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Personal

Monday, October 02, 2017

The New Reality Of Old Age In America

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By Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post
Sept. 30, 2017

Richard Dever had swabbed the campground shower stalls and emptied 20 garbage cans, and now he climbed slowly onto a John Deere mower to cut a couple acres of grass.

"I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Dever, 74, who drove 1,400 miles to this Maine campground from his home in Indiana to take a temporary job that pays $10 an hour.

Dever shifted gently in the tractor seat, a rubber cushion carefully positioned to ease the bursitis in his hip - a snapshot of the new reality of old age in America.

People are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.

While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’ s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.

Polls show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than dying.

“There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist who specializes in retirement security. “People are coming into retirement with a lot more anxiety and a lot less buying power.”

As a result, many older workers are hitting the road as work campers also called “workampers” - those who shed costly lifestyles, purchase RVs and travel the nation picking up seasonal jobs that typically offer hourly wages and few or no benefits.

Amazons “CamperForce” program hires thousands of these silver-haired migrant workers to box online orders during the Christmas rush. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Walmart, whose giant parking lots are famous for welcoming RV travelers, has hired elderly people as store greeters and cashiers. Websites such as the Workamper News list jobs as varied as ushering at NASCAR tracks in Florida, picking sugar beets in Minnesota and working as security guards in the Texas oil fields.

In Maine, which calls itself “Vacationland,” thousands of seniors are drawn each summer to the state’s rocky coastline and picturesque small towns, both as vacationers and seasonal workers. In Bar Harbor, one of the states most popular tourist destinations, well-to-do retirees come ashore from luxury cruise ships to dine on $30 lobsters and $13 glasses of sauvignon blanc җ leaving tips for other senior citizens waiting on oceanfront tables, driving Olis Trolley buses or taking tickets for whale-watching tours.

The Devers have noticed this economic divide. They found their campground jobs online and drove here in May, with plans to stay until the season ends in October. On a recent day off, they took a bus tour near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where the tour guide pointed out the oceanfront Rockefeller estate and Martha StewartҒs 12-bedroom mansion.

The ones who go on these ritzy, ritzy cruises to all these islands in Maine, “I don’t know how they got all that money. Maybe they were born into it,” said Jeannie, 72. “And then you see this poor little old retired person next door, who can hardly keep going. And hes got his little trailer.”

On Election Day last November, the Devers expressed their frustration. For more than 50 years, they had supported mainstream candidates in both parties, casting their ballots for John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. This time, they concluded that the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, would be no help to them. And they found the Republican standard-bearer, Donald Trump, too mouthy.Ӕ

So, for the first time in their lives, they cast protest votes, joining legions of disaffected voters whose aversion to Clinton helped propel Trump into the White House. Richard voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Jeannie left her presidential ballot blank.

We are all talking about this, but not politicians. Helping people build a nest egg is not on their agenda,Ӕ Jeannie said. We are the forgotten people.Ӕ

This job is a blessing

The Devers first hit the road in their 33-foot American Star RV when Jeannie turned 65. Since then, they have worked jobs in Wyoming, Pennsylvania and now Maine. In addition to their $10-an-hour paychecks, the couple receives $22,000 a year from Social Security, an amount that has barely budged while healthcare and other costs have soared.

If we didn’t work, our money would run out real quick, Richard said.

On a recent Friday, the Devers met for lunch back at their RV, Richard’s plaid shirt and suspenders dusty from mowing the drought-dried grass. Jeannie had spent the morning working the front desk in the campground office, where she checks people in and sells bug spray, marshmallows and other camping essentials.

As usual, she had arrived a half-hour early for her 9 a.m. shift to make sure everything was tidy for the first customer. Full of cheer and wearing white sneakers, she shies from talking about her macular degeneration and arthritic knuckles. “This job is a blessing,” she said.

“President Trump is one year younger than Jeannie and, she said, has more money than we can even imagine.” She muses that he probably will hand a lot down to his kids - another generation of rich people who, Richard and Jeannie believe, tend to be born that way.

The Devers know how hard it is to make it on your own.

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running for president, Richard started repairing homes and Jeannie made root beer floats in a drugstore back home in southern Indiana, near the Kentucky border. Later, they ran a business that put vinyl siding on homes and a little start-up called Southwest Stuff that sold Western-themed knickknacks.

