Preventing Senior Suicide

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The recent suicide of Robin Williams at age 63 shocked his many fans but it does calls attention to an alarming trend toward suicide in older adults.

In fact, it’s estimated that up to 20 percent of suicides in this country are committed by seniors, with the highest success rate belonging to older white men.

Senior suicides can happen for a number of reasons, the chief among them being depression which, it’s estimated afflicts about one-fourth of all U.S. seniors.

Because of the stigma that has long been associated with mental illness, seniors tend not to express their depression the way a younger person might, so it’s important to be on the lookout for warning signs. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these include:

-Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood

-Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism

-Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

-Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

-Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"

-Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

-Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

-Appetite and/or weight changes

-Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts

-Restlessness, irritability

-Persistent physical symptoms

A sense of isolation or bereavement can increase their overall feelings of despair. If your senior is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s important to have them see a doctor for a complete physical to determine whether the cause of their symptoms a chemical imbalance or a physical ailment, bearing in mind that the following are some physical conditions that can contribute to symptoms of depression:

-Thyroid disorders


-Parkinson's disease

-Multiple Sclerosis



-Some viral infections

Some medications, including those taken for blood pressure and arthritis, as well as certain hormones and steroids may also cause symptoms of depression.

Regardless of the cause of your senior’s depression, it is important to see that they get medical attention right away. Every case of depression is different, so it may be important to try out different therapies until you hit upon one that works. After that, you should continue to monitor closely to ensure that it continues to be effective and that your senior is keeping up with it.

If you’re concerned that your senior is contemplating suicide, contact their health care provider or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

For more information about the well-being of seniors, please contact  Home Instead Senior Care of Central Oregon at 541-330-6400.






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