Following recent weeks of the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we are reminded that suicidal thoughts do not discriminate and people of all backgrounds are at risk, including our senior citizens.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), adults aged 65 and older have a high suicide rate with those 85 and older having the highest suicide rate of all adults.
“Depression is often not well detected in older adults,” said Dr. Jo Anne Sirey, professor at the Weill Cornell Medical College, Department of Psychiatry in a SPRC video. “In addition, older adults are reluctant to seek mental health services. Therefore, suicide prevention and mental health services need to go where older adults can be found, and senior centers are an ideal community setting to reach this population.”
Depression amongst the elders are increasingly difficult to detect due to many mistaking it as a natural part of aging. Many attribute what their feeling to a declining health and/or physical limitations. Contributing to this, many of these elders have grown up during a period when mental health services were scarce, so the stigma about mental health illnesses hits even harder in that population.
“In addition, older adults are reluctant to seek mental health services. Therefore, suicide prevention and mental health services need to go where older adults can be found, and senior centers are an ideal community setting to reach this population,” said Dr. Sirey.
While it may be difficult to detect those battling suicidal thoughts, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) note that there are warning signs to look out for when working with elders. Some signs of an elder battling suicidal thoughts include them talking about having no reason to live or being a burden to others, isolating themselves, and displaying mood changes dealing with anxiety and/or loss of interest.
With our elderly population rapidly growing, and suicide plaguing our senior communities, being aware of suicidal thoughts amongst this population are important.
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