They raised two children and lived well enough but never had much extra cash to put away. After a lifetime of working, they have a small mobile home in Indiana, a couple of modest life insurance policies and $5,000 in savings.

The Devers are better off than many Americans. One in 5 have no savings, and millions retire with nothing in the bank. Nearly 30 percent of households headed by someone 55 or older have neither a pension nor any retirement savings, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

From the camper’s compact refrigerator, Jeannie pulled a tub of meatloaf she had cooked in her crockpot a couple of days earlier.

“Are you good with just a sandwich?” she called to Richard.

“Just a sandwich, thanks,” he said, emerging from the bedroom in a fresh plaid shirt, bought for $2 at Goodwill. His blue-striped suspenders dangled below his waistband.

Without a word, Jeannie leaned over and slipped them over his shoulders a daily task that keeps getting harder for the man she married 55 years ago.

A Wall Street gold mine

While most Americans are unprepared for retirement, rich older people are doing better than ever. Among people older than 65, the wealthiest 20 percent own virtually all of the nations $25 trillion in retirement accounts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Employers have gradually shifted from traditional pensions, with guaranteed benefits for life, to 401(k) accounts that run out when the money has been spent. Those accounts work best for the wealthy, who not only have the extra cash to invest but also use 401(k)s to shelter their income from taxes while they are working.

People with little financial know-how often find 401(k)s confusing. Millions of people opt not to participate, or contribute too little, or take money out at the wrong time and are charged huge fees.

Even people who manage to save for retirement often face a grim calculation: Among people between 55 and 64 who have retirement accounts, the median value of those accounts is just over $120,000, according to the Federal Reserve. So people are forced to guess how long they might live and budget their money accordingly, knowing that one big health problem, or a year in a nursing home, could wipe it all out.

The system has been a gold mine for Wall Street. Brokerages and insurance companies that manage retirement accounts earned roughly $33 billion in fees last year, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Ted Benna, a retirement consultant who is credited with creating the modern 401(k), called those fees ғoutrageous. Many people ԗ especially those who need the money the most donגt even know they are paying them, he said.

Compared with the old system of company pensions, the new retirement system does not serve the average American well, said Ghilarducci, the labor economist, who teaches at the New School in New York.

It’s as if we moved from a system where everybody went to the dentist to a system where everybody now pulls their own teeth, she said.

The rich help the rich

A few miles up the road from the Devers, Joanne Molnar, 64, and her husband, Mark, 62, live in their RV and work at another campground.

For 21 years, Joanne worked as a manager for a day-care company in Fairfield, Conn. She said she paid regularly into a 401(k) account that, at one point, was worth more than $40,000.

By the time she left the company in 2008, however, its value had fallen to $2,000.

Molnar said the company’s owner thought he was doing his 100 employees a favor by managing their retirement accounts. But he didn;t know what he was doing, she said. Instead of being angry with him, sheҔs furious with the 401(k) system.

“It stinks,” she said.

As Joannes retirement account was further battered by the Great Recession in 2008, the Molnars sold Mark’s share of his piano-restoration business and their home in Connecticut, which had lost value but kept attracting higher and higher property tax bills.

They bought a 25-foot RV for $13,000 and started looking for work near their three sons, one of whom lives near Bar Harbor, and their six grandchildren. After finishing at the Maine campground this fall, they plan to look for work in Texas or Wisconsin, near their other children.

Like the Devers, the Molnars say they are frustrated that the problems of older Americans do not seem to register in Washington.

The little people are drowning, and nobody wants to talk about it,” Joanne said. “Us middle-class, or lower-class, people are just not part of anything politicians decide.”

Last year, the Molnars grew more optimistic when they heard Trump promising in campaign speeches to help the “forgotten people.” Like a majority of older voters, Joanne voted for Trump. She said she thought maybe a businessman, an outsider, would finally address the economic issues that matter to her.

But the Molnars said that with each passing week of the Trump presidency, they are growing less hopeful.

“We’ll see. I’m just getting a little worried now,” Joanne said. “I just think he’s not going to be helping the lower class as much as he thought he would.

The recent battle to repeal Obamacare was “kind of scary,” she said, noting that Trump supported legislation that would have slashed Medicaid and left more people without government-subsidized insurance. Although the effort failed, Joanne and Mark remain nervous.

