28 September 2016

Mental Illness in Middle Age Must Be Addressed

There’s something that just keeps bugging me so I’ve decided to write a post about it.

I sign up for all these depression/bipolar/anxiety sites and without fail, every one of them features writers, editors and commenters who skew heavily (1) young (under 30 in most cases) and female (I’d say the ratio is about 3-1).

For one example of what I'm talking about, see the bottom of this story.

Now these sites can do what they want. Bandwidth isn’t free and the ever-present need to market targets the most valuable money demo. But while I get some insight from these stories, they really don't speak to me and my life's experiences.

And, honestly, young people, younger everyday (like 10) are committing suicide or facing mental health issues that could lead them to kill themselves.

And I’m not minimizing the trials and travails of the Millennials. They’re not stupid. They know they world they’ve been brought into is crumbling. All they have are the stories they’ll inevitably hear from their parents and grandparents about how things used to be. So they dive into online gaming and technology fetish to ease the pain.

Hell, this society could drive anyone up a wall, not counting organic examples of mental illness or exacerbations of same.

Just look at last night’s debate. I remember Carter-Ford. Sure, I was a kid and was kind of bored but at least it didn’t make me scared, disgusted and despairing of the future of this county and the world.

But while we’re obsessed with youth in all respects, the thing I’m bothered about is the virtual silence on the mental health needs of people over 40 and their rising suicide rates.

I just get the impression that, from the ‘helping professions’ to the government, we’re pretty much on our own.

This blog is an attempt to not only write stories from my past that might give the reader a hint into how I got to be the way I am, but to advocate, in my own small way, for more attention to be paid to middle aged and elderly people who are struggling, most often in silence, with mental illness.

Do we care as much about the people who kill themselves at 60 as those at 16? We should.

It’s not like the media doesn’t run stories about people who have worked their entire life, get thrown out of their jobs (they’re ‘redundant’) in their 50s and can’t find another job? What happens to these people when they disappear from Labor Department unemployment statistics when they can’t find jobs?

Here are some background articles:

Financial Despair, Addiction, and the Rise of Suicide in White America

The 56-year-old former salesman’s struggle with chronic pain is bound up with an array of other issues – medical debts, impoverishment and the prospect of a bleak retirement – contributing to growing numbers of suicides in the US and helping drive a sharp and unusual increase in the mortality rate for middle-aged white Americans in recent years alongside premature deaths from alcohol and drugs.

The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the study on Friday.

People disappear all the time in America because they are no longer of any use in making money or generating tax revenue. Their lives also matter. The difference between wrecked boomers and millennials is that the boomers (who are not all wealthy and smug by any means and my ‘in-between’ generation, are despondent that we’re seen as disposable. The millennials come into the game knowing they are cogs. I think most of them can deal with it better than my generation.

The questions for many of us are  simple: where do you go work when you have nowhere else to work? What do you do when you've done all you can do? And where will the money come from? 

For people in my generation who are already dealing with lifelong mental illness (and came from a society in which we were still told to keep quiet about it), this makes our situations even more difficult.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have believed the lies. Perhaps we shouldn’t have believed the promises of our employers, government and advertisers. We never imagined that we’d have to be this resilient. Blame us all you want but we were the twilight generation of American prosperity. We never believed the ride would end. So we were suckers. 

But again, I don’t want to confuse organic mental illness with event-generated disillusionment. The latter just exacerbates the former. But it’s a powerful and deadly mix that feeds the statistics quoted in the stories above. We shouldn't be regulated to being statistics. We are living, breathing human beings who have a problem but want to be useful and appreciated. 

In addition to the struggles of the mind, we’re at the time where our bodies are beginning to betray us and the dreams we had about what kind of life we were going to lead are receding in our rear-view mirror.

We have to deal, true. But every mental health site out there talks about not having to walk the walk alone. But so many of us in this age group do because we’re still seeing people being fired and shunned for talking about it and many of us fear we won’t be believed anyway.

And as I grew older and my therapists grew younger, I noticed the experience and cultural gulf between us growing. I got more quizzical stares and blank looks as time went by. They don't know; they didn't live through the times we did. 

We have no support groups dedicated to the middle aged and seniors. There’s no ‘walks’ for us, very little money, time and care.

I don't know what the solution is. I know we have a problem that is not being addressed and we, as a nation and a people, are poorer for it.

As promised above, here's one day of The Mighty's email digest of stories picked especially for me:

Things I Don't Want to Hear as Someone With Anxiety and Depression

People with mental health problems have probably heard it all. “Just smile.” “Just stop thinking about it.” “Just go to bed early.” Here’s a little list of ... read more »

5 Tips for Coping With Changing Seasons When You Have Bipolar Disorder

When the seasons change, what do I do as a person with bipolar disorder? Seasons changing can be a dangerous thing when you live with a mood disorder. When the weather get... read more »

When You Can’t Do What You Want to Do Because of Your Anxiety

Today, I’d like to talk about something that means a great deal to me. When I was younger and didn’t deal with anxiety as much, I loved going places. I loved shopping, ... read more »

On Days When Depression Is 'Winning'

Today was sh*tty. Yesterday was especially awful so I went to sleep feeling hopeful that today was going to be better. Nope. Today I feel physically ill. I’m clammy, naus... read more »

What I Want My Loved Ones to Know When My Depression Makes Me 'Disappear'

I know my depression has returned full-force when I start to triage my life. The simplest tasks overwhelm me, so I begin to make silent, irrational deals with myself. “... read more »

The Colors of a Manic Episode

Mania can be hard to understand. This poem aims to bring to life some of the images I associate with my own experiences of being manic, as well as my feelings towards bein... read more »

The Power of Crying During Depression

I sat on the bed and cried. Tears fell down my face and onto the crisp white sheets, leaving a stain. I tried to wipe them away, but they kept falling. I was having a power... read more »

The Problem With Referring to Depression as the 'Common Cold' of Mental Illness

Depression occurs so frequently within our population that it is often referred to as the “common cold” of mental illness. Everyone may at some point be affected by de... read more »

When 'Better' Feels Like a Mocking Mirage

Robin Williams’ death from suicide hit me hard. Like most, I was stunned and confused as to how he could’ve gotten to that point in his life, even though I have sp... read more »

A Weekday With Anxiety

I’ve been struggling with anxiety for quite some time now, and I’ve noticed how many people don’t understand why I get so panicky and stressed out all the time. So to... read more »