ABS figures show the number of suicides for men aged 85 and over has increased 15% from 2010 to 2014, with a staggering rate of 2,864 suicides of older Australian men in 2014.
Men over 85 have the highest suicide rate for any age group in Australia – why? What drives older men to take their own lives?
According to research by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, suicidal behaviour in older people is often undertaken with ‘greater intent’ and ‘more lethal methods’.
When someone loses a loved one, or that person moves into a care facility, or becomes unwell, depression can be a common response; however, depression is not a ‘normal’ part of the ageing process with studies showing that depression often declines with age.
However, many older sufferers often go undiagnosed and untreated because signs of depression, such as withdrawing from daily life, behaving out of character or being agitated or worried, are ignored.
Living alone is a major factor of older people having suicidal thoughts, with declining health including chronic pain, chronic disease, in combination with social isolation, lack of social supports, and evolving depression contributing to suicidal attempts.
Specialists have recommended for closer observation and suicide prevention programs for elderly people diagnosed with serious diseases following their diagnosis and/or treatment.
Discussions around suicide and suicide prevention are often directed towards younger and middle aged people – with the elderly suicide rates being the highest rate for any group in Australia, conversations, education and support is paramount to prevent suicide and reduce these devastating tragedies.
RUOK? Day on Thursday September 8, is a National Day of action, dedicated to inspiring all people to reach out to people in the community, friends, family, a colleague, a neighbour – and ask, “Are you OK?’’
The goal of RUOK is to start a conversation movement and inspire all people to have regular, meaningful conversations about life’s ups and downs. It’s a national movement which aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones.
For further information on RU OK Day, visit www.ruok.org.au
If you or a friend need crisis support, phone:
1800 RUOKDAY (1800 7265 329)
Lifeline 13 11 14
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
beyondblue 1300 22 4636