Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) published a troubling report on their research concerning the growth in the suicide rates among middle-aged Americans. As these findings know no borders, we also need to be aware of them as Canadians.

The research was summarized in the May 2nd issue of The New York Times and I will quote some of the content of the article: “Suicide rates among middle aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.”

“More people now die of suicide than in accidents….From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose nearly 30 percent….The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50’s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent….For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent..”

CDCP researchers indicated in trying to assess the data that, “While reporting of suicides is not always consistent around the country, the current numbers are, if anything, too low”.

In trying to provide responses to this emerging social /health crisis analysts indicate that, “There may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference”; “….the risk for suicide is unlikely to abate for future generations. Changes in marriage, social isolation and family roles mean many of the pressures faced by boomers will continue into the next generation”; “The boomers had great expectations for what their life might look like, but it hasn’t panned out that way”.

I raise this concern to challenge us with the importance of praying, discerning, sharing and acting with culturally contextualized ministries to serve this unprecedented aging demographic, in both our churches and communities.

Recognizing that this time and challenge is too complex for any one individual or church to work out a response in isolation, CHAT is emerging and wanting to encourage a conversation (LET’S TALK ABOUT OUR FUTURE).

How should we proceed? What contribution can people of Christian faith and local churches provide in serving an aging and troubled generation? What are the questions we need to be asking? This BLOG is inviting YOUR RESPONSE. What do you think?

About the author

Co-Director of CHAT, Centre for Healthy Aging and Transitions

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