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Warning Signs of Suicide in Older Adults

Topic Overview

Suicide rates increase with age and are highest among white men age 65 and older. Divorced and widowed men in this age group have the highest suicide rates, and their most common method of suicide is firearms.

The following warning signs may be present in older adults who have a high risk for suicide:

  • