Geriatric Suicide: Causes, Treatment, Recommendations

Overview

The concern for an adult’s mental health in regards to suicide should begin at the age of sixty, as at this period the issue is the most prevalent. Additionally, Shaha, Bhatb, Zarate-Escuderoc, DeLeo, and Erlangsen (2016), conducted a study to determine suicide rates for adults aged from 60 to 99 years old. They concluded that for men, the risk increases every five years until they are 95 years old. For women, the risk increases until they become 85 years old. The study implicates that both groups are at risk, however, men retain suicidal tendencies for longer periods. According to Stanley, Hom, Rogers, Hagan, and Joiner (2016), suicide among elderly people has had a higher rate when compared to other groups of people globally. Thus, the problem exists not only in the U.S. but also around the world; therefore, systemic [0> reasons should be reviewed to understand the causes of it. Additionally, “In the United States, specifically, nearly 10,000 older adults, aged 60 years and older, die by suicide annually” (Stanley et al., 2016, p. 116). Furthermore, the authors state that for each of these deaths, four adults attempt to commit suicide. Thus, the issue has a large scale as it is prevalent in the geriatric population.

Causes

In general, factors that contribute to the issue are varied and complex, however, some patterns help understand suicide among elderly populations. Stanley et al. (2016) state that mental or physical illnesses, poor quality of sleep, and lack of social connections contribute greatly to the problem. Examining the psychiatric state of an elderly person is essential, however, considering other factors more inclusive approach is necessary. Social connection and family support are crucial in mitigating risks of suicidal intentions for the geriatric population. Durkheim’s theory emphasizes the importance of social environment and interpersonal interactions for people who attempt suicide (Stanley et al., 2016). The amount of negative thoughts and a fatalistic overview of life that an elderly person has is a risk factor as well. The implication corresponds to both hopelessness and escape theories that were proven to correlate with suicide outcomes (Stanley et al., 2016). Therefore, the primary causes are a lack of social interactions and negative thoughts that a person may have.

Treatment guidelines

Preventing suicide in the old population is a difficult task, as many interventions were proven to be ineffective. According to Heisel, Talbot, King, Tu, and Duberstein (2015,) “the promotion and strengthening of social connectedness” is a recommended strategy to combat the issue (p. 87). The authors offered companions to elderly people who lack social connections and found that the approach helps prevent suicide attempts. Additionally, Van Orden (2013) et al. proposed the approach of Interpersonal Psychotherapy to address geriatric suicide. After the intervention, the participants admitted to having a better mental health state and a smaller number of suicide thoughts. Although both studies were conducted on small sample size, they provide an implication that treatment can be provided through psychotherapy and increased interpersonal communications.

Recommendations

Thus, the primary recommendation to combat geriatric suicide is increased support from social circles, including family. Additionally, an intervention from a therapist addressing one’s mental health state can help overcome negative thoughts. Other aspects of elderly health should be included in the prevention treatment, such as enhancement of sleep quality and general physical health state. The presented intervention is unique to the chosen population as the studies were performed in a geriatric care setting.