Suicide and Older Adults

Suicide and Older Adults:  Important Information to Know

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. affecting people of all ages, but older adults are especially vulnerable to suicide for a number of reasons, which include: loneliness and social isolation, grief over lost loved ones, loss of self-sufficiency, chronic illness and pain, cognitive impairment, and financial hardships.  These physical, social, emotional, and cognitive struggles can sometimes lead to a person becoming clinically depressed.  Although depression is definitely treatable and most people diagnosed with it do not die by suicide, research has shown that having major depression does increase the risk.  In some people, depression can worsen over the holiday season.

Facts about suicide in older adults:

  • Older adults tend to plan suicide intentionally and methodically. They are also more likely to use more lethal methods such as guns or hanging.
  • Among those individuals who attempt suicide, one in four older adults will succeed, compared to 1 in 200 youths.
  • Men 65 and older face the highest overall rate of suicide.

Possible warning signs of suicide in older adults: 

  • Expressing clear suicidal intent
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Giving away cherished items or changing their will
  • Avoiding being with people and engaging in social activities
  • Neglecting self-care, grooming, and taking medications
  • Talking excessively about death 
  • Becoming suddenly in a really good mood, demonstrating high energy, after being depressed for a very long time
  • Lacking concern for one’s own personal safety

How to support an older adult who might be suicidal:

  • Ask the person directly if he or she is thinking about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Be there physically for the person, if possible, for emotional support and to help keep him or her safe.
  • Notify the person’s family about your concerns, if you are a friend or neighbor, etc. 
  • Help and encourage the person to connect with support systems such as family, friends, medical professionals, hotlines, and other resources in their community.
  • Regularly check in on the person through visits, calls, emails, texts, etc.
  • Call 911 or 988 (suicide prevention hotline). This hotline is not just for suicidal people themselves, but for concerned relatives and friends as well.

If you need to speak to a counselor, please contact Niles Family Services at (847) 588-8460.   Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.