Suicide Watch

Suicide Watch

Know the Warning Signs in Older Adults

A recent study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging revealed a shocking truth: The risk of suicide increases with age, with rates as high as 48.7 per 100,000 for older white men over age 65 — more than four times the age-adjusted average.

Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it may be hard for them to seek treatment, as they don’t want to burden loved ones.

“In the older generation, [depression and suicidal thinking] can be perceived as burdensomeness,” explains Vennie Christoff, CEO of Lake Behavioral Hospital in Waukegan.

If you think a loved one might be in crisis, watch for these warning signs:

  • Social isolation Older adults who cancel plans, stop returning calls or sever links with their families might be attempting to prepare their loved ones for life without them, Christoff says.
  • Medical problems Research shows that adults over 65 with illnesses like congestive heart failure, lung disease, anxiety and pain are at a higher risk of committing suicide. Watch out for a combination of physical and psychological symptoms that could point to a co-diagnosis of depression.
  • Making preparations It’s a red flag when a loved one gives away personal possessions, talks about funeral plans or starts saying their goodbyes.
  • “Older patients might not be able to acknowledge or accept that they’re at risk. Family members and support systems should take under consideration perceived burdensomeness when determining depression and suicide risk,” Christoff says. “Watch for the signs and reach out for help.”