Suicide and the Elderly: Did you know?

I admit it's been a while since I've posted anything new.  With the sun shining and given the number of winter months we face, the pull to be outside is strong!  Although I have not posted, it does not mean I've done nothing.  Recently, I gave a talk at the Village Park Enrichment Center at Banta in Valparaiso on suicide and the elderly.  Thank you Northwest Indiana Community Action Corp for making those workshops possible.

I love the opportunity to give talks for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I am able to share important information and through this effort, hopefully help others struggling with this issue.  But the other reason is the opportunity to grow.  You see, each time I prepare for a talk, I learn something new!

Did you know....undiagnosed depression is one of the leading reasons for suicide among the elderly.  As a society, we tend to equate growing old with being sad.  By accepting this as fact, we risk not noticing and/or discarding an older adult who is struggling emotionally since that's "just the way it is."  But, depression is completely treatable, so that makes suicide a preventable tragedy!!

Did you know....that society is much more accepting of death and dying among the elderly than adolescents since the potential life loss is greater for youth.  That being the case, there is far less media attention toward an elderly suicide.  We also have less research and literature on this issue.  That means our aging population is less valuable!

Did you older adult who attempts suicide just once is at a much greater risk of completing suicide than any other population.  Although the ratio of attempts to completed suicide is 200:1 in young females, the rate for the elderly is only 4:1.  This means once an attempt has been made by an elderly person, the risk of completed suicide increases dramatically and should be taken very seriously!

Did you know....when an elderly person is at risk of suicide, he or she actually gives fewer warning signs of intent than any other group.  Attempts are more planned, determined, and thought out.  In fact, 2/3 of those studied showed a high intent score.  They also tend to use much more lethal means which leads to more completed suicides and decreased chances of intervention.  That means an elderly person considering suicide can be harder to detect!

Did you know....through the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), Oregon has had legalized physician-assisted suicide (PAS) since 1997.  In 2006, they changed the name to physician-assisted death (PAD) to make it more palatable.  Since that time, PAS users are more likely to die at younger ages (69 vs. 76) than the general population.  It begs the many of these individuals were suffering from depression?  By ignoring this, more people will embrace a sense of defeat and be willing to die by suicide.

These are interesting things to know about the aging members of our society.  What message are we sending?  What does this say about our feelings on getting old?

Photo taken from
Research and data taken from American Foundation of Suicide Prevention

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