Vulnerability of elderly to suicide

Seniors are the second age group most likely to commit suicide in the United States, with senior white men topping the demographic list. Generally, a suicidal crisis involves three characteristics: People believe that the emotional or physical pain they are experiencing is intolerable, inescapable and interminable. Therefore, people with a wish to commit suicide, need to be counseled in feeling more in control, able to change their circumstances and able to understand that the situation will not last forever.

Socially isolated individuals are considerably more vulnerable than integrated or people with partners. Consequently, family and friends should observe for signs of an increased risk of suicide, such as: alcohol abuse; withdrawal; acting recklessly; mood swings; or feeling purposeless, anxious, trapped, hopeless or angry. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that the greatest number of suicides in the U.S. is 45-54 age category at 17.7 suicides per 100,000 people. However, the second-highest rate is the 75-84 age category. at 16.3 suicides per 100,000 people.

Additionally, murder-suicides are relatively rare when compared to suicides and homicides. However, there becoming "an emerging public health concern," according to a study published in 2005 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The "rate may be increasing in the United States, especially among older persons," the study states. The study compared older married men who commit murder-suicide with those who commit suicide only. It found that older men who committed murder-suicide were more likely to be caregivers for their wives. Older men who committed suicide, in comparison, more often had health problems and were the ones receiving care. Depression also played a significant role. However, the study found that socioeconomic status was not a factor.

As stated, older white men are at a greater risk of committing suicide than any other demographic because they are more likely to have a limited social support group; possess firearms; be depressed; have poor sleep quality and rely less on religion. Therefore, if you're worried about an aging parent, family member or client, talk to them. There's no harm in asking people if they're all right, even if they're contemplating suicide. Experts have stated that this discussion will not make them more suicidal, and you may save a life.

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