Suicide in Older Adults: An Evaluation of Predisposing Factors and Prevention Programs

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According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005), suicide is the act of intentionally taking one’s own life. This mental health issue is common amongst older adults (Vanderhorst & McLaren, 2005). However, media reports regarding suicide tend to focus on adolescents (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005) states adolescents aged 15-19 years had the lowest suicide death rate (9.5 per 100,000); whereas adults aged 30-34 years had the highest suicide rate (27.5 per 100,000). Research indicates that the most successful age group for suicide is older people; one in four suicide attempts result in death (Beeston, 2006). There are factors that predispose older adults to become suicidal, such as; individual, family and community factors. However, there are prevention programs for suicide. Current prevention programs for suicide include different levels of prevention; reducing access to means of suicide; and improving treatment of older people with depression. The effectiveness of these programs will be explored.

An individual factor that predisposes older adults to become suicidal is the mental health of an older adult. An accepted definition of mental health is the level of emotional wellbeing or the absence of a mental disorder (WHO, 2010). Several studies (e.g., Uncapher, Gallagher-Thompson, Osgood & Bongar, 1998; & Neufeld & O’Rourke, 2009) explored the effects of mental health issues in relation to suicide in older adults. These studies found; feeling hopeless, depressed and impulsivity could lead to suicide related ideation. Uncapher, Gallagher-Thompson, Osgood & Bongar (1998) examined suicide related ideation in older adults. Suicidal ideation is a term used in regards to thoughts ab...

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Uncapher, H., Gallagher-Thompson, D., Osgood, N. J., & Bongar, B. (1998). Hopelessness and suicidal ideation in older adults. The Gerontologist, 38(1), 62-70. Retrieved from

Vanderhorst, R. K., & McLaren, S. (2005). Social relationships as predictors of depression and suicidal ideation in older adults.Aging & Mental Health, 9(6), 517-525. doi:10.1080/136007860500193062

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You, S., Van Orden, K., & Conner, K. R. (2010). Social connections and suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Psychology of Addicitive Behaviors, 1(25), 180-184. doi:10.1037/a0020936

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