Elderly Suicide Rates
According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide among elderly people is very high with white males over 85 being the highest risk among any other group. The elderly are 13% of the population; yet account for 15.6% of all suicides. The rate of suicide for those over 65 is almost 15 of every 100,000 suicides. White men over the age of 65 account for 29 of every 100,000 and white males over 85 account for 47 out of 100,000!
Overall, 84% of all elderly suicides are done by males and 71% of all elderly suicides are completed with firearms. For women, the suicide rate actually declines after age 65.
Risk Factors for Eldelry Suicide
- Being a white male over the age of 85
- Prolonged Illness
- Ongoing Chronic Pain
- Untreated depression
- Terminal Illness
- Death of a Spouse
- Social Isolation/Loneliness
- Recent change in living situation or work status (retired, move to nursing home, etc)
Warning Signs of Suicide
- Feeling Trapped in a situation (like chronic pain)
- Unable to see any “way out” of a bad situation or a problem
- Typical signs of depression:
- Losing weight and poor appetite
- Insomnia or “over” sleeping
- Sad mood
- Loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities
- Withdrawing from social interactions
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Talking about suicide
- Giving away possessions
- Feeling like a burden to others
How to Help Prevent Elderly Suicide
It is important to realize that talking about suicide does not create a desire to commit suicide. It is okay to ask someone if they are feeling like “ending” things. If they are not suicidal, they will let you know right away. If they are, you will in some ways be relieved, since most people feel somewhat ashamed of feeling suicidal. If you are thinking of asking someone about this, it could also be a sign that they are depressed.
So, if you suspect depression and/or suicidal thoughts, urge your loved one to see his or her physician. You can explain that there are medications that can help lift the dark mood enough to make it easier to find solutions to some of their problems. If they have some tangible problems, helping them to problem-solve can help. Often a person thinks about suicide because he cannot easily see a way out of his or her situation.
If your loved one is already in treatment for depression or another mental health illness, help make sure the treatment and medication schedule is followed.
The number one risk factor for all people is not feeling connected. So, spending more time with someone, increasing social activity, and encouraging visits by family members and friends can help as well.
If you are worried and want to talk with someone about your loved one, contacting either of the following hotlines is highly recommended.
Suicide Resources for Older Adults
The Friendship Line
The “friendship” line is a 24-hour/7day a week toll-free phone number specifically designed to deal with elderly suicide prevention and is also available to support seniors struggling with emotional needs, depression or loneliness. A senior can also call to talk things through with someone trained to counsel him on this topic. The service is free.
The Veterans Crisis Line helps veterans in crisis and their families and friends through a confidential toll-free hotline. Veterans and their caregivers can call to receive counseling and emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.