“The rich help the rich, and I’m starting to think that not enough will fall down to us,” Mark said, as he methodically bolted together one of 170 new picnic tables.

Mark signed up to begin collecting Social Security this summer. Even with those monthly checks, he figures hell have to work at least 10 more years.

FORGET THE GOVERNMENT. It’s got to be ‘We the People,’ he said. ”WE’RE ON OUR OWN.” You have to fend for yourself.

It’s not fun getting old

At the end of a long day at work, Richard and Jeannie Dever met back at their RV. After mowing the grass in the hot sun, Richard, who is just shy of his 75th birthday, was sweating under his baseball cap. He was tired.

It’s not fun getting old, he said.

Asked whether he was more worried about dying or running out of money, Richard thought about it, then said with a shrug, “I guess its a toss-up.”

Jeannie took off her sneakers and rested her swollen ankles. Richard recently cut back to 33 hours a week, but she was still working 40 hours, sometimes a few more.

A few days earlier, she had spent four hours cleaning a trailer where the guests had used a fire extinguisher to put out a small stove fire. She got down on the linoleum floor and lay on her stomach to reach the dust under the stove.

In the years ahead, Jeannie said, she hopes to find a job where she can sit down.

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Posted by Elvis on 10/02/17 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Personal
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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Deaths Of Despair II

image: man about to kill himself

Just because a person attempts suicide doesn’t mean they want to die. Rather, often they have lost what I call the, “power of hope”.  When faced with a BAD SITUATION that has NO END IN SIGHT, coupled with the helpless feeling that NOTHING YOU CAN DO will make a difference, it’s all too easy to LOSE HOPE. AT SOME POINT suicide for some becomes a viable option, rather than CONTINUNG TO FACE the constant pain and suffering that life has become. If you can give someone who is contemplating suicide merely the glimmer of hope, that is often enough to get them through the rough patch to consider other options.
- White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrocket

This May Be Responsible for the High Suicide Rate Among White, American Men

By Philip Perry
Big Think
July 2, 2017

TODAY, being white and male are the two single greatest risk factors for suicide in the US. That’s according to the authors of: EXPLAINING SUICIDE:  PATTERNS, MOTIVATIONS WHAT NOTES REVEAL. Psychology professor Cheryl Meyer, is among them. She says “hegemonic masculinity is what’s killing these men. They try to live up to a social stereotype no one could measure up to. Not only that, their model doesn’t square with today’s world.

In 2015, two Princeton economists found that the death rate among white, middle-aged men, rather than falling, like with most other groups, was instead rising. The mortality rate for working class white men, between the ages of 45 and 54 had been steadily rising since 1999.

According to suicide prevention expert, Dr. Christine Moutier, white, middle-aged men account for 70% of deaths from suicide each year. Nine-tenths of them are from a lower socioeconomic class. 

“These are being called deaths of despair.” Harvard public policy professor Robert D. Putnam, told the BBC, “This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health. Veterans are often one of the largest segments within this group. According to a 2014 Veterans Affairs (VA) report, 20 commit suicide each day. 65% of them are age 50 or older.

A larger segment of this group has chosen the slow suicide route. Many are succumbing to things like alcohol liver disease or a drug overdose. So what;s causing this? White men without a college degree have seen their employment prospects dwindle in the last few decades, mostly due to mechanization.

Their mental health has withered as a result. In terms of economics, globalization and income inequality have worsened the problem as well, though most economists agree mechanization is the biggest cause. However, middle-aged black and Hispanic men at the same education level, have also been impacted by these same economic forces. Yet, the suicide rate among these groups hasn’t risen.

Besides ECONOMIC WOES, some experts point to the heightened divorce rate among men in this age-range. Whether married or single, women tend to open up to friends and family about their troubles and build a strong network of support. Whereas men generally don’t. If they open up at all, its usually to their partner. But for the divorced or single, there’s no such outlet.

Hegemonic masculinity, according to Meyer, is the idea that ones machismo must be broadcast constantly, no matter what he is dealing with or how he feels inside. It’s stoicism taken to the nth degree. Several studies have found that hegemonic masculinity is detrimental to mens well-being and health outcomes, including Sabo & Gordon, 1995; Courtenay, 2000; and Lee & Owens, 2002.

