

Born from 1946-1964, baby boomers are the fruit of their parents post war labor known for hard work as civil rights advocates, enduring Vietnam and witnessing a presidential resignation.

But, right now they have a more dubious distinction according to the centers for disease control a generation increasingly likely to take their own lives.

The report from the CDC says in 2010 more than 38,000 people took their own lives, thousands more than died in car accidents.

And while prevention efforts usually focus on the young and the elderly this is an alarming rise of suicides among the middle aged.

The greatest increase in suicide rates are among whites and Native Americans.

Men are more likely to take their own lives than women.

“He's been gone three years,” says Crista Hogan, attorney and head of the Springfield Bar Association.

Hogan didn't read about these statistics in a medical journal, she lived them.

Her ex-husband Jim Shuler took his own life in 2010.

Shuler and Hogan had been married for 20 years and had three children together.

Shuler had a life-long battle with bi-polar disorder with high highs and depressive lows marked by volatility.

“And I know the person who was most affected by that was him,” says Shuler. “I think that ultimately is what resulted in his death."

At the same time Hogan’s husband Ted had terminal cancer.

What's more the men were friends.

Hogan said she was dealing with two men, one trying desperately to live and the other trying desperately to die.

Hogan said Shuler went from driven and successful in college and working hard as a young husband and father to a decline over many years.

“One of the saddest moments I remember was Jim breaking down in tears saying to me 'I used to be able to do anything,’” says Hogan.

Ultimately Jim Shuler was unable to reconcile his two sides.

“Jim had really high standards,” says Hogan. “He liked people. He took care of people. He was a Stephen Minister. He went to the hospital and talked to the people who were ill."

Shuler had attempted suicide 11 years before.

Hogan says trying to figure out why someone commits suicide is futile.

“If you wanted to help someone who had lost a loved to suicide don't ask ‘why?’ don't ask ‘what happened?’” says Hogan. “Because nobody knows and it doesn't matter."

And why more baby boomers are committing suicide is something the experts can't agree on.

Dewayne Long of the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Springfield says people theorize about the stress on the baby boomers.

“In many instances they are being called upon to care for their aging parents in their home so they are taking on that responsibility,” says Long. “Plus kids are staying their children are coming back and living with them. That I think places that extra burden on them as well."

Long says friends and family can try and watch for telltale signs like purchasing weapons, giving away belongings or huge emotional swings.

Hogan says people like her ex-husband had death ideations for a long time.

“I think the energy needs to be put into addressing mental illness like we do other diseases,” says Hogan. “There needs to be treatment, there needs to be medications and protocols."

Hogan says maybe the baby boomers will be the last generation to forgo treatment, therapy and work, instead, in favor of better mental health.

“The sooner we can remove this veil of stigma and secrecy and address the underlying illness the better,” says Hogan.

Dewayne Long says the best approach is to be straight forward with a friend or a family member in crisis is to ask them directly "are you thinking of taking your own life?"

That may open a door for help.

NAMI has many efforts to draw attention to the issue of suicide as well as support survivors.

If you are in a true crisis, however you should call the Burrell Behavioral Health 24 hour crisis prevention hotline at 800-494-7355.

There is also a national suicide prevention lifeline 800-273-8255.

Both numbers are toll free.

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