Suicide and the Elderly.



 

 

Senior and Elderly Suicide.

Suicide is a growing problem in America where people age 65 and older account for about 13 percent of the population but almost a fifth of all suicides. Elderly white men are the most at-risk for suicide among senior citizens, with 33 of every 100,000 of them committing suicide every year. Caucasian men who are more than 80 years old are six times more likely than any other demographic group to commit senior suicide.

Baby boomers are more prone to senior suicide than any other generation in recent history. And, they are strikingly successful in their attempts, with four elderly people attempting suicide for each individual who succeeds. In contrast, young adultsí rate of suicide success is about 200 attempts per completed suicide.

Senior or elderly suicide is typically more lethal or successful because many senior citizens are isolated and donít have people nearby to revive them when they attempt suicide. Seniors are particularly at risk for elderly suicide not just because they donít have social support; but also because of memory or other brain problems and poor sleep patterns. Primary care physicians are the ones most likely to first recognize when a senior is at risk for committing senior suicide because they deal with elderly patients who often give clues.

Experts often urge physicians to ask questions such as "What thoughts have you had about suicide?" to prevent senior suicide. If the patient indicates he may be at risk for senior or elderly suicide, then consult a psychiatrist or mental health specialist right away.

Statistics on senior suicide and elderly suicide are sobering. One quarter of all suicides are committed by the elderly. Approximately every 83 minutes, one senior adult, 65 years of age or older, commits elderly suicide in the United States. Moreover, elderly suicides are very violent deaths with 8 of 10 men who are 65 years of age or older taking a firearm to kill themselves.

It is not surprising that depression occurs in about 15 percent of those 65 years of age or older. Depression affects about 6 million elderly people. Sadly, only about 10 percent of the elderly population experiencing depression seeks professional help. Since depression in nursing home residents can reach as high as 25 percent, itís not uncommon to see senior and elderly suicide occur in a nursing home.

Senior and elderly suicide is not just a problem in the United States. Elderly people kill themselves at a higher rate than any other segment of the population in many countries, according to statistics. One of the reasons senior suicide and elderly suicide are often missed is because of the stereotype that itís normal to feel depressed about growing older. The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression and the vast majority of people who attempt suicide are depressed.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seniors should seek help if they are showing signs of senior suicide or elderly suicide such as the following;

  • Having persistent headaches, stomachaches or chronic pain.

  • Feeling nervous, empty, worthless, tired, restless or irritable.

  • Not enjoying things like they used to, or feeling no one loves them or that life isn't worth living.

  • Eating or sleeping more or less than normal.


According to The Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide is very common among older people.

The study found bipolar disorder, depression and severe pain was associated with the greatest increases in suicide risk. At the same time, several other chronic illnesses including chronic lung disease seizure disorder and congestive heart failure were also associated with an increased elderly suicide and senior suicide risk.

Finally, experts suggest treatment for multiple illnesses is strongly related to an increased elderly and senior suicide risk. Most of the patients in the study who committed suicide visited a physician in the month before they died. Indeed, about half of them visited a physician during the preceding week, which should hit home the message that physicians need to look for signs of depression to prevent senior and elderly suicide.

If you suffer from depression and have strong suicide urges, please seek the help of a professional therapist as soon as possible. You can find mental health professionals who specialize in suicide prevention by looking in your local Yellow Pages under Mental Health and/or Suicide Prevention. Local crisis lines may also be available. If not, call (800)-SUICIDE.

If in the midst of an acute suicide attack, check yourself into the emergency room or tell someone who can help you find help immediately. This is not the time to try to handle the situation alone. After getting past the immediate risk of suicide, it is crucial to find effective help for depression.

Related Articles on Suicide: Depression and Suicide II If You Want to Commit Suicide II Suicide Prevention II Suicide Statistics II Suicide Warning Signs II Antidepressants and Suicide II Youth Suicide II Adolescent Suicide II Teen Suicide Statistics II Elderly Suicide II


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