Suicide

Severe depression is usually accompanied by the danger of attempted suicide. Over 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year, and many thou-

Age Interval (Years)

Figure 5-2 Suicide rate by age, sex, and race during 1990-1992. (Based on data from the National Vital Statistics System)

Age Interval (Years)

Figure 5-2 Suicide rate by age, sex, and race during 1990-1992. (Based on data from the National Vital Statistics System)

sands more attempt it (Rosenberg et al., 1996). As shown in Figure 5-2,white men have a higher suicide rate than other sex/ethnic groups, a rate that remains fairly constant until older adulthood and then accelerates. Among younger adults, attempted suicide is more often a "plea for help" or a "ploy for sympathy," but older men who attempt suicide are more serious and also more likely to be successful in their attempts.

Regardless of age, depression is the most common factor in suicide (Carson & Butcher, 1992). However, it is not the only factor. Despite the fact that depression is significantly more prevalent among females than males, the suicide rate is substantially lower for females than males-whiteor black. Contributing to the higher rate for males is the fact that males who attempt suicide employ more lethal methods, such as firearms. Another factor contributing to the sex difference in suicide rate is that the more assertive, achievement-oriented, middle-aged man has greater difficulty than the more passive, nurturant, middle-aged woman adapting to role changes in later life. Women also tend to have more extensive social supports, which can act as a buffer against despair. Many older men, especially the less affluent, are unable to attain satisfaction in their new roles while retaining the "macho" myth that they can only maintain their dignity or manliness by keeping quiet about their problems and dealing with them by themselves. Consequently, at some point they may "throw in the towel" and abandon the game entirely.

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