By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D.
“To anyone out there who’s hurting — it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s a sign of strength.”
— Barack Obama
When I was a young girl, my brothers, friends, and I would wander the neighborhood, checking back yards for people to talk to and sometimes ringing bells to visit with neighbors. We started fairly indiscriminately but quickly learned what neighbors were too busy for us and who invited us in for a visit. The ones who invited us in often gave us treats, thereby insuring future visits.
We became particularly fond of two sets of elderly neighbors who always had candy and a smile. One of those couples was across the road. The wife was always so happy to see us. Her husband was less happy, but not unwelcoming. At some point, she passed away. We still visited him, but it was clear that our visits were not as welcome. We noticed that the candy he offered was old and had less variety than before. We were stupid, selfish children and we did not notice his change in demeanor, his isolation, or his sadness. One day, my friend found him hanging from a bandana in his garage.
I think of him frequently when I think of men and aging. I think about how older white men have a suicide rate three times the national average. And I think about how much he must have been hurting. I wish it were true that times have changed, but I am not convinced they have. September is National Suicide Awareness Month and in memory of Mr. Teshu, I encourage you all to reach out to someone who is isolated.
Also check on people who are self-neglecting. Although suicide is typically thought of as a deliberate act of terminating one’s life, there is definitely gray area. Some people give themselves over to neglect rather than actively working to terminate their lives. Please reach out to anyone you think may be struggling.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or email@example.com and www.colonyretirementhomes.com.