Suicide Rates – Older people make up about 12 percent of

Older people make up about 12 percent of the population, but about 18 percent of suicides,” says Jerry Reed, Ph.D. senior vice president for practice leadership at the Center for Educational Development, an organization that runs suicide prevention programs across the country. “It’s very important that people understand that people who commit suicide are trying to get rid of the physical and emotional pain they’re experiencing,” says Marilyn Mendoza, MD, clinical professor at Tulane University School of Medicine, who writes about mental health for Psychology Today. “Depression is not a normal part of aging,” Reed says, “and it can be treated as well at age 80 as at age 18. “He and others emphasize the need for better screening of the elderly in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and senior programs,” he writes. “Fifty-eight percent of seniors who committed suicide went to their primary care physician in the last month of their lives,” Reed says. “Culturally, in the United States, we assume that older people are depressed, that they have nothing to do, that it’s normal,” Rickard says. For the past two years, Rickard, who runs the National Center for Suicide Survivors, has focused on two main groups: teenagers and the elderly. Says Reid, “There are screening tools that can quickly determine if someone is suffering from a mental health problem. It’s important to know that depression and suicidal thoughts are not normal in old age,” Rickard says. The most important thing we can do, Reid says, “is to do whatever we can do to keep people connected.” Each year Julie Rickard, a suicide prevention specialist, reviews research on suicide rates and decides where her organization will invest its time and money. Reed estimates that more than 90 percent of people who attempt suicide suffer from untreated or under-treated depression. You’ve probably heard about the rise in suicide rates among teens and young adults, but you probably haven’t heard about the rise in suicide rates among seniors either. “We are now seeing rates of depression as high as 50 percent of the general population because we have suddenly stripped them of their basic coping strategies,” says Elle. Jerry Reed, Ph.D., senior vice president for practice leadership, Center for Educational Development, Washington, D.C. “When you’re that age, not a lot of people know about it,” Mendoza says. “There’s an old belief that if you ask someone if they’re thinking about suicide or want to hurt themselves, they will, but that’s not true,” Mendoza says.