Six million men are affected by depression every year. While mental illness impacts both men and women, men are less likely to seek treatment due to social norms, reluctance to talk and downplaying symptoms.
June is Men’s Health Month and an opportunity to raise awareness of health challenges affecting men, while encouraging them to seek help when needed.
Data from the American Society for Suicide Prevention shows men are more than 3.5 times more likely than women to commit suicide. In addition, middle-aged adults have the highest rates of suicide, with 20.2% of all suicides in 2017 occurring in adults 45 to 64 and 20.1% in adults 85 and older. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide.
As healthcare providers, we work tirelessly to improve these statistics by promoting awareness among caregivers and loved ones, and working to provide resources and assistance to those suffering from mental health issues, like depression, likely to lead to suicidal thoughts. Understanding the risks of suicide is critical to prevention and early identification of suicidal thoughts.
Recognizing Risk Factors
There are often several health factors that go along with aging, which can impact seniors’ quality of life. Some of these include:
- Managing comorbidities—The National Council on Aging reports approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Many of these chronic diseases, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, limit mobility and independence—two big contributors to quality of life as people age.
- Social isolation—A growing portion of seniors are living alone. For older adults who are being urged to stay at home during the COVID-19 crisis, feelings of loneliness and isolation may be stronger than ever.
- Financial pressures— More than 7 million adults 65 and older lived below the poverty line in 2017. Financial strains from the coronavirus pandemic, major medical events, long-term care and retirement can create money-related stress for seniors.
- Coping with major life changes—Losing a spouse, close friend or relative can force older adults to make significant adjustments to daily routines and make the realization of mortality more imminent.
- Battling substance abuse—Many older adults take a combination of prescription medications that can cause an imbalance in brain chemistry. Access to these medications can also pose a threat when someone is dealing with mental illness.
Look for Clues
Often, older adults exhibit behaviors that can be indicative of possible suicidal tendencies, such as:
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing from social settings or becoming isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
While the rates of suicide in older adults, especially men, are currently high, prevention programs that utilize depression screening combined with health education can significantly reduce suicide among the elderly. Download our depression screening tool here.
For physicians, nurses, case workers and other healthcare professionals, it is important to take into consideration the increased risk of depression and suicide for patients later in life.
Oceans Healthcare is specially trained to treat many types of behavioral health problems in older adults and seniors. For more information or to find an Oceans mental health services provider in your area, please visit www.oceanshealthcare.com.