Are the Elderly at Risk for Suicide?

Reviewed Aug 4, 2018

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

If an elderly person is depressed:

  • Make sure he gets treatment for depression.
  • Keep her involved in life.
  • Get him in a safe place.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says the highest rate of suicide occurs in adults aged 45-64, at a rate of 19.6 per 100,000 people in 2015. But, much older people take their own lives, too. The second highest rate is among those 85 and older, at a rate of 19.4.

Why is this the case, when the mental health issues causing 90 percent of suicides are diagnosable and treatable? Why, when elderly people have weathered so many of life’s storms and for so long?

The answer may lie in the fact that many elderly people have depression without knowing it. Some people think feeling low is just part of aging, and there is nothing to be done about it. That could not be farther from the truth. Elderly people with depression may have a common but treatable chemical imbalance.

Sometimes depression is caused by a health condition, such as a thyroid disorder, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, a stroke, tumor, or some viral infections.

Common medications can also lead to depression. This includes drugs for blood pressure and arthritis, as well as hormones and steroids. The more meds a person takes, the more the chance for having depression. It’s important for the doctor to know all of the meds a person is taking. Alcohol and the use of painkillers can accelerate depression as well.

By the time a person reaches the 70s, he has most likely lost friends and loved ones. Children and grandchildren might live far away, or are too busy to visit or call. Widows and widowers often find themselves away from the families they once knew. By choice or by chance, they might spend most of their time alone, even on holidays.

Any sudden event, such as illness or the loss of a loved one, can upset the balance of an elderly person’s life. The person may start drinking, or drink more often. Or, that person might stay away from people because he is embarrassed or does not want to be reminded of what life once was. She may love to relive the past; but her friend may want to forget.

If I think my loved one is at risk, what can I do to help?

  1. Alert a doctor, social worker, or family to the problem. A change in meds or environment may be all that is needed.
  2. Help your loved one keep continuity and predictability in life. Make sure he is eating well. If she lives alone, see that she spends time with other people, many times a week. Help build a routine for your loved one that includes a social life, some exercise, and plans for the future.
  3. Express your concern. Tell her she means a lot to you. Let him know you are not the only person who loves him. He is important in the lives of many others. You want to help him believe he is wanted and still useful in the lives of others.
  4. Get him in a safe place. Make sure there are no guns or lethal drugs around. If your loved one is taking sedatives, make sure that it is still safe for him to do so. Don’t leave her alone. Keep a close watch on her moods and listen to what she says. Listen to your feelings: If you are worried, get help right away.

Resources

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Kristin Brooks Hope Center
Links callers to a certified crisis center near the caller's location. Certified by American Association of Suicidology, ensuring compliance with national standards and quality of services.
(800) SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
www.hopeline.com/

Families for Depression Awareness
Helps families recognize and cope with depressive disorders to ease pain and prevent suicides.
www.familyaware.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A., psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., M.S.S., psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, M.D., L.W.W., 11th edition; 2014.
Reviewed by Lynn Taylor, M.D., Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

If an elderly person is depressed:

  • Make sure he gets treatment for depression.
  • Keep her involved in life.
  • Get him in a safe place.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says the highest rate of suicide occurs in adults aged 45-64, at a rate of 19.6 per 100,000 people in 2015. But, much older people take their own lives, too. The second highest rate is among those 85 and older, at a rate of 19.4.

Why is this the case, when the mental health issues causing 90 percent of suicides are diagnosable and treatable? Why, when elderly people have weathered so many of life’s storms and for so long?

The answer may lie in the fact that many elderly people have depression without knowing it. Some people think feeling low is just part of aging, and there is nothing to be done about it. That could not be farther from the truth. Elderly people with depression may have a common but treatable chemical imbalance.

Sometimes depression is caused by a health condition, such as a thyroid disorder, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, a stroke, tumor, or some viral infections.

Common medications can also lead to depression. This includes drugs for blood pressure and arthritis, as well as hormones and steroids. The more meds a person takes, the more the chance for having depression. It’s important for the doctor to know all of the meds a person is taking. Alcohol and the use of painkillers can accelerate depression as well.

By the time a person reaches the 70s, he has most likely lost friends and loved ones. Children and grandchildren might live far away, or are too busy to visit or call. Widows and widowers often find themselves away from the families they once knew. By choice or by chance, they might spend most of their time alone, even on holidays.