Psychotherapist Daphne Rose Kingma is the author of the book, The Men We Never Knew. She said, “Because of the way boys are socialized, their ability to deal with emotions has been systematically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves.” Everyone needs to be vulnerable sometimes, and to have someone to confide in and gain support from. Yet, men are taught to feel ashamed or even guilty for doing so.

The customary outlook on masculinity has been shaken to its core by the realities of today’s labor market. Men were traditionally seen as providers. But today, many women earn more than the men in their lives. American women for the first time are more likely to earn a college degree than men. A ”FEMINIZATION” of the labor market has begun as well, offering far more positions where traditional female-oriented skills are valued.

Caucasian men have enjoyed white hegemony in the US. That’s changing. As the “Browning of America” takes shape, whites will become a minority, projected to take place by 2045. Although this may usher in more social equality, the loss of a given-at-birth superiority will chafe a certain segment of the Caucasian community.

Besides the changing status of white men with no college degree, there’s a problem with how we view masculinity in general. It stands in the way of those who are in trouble, getting the help they need and in fact, it isn’t healthy for men or society as a whole, either. In most cases, men are suffering from an eroded sense of self and identity.

They are trying to fit into a role that’s no longer supported by the real world. One way to overcome this, is to update our definition of masculinity for the 21st century. Another would be to build a more gender neutral society, where everyone is looked upon on an individual basis, despite their gender. Regardless of the path we take, men and society as a whole, must become less rigid regarding It’s outlook on masculinity and somehow adopt a more pluralistic view.

To learn more about the suicide epidemic and you can do about it, click HERE

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DEATHS OF DESPAIR

Posted by Elvis on 08/12/17 •
Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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Friday, August 11, 2017

Unmarried Boomers and Old Age

image: depressed old man

No Spouse, No Kids, No Caregiver: How to Prepare to Age Alone
A growing population of elder orphansђ lack a built-in support system.
What to do if you become one.

By Anna Medaris Miller
US News
October 26, 2015

When Carol Marak was in her 30s, she asked herself whose life she wanted: her brother’s the life of a successful and well-traveled businessman ֖ or his wife’s the life of a woman whose career better accommodated raising three children.

The answer was a no-brainer: “My brother was in a position I wanted,” says Marak, now a 64-year-old editor at SeniorCare.com who lives in Waco, Texas. Although she had been married and divorced earlier in life, at that point she had no kids and “made a very conscious decision” to keep it that way, she says.

Plenty of Marak’s peers did the same thing. According to a 2012 STUDY in The Gerontologist, about one-third of 45- to 63-year-olds are single, most of whom never married or are DIVORCED. That’s a whopping 50 percent increase since 1980, the study found. What’s more, about 15 percent of 40- to 44-year-old women had no children in 2012 up from about 10 percent in 1980, U.S. Census data shows. “My career was No. 1 in my life,” says Marak, who worked in the technology industry for years.

But today, Marak and her single, childless contemporaries are facing a repercussion of their decision that never crossed their minds as 30-somethings: “How in the world will we take care of ourselves?” she asks.

Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York, is asking the same thing. In research presented this year at The American Geriatric Society’s annual meeting, Carney and her colleagues found that nearly one-quarter of Americans over age 65 are or may become physically or socially isolated and lack someone like a family member to care for them. Carney calls them “elder orphans.”

“The risk of potentially finding yourself without a support system - because the majority of care provided as we get older is provided by family may be increasing,” she says.

The consequences are profound. According to Carney’s work, older adults who consider themselves lonely are more likely to have trouble completing daily tasks, experience cognitive decline, develop coronary heart disease and even die. Those who are socially isolated are also at risk for medical complications, mental illness, mobility issues and health care access problems.

“You could be at a hospital setting at a time of crisis and could delay your treatment or care, and your wishes may not be respected [if you can’t communicate them],” says Carney, also an associate professor at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

Take “Mr. HB,” a 76-year-old New York man described in Carney’s research as “a prototypical elder orphan.” After attempting suicide, he arrived at a hospital with cuts on his wrist, bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition and depression. He lived alone and hadn’t been in contact with any relatives in over a year. His treatment was complicated, the researchers report, in part because he was too delirious to make clear decisions or understand his options. He wound up at a nursing facility with plans to eventually be placed in long-term care.

