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Is It Common for Older Adults to Have Suicidal Thoughts?

elderly woman looking at camera

Discussing suicide can be a touchy subject, but it is necessary to discuss the signs to help save a life. Many people struggle yearly with suicidal thoughts and actions. In fact, the CDC reports that in 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults had serious thoughts about suicide, while another 3.2 million made a plan and 1.2 million attempted. These stats include adults in general, but what about older adults like grandparents? Sadly, about one in four seniors who try to commit suicide will pass away, compared to just one in 200 youths. 

So, the short answer is yes, it is common for older adults to have suicidal thoughts. Why? Because of loneliness, depression, and more. Keep reading to find out how to tell if an older adult is suicidal and how to help. Learn about how common it is for older adults to have suicidal thoughts and how to avoid the triggers. 

What Causes Suicidal Thoughts in the First Place?

While depression and anxiety are leading causes, there’s much more to explore when it comes to your elderly loved one having suicidal thoughts. If something happens that they can’t fully come to terms with, they may think ending their life is easier than dealing with it. Some main reasons for suicidal thoughts in anyone include:

  • Past trauma
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse

Suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone, but certain risk factors affect older adults more, leading to elder suicide. 

What Are the Risk Factors for Suicidal Thoughts in Older Adults?

Certain things can increase your risk of having suicidal thoughts. Some of these can include:

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • A family history of suicide
  • Chronic pain 
  • Declining health
  • Living alone / isolation 
  • Shortened life span
  • Financial burdens
  • Certain medications
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Psychiatric illness
  • Lack of access to mental health care

Suicide Attempts in Older Adults

Did you know men aged 85 and older are at the highest risk of suicide in the country? Likewise, older adults are less likely to be found before or during a suicide attempt, making them more likely to perish. Elderly citizens require just as much attention and care as younger adults. It’s essential to make the older adults in your life feel loved. Show them you care by calling or visiting often. Suicide attempts are common in the elderly because of loneliness and lack of care. Your older loved ones will probably hide the fact that they are having suicidal thoughts, but there are ways to tell.

How to Tell if an Older Adult Is Suicidal

There are various ways to tell if your older loved one is suicidal, but one of the easiest ways to tell is if they begin to isolate themselves from the rest of the family. If this happens, it may be time to discuss their mental health. 

Do you notice your loved one talking about not having a reason to live? They may be considering suicide as well. One thing that people often overlook is when elderly loved ones begin giving their belongings away.

Other things to watch out for include: 

  • Talking about feeling hopeless
  • Expressing that they don’t have a purpose in life
  • Feeling trapped
  • Acting like a burden to family members
  • Researching ways to commit suicide
  • Having anger and irritability

You may also notice your loved one’s mood suddenly improving after feeling down for an extended period. Although this may seem like a positive change, it might mean they have come to terms with ending their life. If you see these red flags or signs in your loved one, speak to them about their mental health and make an appointment with a doctor. Your loved one’s suicidal thoughts don’t have to be permanent. 

When to See a Doctor

Making an appointment with a mental health doctor to discuss medication options and coping methods can also be beneficial. If you have a close family member you can trust, speaking with them about your thoughts can help immensely. Just know you aren’t alone. It may seem taboo, but millions of people a year have suicidal thoughts just like you, and it’s important to know that help is available.

We Can Help Today

Treatment for depression and other mental illnesses is available. If you or a loved one have suicidal thoughts, seek support from our mental health experts. From inpatient services to outpatient programs, a personalized treatment plan can help. You and your loved ones deserve to live a happy and healthy life. Through counseling, medication, and other therapies, all ages can have a more promising outlook with a positive mindset. Schedule a free assessment. You can also verify your insurance, so you don’t have to worry about anything. Younger and older adults alike can start feeling better. 

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