Stop the Suicides! Help Crowdsource a Movement for Laid Off Baby Boomers

A shocking statistic from a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) report shows that the suicide rate for Baby Boomers has increased by 50% from 1999 to 2010. How is this possible? It’s hard to prove a definitive connection between job layoffs, lack of viable employment options, and poor access to healthcare, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that paints a depressing picture for this group.

My husband Kevin and I are Baby Boomers and have been directly affected by job loss. At age 51 Kevin’s advertising job ended a week after 9/11. Loss of income and many health challenges forced us to go through our assets and ultimately drove us into bankruptcy, so we know first hand how it is possible to lose your footing from a solidly middle class life in short order. However, we refuse to give up, are obsessed with righting our ship and two-and-a-half years into our bankruptcy, we are doing much better. I’m focused on creating a movement to help us all reinvent ourselves. I want to tap into what Clay Shirky calls “Cognitive Surplus,” or “…the shared, online work we do with our spare brain cycles.” Let’s pool our resources, share our individual stories of reinvention and tap into the Zeitgeist of the Sixties when we all REALLY cared about each other.

My dream is to make this site a collective repository of resources, stories of reinvention and a place where all of us can come for respite and encouragement. I’m envisioning what Dan Savage did for gay suicidal teenagers in his “It Gets Better” project with topics and guests like Mario Forleo‘s site and with the regionality and recommendations of a Craig’ or Angie’s List. I’m just spit-balling here which is why I need YOUR help…

Please send me anything you think will help build this site including stories of people reinventing themselves.

To kick off this segment, please check out the following story about Bill Jacob that is far too typical of what is occurring on a regular basis in this country. If you extrapolate Bill’s story across the country, you’ll get a clear sense of “…what is happening here.”

Bill Jacob – Laid Off from a Utility Company After 25 Years of Service

How did you end up training to become an addictions counselor which is such a different line of work than your previous career?

I basically asked myself, “What do you want to do now?” I took a look over my past work life – Where was I happy? Where was I not? I looked at my inner self … I was asking, “What am I passionate about? – What would I prefer to do each and every day? – Where in this picture could I see myself whistling each day on my way to work?” These were really pretty easy questions to answer, I knew where my true interests have always been – psychology, philosophy, neurology, sociology – Humanity! It’s a fact that so many of us struggle every day to find our sense of happiness. I knew (and have known for many years) that I would love for my vocation to match my daily longing to help others with their struggles; to be more in service to others.The beginning chapter of this new career book is to counsel and help others in the field of addictions. It is very ‘front burner’ and poignant; alcohol and other substance addiction absolutely devastates personal lives – individuals, families and communities. To state one single statistic: currently in Florida alone, there are 7-8 prescription opiate deaths per day!

Can you discuss the issue of shame in relation to being laid off?

Personally, I experienced great sense of shame when I was laid off from my position. I had put a lot of importance into my work and employment – I made it a tremendous aspect of my self-identity. I took it very personally … not able at first to view it from a business sense (the employer’s POV). Overall, I believe that my sense of shame is probably a common feeling among my generation (Boomers) …I think most of us were instilled with a large amount of loyalty to employers and a very strong work ethic. These may very well be generational aspects that are being left in the past, I don’t know.

Do men and women experience being laid off differently?

I can’t say. I‘d rather leave this question to be answered by women that you interview. I will say that I think you will find that any experiential differences found will be more generational than gender specific. This is speculation on my part.

How will the next chapter of your life differ from the previous one?

I clearly cannot predict an outcome. I know I will attempt to work my hardest at learning a new skill-set and put great effort into this new direction and just see where it goes.In many ways, I do not want this chapter to be very different from the previous chapter. I learned and grew very much from my previous employment/vocation. All of it melds into who I am today and what I bring into this new direction.I guess I’m saying, …. The book just wouldn’t be the book without this chapter … the previous chapter … and the next chapter.

What advice would you have for someone considering going into a new field?

My advice would be: Touch into your best self-awareness; be self-honest. Look deeply inside your self – find what you truly want to do. Where and when and with whom are you most happy? Seek this when choosing a field or vocational endeavor. I think this is vocationally enduring … you will take your genuine and best self to work every day. I have met too many people (especially in my Boomer Generation – and I suspect it still happens a lot) that go/went into careers because “that is where the money is” – or because it was the direction “Mom & Dad picked for me.” What they did (or are still doing) seems like it is someone else’s career. I liken it to this: When you purchase a new wallet quite often it has a picture of a stranger in the photo section? Well, being in a career/job/vocation that you “ended up in” because of the money or parental direction is like keeping that photo in your wallet and producing it each time you are asked for Photo ID (it must be me, it’s in my wallet every time I open it!).

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4 thoughts on “Stop the Suicides! Help Crowdsource a Movement for Laid Off Baby Boomers

  • November 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Cary is such a good writer directly to the point with no fluff. He get you and what you are doing with this blog.

  • November 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    The Person of the Week article by Cary Tennis was great. He truly understand you and your mission.

  • November 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Enjoying your blog, Kathy! I think you have a good pulse on what is happening with the boomers, many of us having to reinvent ourselves and start all over again. It's good to have a place like what you are creating for resources and mutual encouragement so people don't feel all alone and give up trying. Kudos to you – keep up the good work, you're on to something!


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