But growing older without kids or a partner doesn’t mean you’re doomed - just as aging with kids and a partner doesn’t mean all’s clear. “We’re all at risk for becoming isolated and becoming elder orphans,” Carney says. You could outlive your spouse or even your children, find yourself living far from your family or wind up in the caretaker role yourself if a family member gets sick. Keep in mind that 69 percent of Americans will need long-term care, even though only 37 percent think they will, according to SeniorCare dot com

Plus, there’s no way around the natural physical and mental declines that come with age. “Everybody has to prepare to live as independently as possible,” Carney says. Here’s how:

1. Speak up.

Marak wishes she had talked more with her friends and colleagues about her decision not to become a mom early on. That may have given her a jump-start on anticipating various problems and developing solutions to growing older while childless. She advises younger generations to discuss their options openly with friends married and single, men and women ֖ before making a firm decision.

“We discuss our psychological issues with professionals. We discuss our money strategies with financial experts,” Marak says. “Why not talk openly about family concerns and what it means to have or not have children? So many of us go into it with blinders on.”

2. Act early.

How early you start planning for your future health depends partly on your current condition and your genes, says Bert Rahl, director of mental health services at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. “If your ancestry is that people die early, you have to plan sooner and faster,” he says.

But whether you come from a family of supercentenarians or people who have shorter life spans, it’s never too soon to save for long-term care, whether it’s by investing in a home, putting aside a stash for medical emergencies or “whatever you can do to have a nest egg,” Marak says. “Life is serious, especially when you get old. Don’t get to [a point] when you’re 60 and now you’re having to scramble to catch up.”

Still not motivated? “Everybody wants some control in [their] life,” Rahl says. “If you don’t plan, what you’re choosing to do is cede that control to somebody else - and the likelihood that they’re going to have your best interests at heart is a losing proposition.”

3. Make new friends and keep the old.

Your social connections can help with practical health care needs, like driving you to the doctor when you’re unable. But they also do something powerful: keep you alive, research suggests. In a 2012 study of over 2,100 adults age 50 and older, researchers found that the loneliest older adults were nearly twice as likely to die within six years than the least lonely regardless of their health behaviors or social status.

Connections can also help ward off depression, which affects nearly 20 percent of the 65-and-older population, according the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “One of the things that keeps people from being depressed is to be connected,” Rahl says. “The more social activities you have, the more friends, the more things you can do to keep your body and mind active ֖ that’s the best protection you have against mental illness.”

4. Appoint a proxy.

Who is your most trusted friend or relative? “Identify somebody to help you if you’re in a time of crisis, and revisit that periodically over your life,” Carney suggests. Make sure that person knows your Social Security number, where you keep your insurance card, which medications you take “the whole list of things somebody needs to know if they’re going to help you,” advises Dr. Robert Kane, director of the University of Minnesota֒s Center on Aging.

Before you start losing any cognitive capacities, consider designating that person as your durable power of attorney for health care, or the person who makes health care decisions for you when you’re no longer able.

If no one comes to mind, hire an attorney who specializes in elder care law by asking around for recommendations or searching online for highly rated professionals. Unlike your friends, they have a license to defend and are well-versed in elder care issues. Most of the time, Rahl’s found, “they’re trustworthy and will do a good job for you.”

5. Consider moving.

Marak is on a mission: “to create my life where I’m not transportation-dependent,” she says. She’s looking to move to a more walkable city, perhaps a college town where she’s surrounded by young people and can stay engaged with activities like mentoring. She also hopes her future community is filled with other like-minded older adults who can look out for one another. “I want to set up my life where I’m not living alone and isolated,” she says.

Adjusting your living situation so that you can stay connected to others and get to, say, the grocery store or doctor’s office is the right idea, says Carney, who cares for a group of nuns who live communally and has seen other adults create communities that act like “surrogate families,” she says. “Think: Where do you want to live? What’s most easy? How do you access things? How do you have a support system?”

6. Live well.

Marak is lucky: She’s always loved eating healthy foods and walking - two ways to stay as healthy as possible at all ages. “Some of the foods that we eat are really, really bad for the body,” she says. “That’s one of the major causes of chronic conditions and not exercising.”

