The elderly are at an increased risk for suicide. A person over the age of 65 dies by suicide about every 80 minutes in the United States. Elderly males are at particularly high risk, and die by suicide about 5 times more often than elderly females. Although the elderly attempt suicide less often than other age groups, they die by suicide more often. Reasons for this may include that their intent is high and they are thorough planners, attempting in such a way so as to avoid rescue. They may also be medically compromised in the first place, and so more likely to die from their attempt.
Often there are behavioral health concerns that are treatable that are related to the person’s thoughts of suicide. There may also be other medical concerns that are a part of why the person may be considering suicide.
Suicide risk in the elderly is often associated with depression. Depression is an illness and needs to be treated, just like any other medical illness. Older adults should receive a medical evaluation, including a screening for depression, as a first step to identifying problems and determining the best course for treatment. An elderly person suffering from depression may be unable or unwilling to seek treatment, so they may require assistance in scheduling and attending an appointment with a behavioral health provider. Behavioral health providers may include family doctors or professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers or counselors.
Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts
This fact sheet from the National Institute of Mental Health contains a brief overview of the statistics on depression and suicide in older adults, with information on depression treatments and suicide prevention.
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