Aging and Suicide, Why?
Suicide Among The Elderly:
A very dear friend of mine is filled with grief on each anniversary of her father's death. Tragically, his death was caused by suicide. It shocked her, her family and all of his friends. Sadly, her father is not the only victim of suicide among the aging population. Along with suicide among young people, it is increasing in numbers and frequency.
"Fassberg et al reported physical illnesses, such as cancer, neurologic disorder, pain, liver disease, genital disorders, or rheumatoid disorders, along with physical disability as strongly associated with suicide attempts in older people. Furthermore, the same team of researchers found that limited social connectedness is associated with suicidal ideation, non-fatal suicidal behavior, and suicide among older adults. Finally, Finestone and Blackmer argued that some neurologic diseases, such as stroke, may alter decision-making processes by affecting cognitive capacity and inducing language deficits. The implications of impaired decision making and loss of control in suicide attempts were also sustained in qualitative studies, together with feelings of social connectedness and meaninglessness."
Some Causes of Suicidal Ideation and Attempts Among the Elderly
- Physical disease and disability can cause the elderly to feel helpless and hopeless, two of the "horsemen" of suicidal ideation ending in actual attempts. Of particular importance is the pain caused by these illnesses particularly if the pain is acute and non remitting. Many people, young or old, end up feeling that life is not worth living because of these types of physical conditions, especially if there is no hope for a cure.
- A long history of depression that continues into old age can give rise to an individual that there is no point in going on in life. However, in many cases people have never been treated for depression. Even in those cases when there is an onset of depression in old age many people, especially men do not report their miserable feelings neither to their doctors nor their families.
- One of the inevitable facts of life that accompanies aging is the loss of loved ones. It has been reported for many years that the loss of a child is the worst sort of death for parents to have to endure. Second to this is the loss of a spouse. Among the aging population it is not unusual for a person to experience either type of loss. The most tragic circumstance is for anyone to lose both a child, adult or young, along with a spouse. The impact on loved ones is not only to grieve but to become depressed and engage in the all too common fantasy that they want to die in order to see their loved ones in the after-life.
- Among the loss of loved ones that occurs as people age is the fact that friends and extended family pass away. Not only is this tragic for the survivor but also results in feelings of isolation and loneliness. Actually, these are not merely feelings but the facts of existence after loss occurs in old age. Studies have shown that even when a married couple survive together they feel isolated because of these other losses.
- There are losses that occur other than those having to do with death. Such factors as retirement, adult children moving away to distant parts of the country, and family members not only retiring but moving away to live in retirement communities that exist all over the nation.
- The five factors listed above represent a sense to the older person that they have lost control over their lives. In addition to a sense or belief in a loss of control over life is the feeling and thought that life no longer has meaning and, therefore, not worth living.
Finally, a recent piece of research recently published Britain showed a direct relationship between loneliness and major mental disorders:
"Based on data from 2007, we found that loneliness was the strongest significant explanatory factor of the association between living alone and CMDs (Chronic Mental Disorders), explaining approximately 84% of the association overall. Loneliness has previously been reported to be more frequent in people living alone than in those living with a spouse. In the study, the prevalence of loneliness among those living alone in 2007 was 34% and this figure was much higher than in those who were not living alone (18%). Loneliness has been prospectively associated with the subsequent emergence of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety."
If you or anyone you know is in danger of committing suicide or is considering it please go to the following website. In addition here is the suicide prevention hotline:
Help is available. Please contact Dr. Schwartz at [email protected] or through his phone number at 720-470-2028. Distance therapy is available through the use of video technology.