Keeping your brain sharp is also critical if you want to be able to make informed decisions about your health care, Rahl says. He suggests doing activities that challenge you 0 math problems if numbers trip you up, or crossword puzzles if words aren’t your forte. “The old adage, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,’ is 100 percent correct,” he says.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/11/17 •
Section Personal
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Deaths Of Despair

image: Depression

The mental health of the unemployed deteriorates the longer they are out of work and this is a barrier to securing future employment, research has found. While different ways to reach this group are being trialled, no solution is firmly in sight.
- Daily Mercury, Feb 9, 2016

1st Scientific Analysis of Suicide Notes Lends Insights into the Heartbreaking Act

By Philip Perry
Big Think
April 4, 2017

For decades, the mortality rate across the US WAS IN DECLINE. That’s why the results of a 2015 report were so shocking. For the first time in generations, middle-aged white people saw their death rate increase. Husband and wife economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton discovered this disturbing trend, which began back in 1999. The researchers labeled these “deaths of despair,” resulting from SUICIDE, drug or alcohol abuse.

Approximately 40,000 PEOPLE take their own lives each year in the US. A NEW BOOK tries to isolate the origins of the uptick, currently at a 30-year high, and what can be done. The upward trend was found in all age groups, absent the elderly. Now a new book is lending greater insights into this most personal of tragic acts. Its entitled Explaining Suicide: Patterns, Motivations and What Notes Reveal. The authors say this is the first sweeping, analytical attempt to understand the motivations behind the act, across different age groups.

A multidisciplinary team of academics was involved in this study. They were psychology professor Cheryl Meyer at Wright State University, psychologist Taronish Irani at SUNY-Buffalo State, historian Katherine Hermes at Central Connecticut University, and the late Betty Yung, who was an associate professor of psychology at Wright State University. They wanted to obtain a holistic view using psychology, history, and the social sciences to tackle suicide.

To conduct the study, which would form the basis of the book, researchers examined suicide datasets extensively, including from places as far away as Europe and Oceania. They also collected 1,280 suicide notes from coronerҒs offices across Southwestern Ohio, written between 2000 and 2009. These werent all notes in the literal sense. Many were pictures of notes written on mirrors, towels, coffee filters, and more. One man even spray painted his note on the floor of his barn.

Last words such as these are only found in 14% of cases. The authors began to notice differences between note leavers and non-leavers in their research, as well as people who attempt suicide and those who complete the act. They believe these findings could help develop better suicide prevention strategies.

The academics also evaluated motivating factors, and to what extent each is capable of pushing a person toward suicide. These included: mental illness, substance abuse, interpersonal violence, physical pain, grief, and feelings of failure. They also explored what factors may help protect one against suicide, and make them more resilient. Meyer said after reading all the notes and examining the data, she knew they had a book on their hands.

Many notes were addressed to one person. Others were to no one in particular. There was even someone who addressed the note to their dog. Meyer said it’s hard to understand why some people leave a note and others don’t. According to their research, it all comes down to WHAT MOTIVATED the suicide.

There is a faction of note leavers who lash out at the person or group who controlled, manipulated, neglected, or abused them. But most absolve loved ones of any guilt. 70% were motivated to escape overbearing pain, be it physical or psychological. Nowadays, being a white male is the single biggest risk factor. WHY IS THAT? According to Case and Deaton, drastic changes in the LABOR MARKET is the MOST SIGNIFICANT factor. Meyer claims another driver.

“Hegemonic masculinity,” or a perception that heightened MASCULINITY must be portrayed at all times, a goal that no male can live up to. Sooner or later everyone needs to be vulnerable and let their emotions out. This inability to fit into such a rigid framework causes psychological pain in the form of guilt, shame, disgust, and self-hatred. This builds to the point where the person can no longer take it.

Another 23% of note writers ended it all due to unrequited love or love lost. 22% said they themselves created the problem which led to their decision. This includes the loss of a job, a breakup or divorce, legal troubles, arrest or an impending jail sentence, a looming financial problem, or a devastating medical diagnosis. Meyer says thereԒs a correlation between legal troubles and taking ones own life. “There is a really strong tie between things like DUIs and killing yourself,” she said.

The vast majority of notes absolved love ones, saying nothing could have been done to prevent the act. Most people who commit suicide find their own pain too overwhelming to bear. About a third of the notes mention religion, faith, or God. More women left notes than men. And oddly enough, more of the notes were written on the first of the month than any other day.

