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Help Prevent Suicide & Suicidal Ideation in Older Adults

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Of any age group in the United States, older adults and the elderly (85 years and older) have the highest risk of suicide. Though only accounting for 12% of the population, the elderly account for 18% of suicide deaths. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy also reports that the rates of elderly suicide are estimated to be under reported or incorrectly categorized by 40 percent or more due to “silent suicides”—overdoses, self-starvation, self-dehydration, and “accidents.”

There isn't just one factor that can put someone at a higher risk for suicide. COVID-19 has exacerbated this exponentially, meaning we all need to be on higher alert for these warning signs and others, such as: social isolation, chronic pain, losing a loved one, deteriorating health, loneliness, financial insecurity, legal issues, medical debt, housing related stress, giving away prized possessions, shrinking independence, etc.

So call your grandma or grandpa or great aunt Myrtle and learn to detect early warning signs of suicide in older adults, courtesy of Mental Health America:

  • The person expresses depression or hopelessness

  • There has been a loss of independence

  • Having been diagnosed with a serious medical condition that could either dramatically change quality of life or end it prematurely

  • The senior is isolated socially

  • A loved one has recently died or there are family issues

  • Lack of desire or inability to deal with change

  • Risky behaviors are exhibited

  • Substance use or abuse has increased

  • Suicide has been attempted previously, or he or she makes statements indicating that life would be better if they weren’t around

  • Valuable possessions are no longer important and may be given away

If any of these signs are present or you’re otherwise concerned someone you know may be deciding to take their life, there are quite a few things you can do to help:


  • Connect them with elderly or disease-related support groups (check out local medical care facilities, community centers, schools, libraries, or at a medical organization

  • Limit access to substances and/or fire arms

If you're worried that someone you know is seriously thinking of taking their life, please contact the follow or encourage them to seek mental health treatment:


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