Caring Currents

Elder Suicide: Know the Warning Signs

Last updated: Jun 23, 2008

1865482908 20b890274b m.jpg

This week Carol O'Dell , Caring.com's Family Advisor and author of the memoir Mothering Mother , wrote a fantastic piece about one of those frightening topics we'd all rather not think about: elder suicide. But the fact that seniors have the highest suicide rates of any age group is one that we simply can't afford to ignore.

Why are older people at such high risk for suicide? Depression is the biggest culprit, and it's a condition that often goes undiagnosed in seniors. Some other factors that lead to suicide include debilitating illness, chronic pain, financial difficulties, isolation, and loss of a loved one or pet.

What can you do if you think your parent or loved one might be depressed or at risk for suicide? One of the most important things is to know the warning signs of suicide :

  • Talking or reading about death and suicide
  • Making statements of hopelessness or suicide threats
  • Not sleeping enough or sleeping all the time
  • Failing to take care of self or follow medical advice
  • Stockpiling medications
  • Becoming suddenly interested in firearms
  • Increasing use of alcohol or prescription drugs
  • Withdrawing socially
  • Rushing to complete or revise a will
  • Saying good-bye to family and friends

If your parent or someone you know is depressed or at risk, you can help by reaching out to that person. It's not easy to broach the subject, but knowing you're there to listen and help may make all the difference to someone contemplating suicide. "Your goal is to prevent a tragedy," writes O'Dell. "Speak up -- this is worth fighting for."

Suicide prevention resources and information: