Men's Health Month: Suicide Awareness

May 23rd, 2017

Would you be surprised to know older adults and seniors are disproportionately more likely to die by suicide? While older adults make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, this demographic actually accounts for more than 19 percent of all self-inflicted deaths.

June is Men’s Health Month and an opportunity to raise awareness of health problems that affect men, while encouraging them to seek help when needed. At Oceans, our goal is to help older adults attain the best possible quality of life by helping them navigate the challenges that can come with aging.

Data from the American Society for Suicide Prevention shows men are more than 3 times more likely than women to commit suicide. In addition, older adults have the highest rates of suicide, with 19.6 percent of all suicides in 2015 occurring in adults aged 45 to 64 and 19.4 percent in adults 85 and older.

As healthcare providers, we work tirelessly to improve these statistics by promoting awareness of elder suicide 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 among older men, in particular, who carry high risk, 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 CDC reports 3 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older live with multiple chronic conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Many of these can limit mobility and independence—two big contributors to quality of life as people age.
  • Social isolationA growing portion of older adults are living alone.
  • Financial pressuresMore than 4.2 million older adults reported living below the poverty line in 2013. Financial strains from major medical events, long-term care and retirement can create money-related stress for seniors.
  • Coping with major life changesLosing a spouse or other 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 abuseMany 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

Helpful Resources

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.

 

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