Suicide among seniors is a growing concern. Suicide rates are highest among men ages 85 and older. Not only do seniors often face difficult housing transitions during this time of life, but their mental health can be waning as well.
Risk Factors for Suicide
When someone is feeling lonely or lacking purpose, they are at greater risk of taking their own life. The emotional pain can become too severe. Family and friends should be proactive in recognizing the risk factors that may lead to suicide. Some of these are:
- Social isolation
- Substance abuse (including prescriptions)
- Physical pain, disability, or illness
- Depression and other mental health issues
Warning Signs of Suicide
Identifying warning signs can buy you time to provide the necessary support. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:
- Expressions of hopelessness
- Loss of independence
- Diagnosis of serious medical conditions
- Social isolation
- Family issues
- Giving away valuable possessions
- Talking about how things would be better if they weren’t around
- Changes in substance use
- Increase in risky behaviors
- Inability to deal with change, such as moving to a long-term care facility
Support for At-Risk Seniors
If you notice any of the signs above, there are things that can be done to reduce the risk of suicide. Keep in mind that the person needs to feel a connection, so strengthening the relationship can be beneficial. Talk to them about their situation. The National Suicide Prevention Life Line offers multiple resources and may be reached either online or by phoning 1-800-273-8255.
Wellness classes are frequently offered through local senior centers. It can also be helpful to talk to the person’s doctor to determine if treatments are needed.
When you suspect that an older adult is thinking about suicide, be proactive in removing lethal means. For example, remove firearms or medications that can be used for overdose. You can’t eliminate all of the items that could be used for suicide, but you can remove things that make it easier for them to end their lives prematurely.
This information is intended to inform the public at large about this important issue. It is not intended to serve as legal or medical advice.