FOR MANY OF US, when we think of suicide, we picture the tragedy of young lives cut short by overwhelming depression, or the unfathomable demise of a highly successful celebrity. While these stories are undeniably heartbreaking, there is an often-overlooked segment of our society that is actually at greater risk of suicide – the elderly.
According to the American Association of Suicidality, as of 2018, older adults comprised 16 percent of our population but accounted for 18.8 percent of the suicides. The National Council on Aging says individuals over the age of 85 have the highest suicide rate of any age group. A suicide occurs among the elderly at a rate of approximately once per hour in the U.S. This is cause for concern not just among healthcare providers, but also for the families and friends of those who feel that this course of action is their only option.
There are many factors that can lead an older person to take their life. Psychiatric issues, neurocognitive disorders, or cognitive impairment may play a role. Depression can manifest differently in the elderly than in younger patients, so it may go unrecognized by those close to them. Physical problems, such as pain, illness, or lack of mobility, can contribute to depression and suicidal ideation. Social isolation, grief, or feeling a lack of purpose in life can be major triggers for self-harming behaviors.
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