Suicide Among Older Adults

Preventing Suicide Among Older Adults

If you or someone you love has thought about or expressed suicidal thoughts call for help.

Help is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

If you live in Utah, call the UNI CrisisLine and Mobile Crisis Outreach Team at 801-587-3000 or
call the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1

How to Help Someone Who May be at Risk for Suicide

  • Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for help. Suicide is never the answer. Help is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  • The Trevor Lifeline is available for LGBT individuals in crisis at 866-488- 7386.
  • Take any warning signs or threat of suicide seriously.
  • If you recognize these warning signs or think someone might be considering suicide, ask the person directly if they are thinking about suicide. Asking does not increase risk of a suicide attempt and can help save lives.
  • If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, take action immediately! Do not leave them alone. If the person has a weapon or is not responding to attempts to contact them, call 911 and request a Crisis Intervention Team officer to do a welfare check.
  • Listen without judgement.
  • Call a therapist or your local behavioral health authority to request a crisis appointment.
  • Remove lethal means from the home, such as firearms or medications.

Speak up if you’re worried

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings may prevent a suicide attempt.

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:

  • I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
  • Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
  • I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.

Questions you can ask:

  • When did you begin feeling like this?
  • Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
  • How can I best support you right now?
  • Have you thought about getting help?

What you can say that helps:

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.

Protective Factors that Decrease the Risk of Suicide

Suicide can be prevented by increasing what are known as protective factors in a person’s life. Protective factors are conditions or attributes in an individual, family, or community that increase the health and well-being of children and families. Protective factors may reduce suicide risk by helping people cope with negative life events, even when those events continue over a period of time. The ability to cope or solve problems reduces the chance that a person will become overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious (1).

  • Receiving effective mental health care or substance abuse treatment
  • Positive connections to family, peers, community, and social institutions that foster resilience
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent handling of disputes
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation

The following are warning signs of immediate risk. Call 911 if you or someone you know if experiencing the following:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and/or,
  • Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

Additional Warning Signs:

  • Increased substance use
  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling trapped - like there's no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Giving away prized possessions

References

  1. Help Guide. Suicide Prevention
  2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Risk Factors and Warning Signs
  3. Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Risk and Protective Factors for Suicide