We can’t let the month of September end without acknowledging that it’s National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is society’s hidden epidemic. Nearly 1 million Americans commit suicide every year.
It might surprise you that compared to other age groups, seniors age 65 and older have the highest suicide rates. Terminal or debilitating illness, loneliness, depression and loss of a spouse or close friend or family member are a few of the reasons seniors end their lives. Often isolation or immobility can keep them from seeking the medical or mental health support they need to overcome depression and other suicide risk factors. If you are considering suicide or caring for someone at risk, there is help.
According to The Good Samaritan Society, some warning signs to look for include:
- Actions that indicate they anticipate death, such as giving away treasured items, updating wills or talking about the significance of their life
- Showing signs they want to hurt themselves
- Stop taking important medication, eating, and treating an illness
- Stop following medical restrictions or do something they know causes physical harm, such as eating certain foods or smoking
- Drastic changes in behavior
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
How can you help someone at risk of or who is threatening suicide?
- Seek help. Call a crisis hotline or professional specializing in suicide prevention. You can even talk to your loved one’s primary care physician about your concerns. If you don’t know the right organization to call, dial 2-1-1 to connect to the best resource.
- Be open and direct when addressing your loved one without being combative or judgmental.
- Address the risk factors, if possible. For example, if social isolation is causing your loved one to feel depressed, you might encourage her to join a senior activity group.
- Check for other factors that may be causing your loved one’s hopeless feelings. For instance, symptoms of depression are a side effect of many prescription drugs for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart problems and arthritis. And the combination of several drugs puts you at greater risk for depression.