ItҒs unfortunate that many people have been touched by suicide in one way or another, yet most are resistant to talking about it. The authors hope the book will help those who are wrestling with it, or who have been hurt by someone who committed it, to speak out, and seek help. So what can we do to help lower instances of suicide? Meyer suggests limiting access to guns, dangerous pharmaceuticals, and other common means.

She also thinks everyone should take a course, much like how we go through driverӒs ed. to acquire a driverԒs license. Every student would be taught to recognize the warning signs and know how to get the person the help they need. Adults in higher or continuing education or the elderly in senior centers could also be offered such a course.

The biggest preventative aspect according to Meyer, rather than sense of resiliency, is acquiring more social connections and developing ones own sense of purpose. Those who feel isolated or adrift are more likely to consider suicide. “Part of it is the responsibility of the individual, but part of it is our responsibility of keeping that person connected,” she said. We usually perceive the warning signs, but don’t feel it’s right to interfere.

“In the coroners’ reports that we viewed, many people had called for welfare checks on their loved ones. They knew or feared that the person had harmed or killed himself or herself. If the impulse to intervene had occurred at an earlier point, the suicide might have been interrupted and averted. We must learn to trust our guts and to get past our own fears when someone is in trouble and in need of help.”

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Posted by Elvis on 05/30/17 •
Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hopeless in 2017

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Losing your job at 50 or 60 is not good for your health.  There is compelling evidence that no matter who you compare the older job loser to, he or she does worse physically and mentally.
- Why Stress Is Making You Sick - William Gallo, Yale University School of Medicine, AARP, May 2009

Day-to-day, the single-most intimidating OBSTACLE I face is not the unemployment rate or another round of hapless job interviews, but ATTACHING AN IDENTITY to THE MAN I make eye contact with each morning in the vanity mirror.
- Trials of a Stay-At-Home Boyfriend - Salon, March 13, 2012

I began to doubt my ability to find another full-time job.” Being fired from a job that you’ve poured your heart and soul into can be particularly gut-wrenching. “I don’t get involved with people like I used to,” he says. “I probably never recovered from that layoff. It was like family.”
- Life Aftert Layoff - Discarded and Demorazlized - September 4, 2006

While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are about half as likely to be rehired. One result is that older workers have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment in this downturn. The number of unemployed people between ages 50 and 65 has more than doubled… The prospects for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed. A worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for 17 months has only about a 9 percent chance of finding a new job in the next three months.
- The Human Disater of Unemployment - NY Times, May 12, 2012

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And Now, a Few Words From the Long-Term Unemployed

By Hamilton Nolan
Gawker

lmost four million Americans officially suffer from long-term unemployment. Unable to secure any meaningful legislation to help them, President Obama is reduced to begging corporations to pledge not to discriminate against them. What is long term unemployment like?

In tonight’s State of the Union address, Obama will doubtless take a stab at describing the plight of those out of work for many months or years, as a prelude to the announcement that he “has secured pledges from a number of major U.S. employers to adopt hiring policies that discourage discrimination against the long-term unemployed.” That’s a paltry remedy to a crushing problem.

Throughout the course of our 40-volume Unemployment Stories series, we heard dozens of people speak of the financial, social, and psychological trauma that accompanies long term unemployment. We have quite a few stories that we didn’t have a chance to run in that series. We’ll share a few with you now. Here, some words from America’s long term unemployed:

Defeat

I’m an art director. I knew pursuing a career in art was going to be a rocky road when I was a kid. I worked hard, went to art school, paid my dues, found success. Even as a freelancer, I could always find work. It’s typical in these pieces to mention the level of your previous success. I usually just tell folks that they’ve probably seen my work somewhere. Advertising is like that.

That seems like another world now. At this stage of my extended unemployment, I’ll do anything. Digging ditches, washing dishes, I don’t care so long as there’s some sort of paycheck.

The worst part of extended unemployment is a sense that people blame you for it. As if somehow you’re choosing this. Anything you may have achieved before is irrelevant. Now you’re lazy, unmotivated, a drain on the system and the target of all sorts of condescending unsolicited advice. Gosh, thank you! I hadn’t considered applying at Wal-Mart, the gas station, Jenny’s diner. Wow! There are job fairs?!? OMG! I had NO idea!!! I’ve been too busy enjoying my life of luxurious relaxation. Go back to school! Brilliant! Not only will my bankruptcy make it tough but I can destroy my credit even more while becoming even more overqualified to be a stockboy!

