Senior suicide prevention

Senior suicide prevention

Seniors commonly talk about the end of life.

Your family member may speak of dying or longing to go to heaven. This doesn't have to be cause for alarm.

It’s important to recognize the difference between sadness, reflection on one's life and suicidal thoughts.

If you see a loved one exhibiting serious signs like prolonged depression or talking about harming themselves, they may be at risk for suicide.

Warning signs of suicide:

  • Actions that indicate they anticipate death, such as giving away treasured items, updating wills or talking about the significance of their life
  • Expressing feelings of guilt, shame, regret or hopelessness
  • Showing signs they want to hurt themselves
  • Stop taking important medication, eating, and treating an illness
  • Drastic mood changes
  • Aggressive or reckless behavior
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

If you believe a loved one is suicidal, you must take action.

  • Call 911 if it's an immediate emergency.
  • Get help from professionals who specialize in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. See below for crisis hotlines, and the sources at the bottom of this article for additional resources.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255, TTY: (800) 799-4889

Veterans Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255, or text 838255

Institute on Aging's Friendship Line (for anyone 60+): (800) 971-0016

Crisis Text Line: text 741741

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Take away access to firearms, medications, sharp objects, belts, cords, cars, plastic bags and other means that could be used to attempt suicide.
  • Do not be sworn to secrecy. Reach out to family members, friends, doctors or clergy who may be able to help talk to the person.
  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about the person's feelings and intentions.
  • Do not be argumentative or judgmental. This may make the person feel defensive and less willing to accept help.

Sources: American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Alliance on Mental IllnessNational Institute of Mental Health, Suicide Prevention Resource Center

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