As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult to dismiss the intractable sadness of mortality. Retirement neuters our sense of purpose, our social support system narrows as our children leave the nest, and our loved ones pass on and a strengthing furnace of health complications sets the stage for an eternity of nothingness. Although the phenomenon is under-reported the despair and isolation that attends advancing age, accounts for the majority of self-slaughter cases in America.
Wellness Author Katie Hurley reports, “According to the latest data, the second-highest suicide rate in the US occurred in people 85 years or older. The highest rate was among adults between 45 and 64 years of age. Though a past history of suicide threats or attempts remains the biggest risk factor, most completed suicides are not preceded by unsuccessful attempts. If an elderly patient shows any signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, it is important to seek immediate assistance.”
Depression as we age
Of the 800,000 people that commit suicide every year, ( roughly a person every 40 seconds) 45% are driven to do so by some kind of chemical imbalance, and the remaining 55% occasion psychological influences. Unfortunately the elderly are particularly vulnerable to both predictors. Although clinical depression is not recognized as a normal part of the aging process, it is by no means an uncommon one, given over 2 million Americans aged 65 years or older suffer from the condition.
In older victims, the disease’s characteristics get conflated with other cognitive deficits with enough regularity depression often goes undiagnosed. As far as the psychological risks are concerned, many boomers and octogenarians report losing a sense of meaning after the passing of their spouse, and nearly as many submit to a persistent fear of mortality, brought on by the death of their friends and colleagues.
“At the threshold of older adulthood, thoughts often turn to satisfaction in the past and confidence— emotionally, financially, and socially—in the life events yet to unfold. Unfortunately, for some older adults, such satisfaction and confidence are elusive or nonexistent. And in the face of hopelessness in the prospects for a satisfying future, some older adults choose to end their lives prematurely,” explains Professor Barbara Worthington.
Persuading older generations against the beckon of suicide requires a little more tact. Broadly speaking, the appeal of self-destruction for young people is an intense and romantic one; a longing to be seen, a desire to be lyrical in their suffering. For the elderly, suicide offers a clinical proposal. One that is much more difficult to trivialize, because it is to some degree logically sound. The famous naturalist philosopher, Pliny the Elder, famously motioned a compelling case in the act’s defense:
“Life is not so desirable a thing as to be protracted at any cost. Whoever you are, you are sure to die, even though your life has been full of abomination and crime. The chief of all remedies for a troubled mind is the feeling that among the blessings which Nature gives to man, there is none greater than an opportune death; and the best of it is that every one can avail himself of it.”
Tactically, it seems to make more sense to confess our shared impulse to bring our existence to an end, than to try and belittle its inarguably cogent pitch. The scythe knocks loudly to all of us, luckily some of us have both the constitution and support to delay answering the door. Alongside, limiting means of restriction, and responsible media coverage, it’s important that we, as a society, educate ourselves on our methods of identification. As previously stated, suicidal ideations don’t always express themselves via dramatic shifts in moods, or prophetic manifestos; this is especially true for older sufferers. In fact, many elderly patients of depression report experiencing the condition without the actual sensation of sadness. A lot of times they succumb to physical aches, discomforts and a general depletion of drive, (some stop bathing and leaving the house.)
It’s often hard to consider the potential for the people that nurtured us to ever want for emotional assistance, so it’s important to remember that despair and loneliness are not character flaws, they’re innate human reflexes. In the day to day, if we make an effort to rate external achievements a little more cheaply, and allow more room for the inevitability of failures, we can perhaps restore some of the gleam deprived of the golden years.
A recent peer-reviewed study concludes, “Suicide prevention requires strategies that encompass work at the individual, systems and community level. Policy directed at means restriction and public awareness campaigns can be used in combination with strategies directed at the individual, including identification, proper diagnosis and effective treatments. Given the complexity of identifying and managing suicide risk, a combination of interventions at a several levels will be required in order to implement an efficacious, comprehensive prevention program.”