Any sudden event, such as illness or the loss of a loved one, can upset the balance of an elderly person’s life. The person may start drinking, or drink more often. Or, that person might stay away from people because he is embarrassed or does not want to be reminded of what life once was. She may love to relive the past; but her friend may want to forget.

If I think my loved one is at risk, what can I do to help?

  1. Alert a doctor, social worker, or family to the problem. A change in meds or environment may be all that is needed.
  2. Help your loved one keep continuity and predictability in life. Make sure he is eating well. If she lives alone, see that she spends time with other people, many times a week. Help build a routine for your loved one that includes a social life, some exercise, and plans for the future.
  3. Express your concern. Tell her she means a lot to you. Let him know you are not the only person who loves him. He is important in the lives of many others. You want to help him believe he is wanted and still useful in the lives of others.
  4. Get him in a safe place. Make sure there are no guns or lethal drugs around. If your loved one is taking sedatives, make sure that it is still safe for him to do so. Don’t leave her alone. Keep a close watch on her moods and listen to what she says. Listen to your feelings: If you are worried, get help right away.

Resources

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Kristin Brooks Hope Center
Links callers to a certified crisis center near the caller's location. Certified by American Association of Suicidology, ensuring compliance with national standards and quality of services.
(800) SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
www.hopeline.com/

Families for Depression Awareness
Helps families recognize and cope with depressive disorders to ease pain and prevent suicides.
www.familyaware.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A., psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., M.S.S., psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, M.D., L.W.W., 11th edition; 2014.
Reviewed by Lynn Taylor, M.D., Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

If an elderly person is depressed:

  • Make sure he gets treatment for depression.
  • Keep her involved in life.
  • Get him in a safe place.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says the highest rate of suicide occurs in adults aged 45-64, at a rate of 19.6 per 100,000 people in 2015. But, much older people take their own lives, too. The second highest rate is among those 85 and older, at a rate of 19.4.

Why is this the case, when the mental health issues causing 90 percent of suicides are diagnosable and treatable? Why, when elderly people have weathered so many of life’s storms and for so long?

The answer may lie in the fact that many elderly people have depression without knowing it. Some people think feeling low is just part of aging, and there is nothing to be done about it. That could not be farther from the truth. Elderly people with depression may have a common but treatable chemical imbalance.

Sometimes depression is caused by a health condition, such as a thyroid disorder, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, a stroke, tumor, or some viral infections.

Common medications can also lead to depression. This includes drugs for blood pressure and arthritis, as well as hormones and steroids. The more meds a person takes, the more the chance for having depression. It’s important for the doctor to know all of the meds a person is taking. Alcohol and the use of painkillers can accelerate depression as well.

By the time a person reaches the 70s, he has most likely lost friends and loved ones. Children and grandchildren might live far away, or are too busy to visit or call. Widows and widowers often find themselves away from the families they once knew. By choice or by chance, they might spend most of their time alone, even on holidays.

Any sudden event, such as illness or the loss of a loved one, can upset the balance of an elderly person’s life. The person may start drinking, or drink more often. Or, that person might stay away from people because he is embarrassed or does not want to be reminded of what life once was. She may love to relive the past; but her friend may want to forget.

If I think my loved one is at risk, what can I do to help?

  1. Alert a doctor, social worker, or family to the problem. A change in meds or environment may be all that is needed.
  2. Help your loved one keep continuity and predictability in life. Make sure he is eating well. If she lives alone, see that she spends time with other people, many times a week. Help build a routine for your loved one that includes a social life, some exercise, and plans for the future.
  3. Express your concern. Tell her she means a lot to you. Let him know you are not the only person who loves him. He is important in the lives of many others. You want to help him believe he is wanted and still useful in the lives of others.
  4. Get him in a safe place. Make sure there are no guns or lethal drugs around. If your loved one is taking sedatives, make sure that it is still safe for him to do so. Don’t leave her alone. Keep a close watch on her moods and listen to what she says. Listen to your feelings: If you are worried, get help right away.

Resources

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Kristin Brooks Hope Center
Links callers to a certified crisis center near the caller's location. Certified by American Association of Suicidology, ensuring compliance with national standards and quality of services.
(800) SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
www.hopeline.com/

Families for Depression Awareness
Helps families recognize and cope with depressive disorders to ease pain and prevent suicides.
www.familyaware.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A., psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., M.S.S., psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, M.D., L.W.W., 11th edition; 2014.
Reviewed by Lynn Taylor, M.D., Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2018 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2018 Beacon Health Options, Inc.