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It’s safe to say that when you ask the average person about suicide, they are not describing the elderly. The elderly comprise 12% of the national population, yet accounts for 18% of suicide deaths. The fastest growing segment of our population is elderly, making the issue of later-life suicide a public health issue (National Institute for Mental Health). Issues such as social isolation, serious illness, chronic health conditions and depression are key factors that can lead to suicide within the elderly.
The following are factors to look for:
- Substance use
- Being widowed or divorced
- Major life changes (retirement)
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Feeling a loss in purpose and independence
- Chronic medical conditions
The following are ways to help:
- Check-in on a loved one.
- Take the time to speak with an older adult.
- Get out of the house and do something they enjoy.
- Ask someone to teach you something.
- Intergenerational activities such as picking flowers, making cookies or reading.
- Find ways to provide a sense of accomplishment (finishing a puzzle, making a meal).
- Exercise. This can be as simple as taking a walk together.
- Have fun!
If you know of an older adult struggling with a behavioral health and/or substance use issue, please encourage them to walk-in to UofL Health – Peace Hospital’s assessment and referral center at 2020 Newburg Road, Louisville, Ky. for a no-cost level-of-care assessment. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If someone is in crisis they can also call or send a text to 988, which is available 24/7. The Lifeline provides confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.