Understand Risk Factors of Suicide Among Elderly
As the adult child of a senior parent living on his or her own, you undoubtedly pay attention to not only the physical well-being of your mother or father but also your parent’s emotional health. The grim reality is that seniors in the 21st century face many unique challenges that can negatively impact their emotional well-being. These include everything from health issues to financial problems to the negative emotions that can be associated with living alone in some cases. As a result, suicide is a concern among women and men in their Golden Years. In this article, we present information designed to aid in understanding the risk factors of suicide among seniors.
Senior Suicide Facts and Statistics
Senior suicide is a tragic and heartbreaking reality that is affecting communities around the world. According to data from the World Health Organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-29, with an estimated 800,000 people dying by suicide in 2020 alone. However, certain age groups are more at risk than others, and seniors have become one of those vulnerable populations.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among adults aged 65 or older was almost 19 per 100,000 in 2017. That figure was nearly double the rate for all adults across all age groups during the same period. The startling figures show an increasing trend in senior suicides over recent years, with rates doubling since 2000, according to World Health Organization data.
Some of the major risk factors for senior suicide include depression, social isolation, physical health problems, recent diagnosis of a serious illness or injury, and financial difficulties that can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Mental health has a huge role in mental health disorders, such as depression which can increase the risk of suicide in seniors. According to a 2018 report from AARP, more than 50 percent of seniors aged 75 or older suffered from symptoms associated with depression that include:
- Low mood levels
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Reduced appetite
- Increased irritability
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feeling of hopelessness
Research also suggests that access to firearms plays a significant role in senior suicides. In 2017, firearms were used by 52 percent of those aged 65 or older who died by suicide, according to CDC data. This is higher than any other age group during this period. It highlights how important it is for families to reduce access when possible and ensure these weapons are locked up safely away from their elderly loved ones who may be struggling with mental health issues.
Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues within many communities and cultures worldwide, seniors may not feel comfortable talking about their struggles with friends and family members. As a result, they often end up feeling isolated, which can further exacerbate any existing mental health issues they may face. It’s important, therefore, for friends and family members to stay connected with their elderly loved ones, even if it’s just via phone calls or video chats regularly so that they can keep an eye out for signs that could indicate their relative may be struggling mentally or emotionally with life challenges, such as loneliness or anxiety about aging.
Specific Risk Factors of Suicide Among Older Individuals
There are some specific risk factors of suicide that are associated with suicide among seniors. These are classified as long-term factors, recent factors, and situational factors.
Long-term factors of elderly suicide include:
- Having a mental health condition
- Having a chronic health condition
- A history of substance abuse
- Family genetics
- A history of early trauma
- Having a head injury
Recent factors include:
- Being intoxicated
- Isolation, or loss of social interactions
- Losing the ability to function independently
- Experiencing an unanticipated stress
Situational factors include:
- Senior firearm ownership. More than 90 percent of elderly firearm deaths are suicides, while only 50 percent of firearm deaths are in the general population.
How to Talk to a Senior Loved One About Suicide
Talking to a senior loved one about suicide can be daunting, but it’s important to have the conversation to ensure their safety and well-being. You must approach this conversation with compassion and understanding.
Start by expressing your concern and letting them know you are there to support them. For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed lately that you haven’t seemed quite yourself. I’m worried about you and want to ensure everything is okay.” Reassure them that they don’t have to go through this alone, and offer your help in whatever way you can. Encourage them to open up about what is troubling them, giving them time and space to talk without interruption or judgment.
Seniors need access to resources if they feel they need extra support. Make sure they know that help is available from their doctor, mental health professionals, clergy, crisis helplines, family members, friends, or an online support group. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s an act of strength.
It’s not only important to look out for signs of depression or suicidal thoughts; it’s also essential that seniors take steps towards prevention, such as limiting access or exposure to firearms or other lethal means, getting regular checkups with a doctor or therapist when necessary, engaging in activities they enjoy doing, such as playing sports or painting or spending time with family members who can provide emotional support.
If your elderly loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it may be helpful for them to create a plan of action in an emergency situation so that everyone knows what steps should be taken if things get worse. It may also be beneficial for them to write down a list of reasons why life is worth living, including hobbies they enjoy, people who care about them, and special moments from their life experiences that could give them hope during difficult times.
Having conversations with a senior loved one about suicide can be difficult, but it’s an essential step in ensuring their well-being and safety. Approach the conversation with love and understanding while referring to additional resources when necessary so that both parties can feel supported through these tough times.
Seek Professional Assistance for Senior Struggling With Emotional Issues
In conclusion, it is also extremely important for seniors who are struggling mentally to get help through counseling services, such as therapy sessions either with a professional counselor or therapist online, where anonymity can provide comfort when discussing sensitive topics like mental health issues or thoughts of self-harm including suicidal ideation, which might be too overwhelming for some people without professional guidance from someone outside their close circle of family and friends. Joining support groups both online and offline has been shown to provide hope for individuals seeking help as well as provide them with resources so that they don’t feel so alone during hard times since talking about sensitive subjects such as suicidal ideation can often prove difficult even within supportive circles due to fear related stigma still associated with mental illness within many societies today.
Overall, senior suicide is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem around the world due largely to factors like depression amongst this age group combined with social isolation exacerbated by the cultural stigma associated with discussing anything related directly to mental health, making it harder for those suffering silently to reach out before it’s too late. It’s therefore imperative that we continue fighting against these stigmas while also making sure our elderly relatives know there’s always hope no matter what situation we might find ourselves in these days through providing them support networks, whether it’s via support groups online/offline counseling services, everyone knows help is available whenever it’s needed most.