Older adults are especially vulnerable to suicide.
National Suicide Prevention Month in September is designed to bring awareness to the issue of suicide among all age groups and to ensure that Americans know that help can be as close as a phone call away by dialing the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
In Maricopa County, the Area Agency on Aging’s Senior HELP LINE at (602) 264-HELP (4357) is another important resource for older men and women struggling with signs and symptoms of depression that could lead to suicide attempts.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, suicide is an important problem among older adults. Suicide rates are particularly high among older men, with men ages 85 and older having the highest rate of any group in the country. Suicide attempts by older adults are much more likely to result in death than among younger persons.
“Being aware of the suicide risk factors among older adults and how to address them is critical in saving lives,” said Heidi Donniaquo, the Area Agency Director of Behavioral Health. “While senior adults comprise about 12 percent of the population, they account for nearly 20 percent of suicides.
Signs and symptoms of depression in older adults include:
- Sadness or feelings of despair.
- Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains.
- Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies.
- Weight loss or loss of appetite.
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
- Lack of motivation and energy.
“It’s difficult when you hear someone you love or care for express thoughts about suicide, but it’s critically important to remember that there are steps that can be taken to find help and support,” Donniaquo said.
Those steps include:
- Talking. Your willingness to express your concern for the person in crisis can be the first step in getting that person help.
- Listening. Being an active listener is another way of reminding a person in crisis that they are not alone.
- Remaining Present. Your physical and emotional presence in the person’s life makes a difference. If you are worried about their safety, get help from a mental health professional immediately.
- Calling or texting 988. When someone dials 988, they will be connected to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This confidential support line is available 24 hours a day to provide free help to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress.
For more information about the Area Agency on Aging and all of its programs, visit www.aaaphx.org.