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A Difficult Discussion How Do We Talk About Senior Suicide?
This month, I want to talk about a very sad but important topic. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and we need to bring light to the distressing reality of senior suicide. Adults over the age of 65 have an unusually high suicide rate, and individuals 85 and older make up the highest rate of suicides among adults. This is not a new trend among seniors. You can find articles in the New York Times warning of the rising suicide rates among the elderly all the way back in 1987. Over 30 years later, very little has been done to address this growing problem. If you have ever lost someone to suicide, you know one of the first things you ask is, “Why?” There is never a good answer to this question, because we never know what was going on in a person’s head in their darkest moments. But when it comes to senior suicide, there are many studies identifying the warning signs. Poor health is a big factor in senior suicide. When a person’s health fails, they can lose their independence, which becomes an immense physical and emotional burden. Isolation is also a problem. Seniors often have fewer social bonds than they did in their youth, either because family members have moved or because their long-time friends have passed away. These factors inevitably lead to depression, a mental health problem that is too often overlooked or ignored in our seniors. Many people in this generation grew up in a time when there was an intense stigma around mental health issues. There was little research about the causes of mental illness, and there weren’t many treatment options. Seniors today can still carry those negative ideas about mental health, and for this reason, they are less likely to seek help. They fear they’ll
be judged, or they assume their depression
is just part of getting older. When they struggle, seniors
may tell themselves to “just deal with it.” But this approach often ends in tragedy.
Battling senior suicide is one important challenge caregivers take on. Not only do they help with day-to-day activities seniors may no longer be able to do themselves, but our Angels also know the warning signs to look out for when it comes to senior suicide. When a caregiver sees something concerning, they quickly contact the client’s care manager who will inform the family members and take action. The holidays are coming up, and this time of year can be especially hard on seniors who already feel alone. I encourage you to reach out to your loved ones and see how they are doing. Let them know they are loved and valued, and remind them there is no shame in asking for professional help if they need it. This is a difficult topic, but being open and proactive can ensure the time you have with your loved one isn’t cut short.
Cindy Saunders, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
831-430-0616 | 1
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