After a while, it doesn’t matter how well meaning the would be job counselors might be. All of it makes you feel less than human.

After a while, you drop out of everything. When friends and family decide to get together someplace you opt out. It’s too humiliating when you can’t afford a glass of soda. Besides, how many times can you listen to someone tell you there’s a job fair going on at some hotel conference room?

Even positive activities become points of criticism. You ran five miles? How much did that pay? You watched the game? Bet you made a lot of money doing that!

It’s NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO STAY POSITIVE. Low level depression is a constant state. Regular rejection attacks your self image. You begin to doubt all the habits you built up to become successful, no matter how successful you were.

At any given moment you waver between giving up completely or absolutely losing your temper. Maintaining an even keel is exhausting.

You lose so much more than a job with extended unemployment. You feel like you lose the things that make us people. Not just money, a home, independence… you lose your value as a person.

When you finally come to the point where you realize you’ll take a minimum wage position you know that such a job won’t provide for any kind of life… you’ll be lucky to pay for transportation to get to and from work.

You can’t vent your frustration. If you do, you simply prove to others that you’re not worthy, you’re not trying, you don’t want a job, you’re a screw up, you’ve already decided you’re defeated.

Defeat is a great word to sum up the experience. Talk politics, economics, strategies, psychology… doesn’t matter when you get turned down for yet another job. Day after day, month after month, year after year, defeat. You lose.

How remarkable is it that people who deal with exactly that reality set their alarms every day? Find a way to get online, submit resumes day after day, put on a brave face and find a way to get through it all? Dig deep and smile when people mention that they saw on the news x or y company is hiring two hundred people?

Most of us are so far past any sort of reasonable breaking point even we can’t tell you how we continue. Press any of us about it and we’ll say ‘what choice do we have?!?’

Reality kicks you in the teeth

I’ve read the unemployment stories and many of them reflect my own.Even though it may be repetitive to writethese words I still feel the compulsion to writethem down and share them with you.

In thinking about laying out the facts of my story, I do realize that a lot of it is my own fault.Some might say “no”, but that’s how it seems to me.I went to college and for the longest time I didn’t know what I wanted to do.I had walked a very long and crooked road to try to find something that I could do with even a little competence and enjoyment.I started in the math and science area.I could barely get passed even the most remedial areas.Then I tried the technical college.I could barely hack it there.Finally, I found that in the English department was where I could do my best and so I went on to study both professional and creative writing.

I had thought that I might get into an entry level position where my skills might have been of some use.Sadly, that wasn’t the case.I searched and searched and searched.The days turned to weeks.The months bled into two years.I couldn’t even land jobs washing dishes, washing cars or cleaning toilets despite my willingness to do those jobs.

And there wasn’t a lot of support for this.

One of my family members even said to me, “If things don’t change in five years, you might as well kill yourself.”

And during that time, I was living at home because of the fact that I had no income source to find any kind of home of my own.Then to make matters worse, my mother was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.And she passed away within a month.

She had no will or life insurance and so, her house (the home I was living in) went back to the bank along with her car.It was only by the purest good fortune that my eldest brother allowed me to live with him out in California.

I did try to remain optimistic about coming to California, thinking that this would be a new chapter in my life and that I would continue to soldier on in the face of my mother’s passing.But, once again, reality kicks you in the teeth.I searched and searched and searched.Days turned to weeks and the weeks bled into months and still nothing.I’ve applied to be a dishwasher at Chili’s, a night time stocker at Toys R Us and many others.Still nothing.Even people at the temp agencies and staffing centers said that they couldn’t help me.That in itself almost seems like a sign to give up, doesn’t it?

Already, I know that there are those out there who would tell me that this is my own fault because I had chosen a degree in an area that is pretty much useless.I’d be willing to concede that.On the other hand, when it comes to jobs listings at job sites and company sites constantly say that they want experience.But to get experience one must have a job.And so the vicious nonsensical merry-go-round continues to spin.

It’s at times like this that I start to think of the writers and artists who’ve come before me:Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gough, Hunter S. Thompson, Spalding Gray and Richard Jeni and the question that I find myself asking is, ”DID THEY HAVE THE RIGHT IDEA at the END OF THEIR LIVES?”

Signed,

The Failed Writer

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 03/21/17 •
Section Dying America • Section Personal
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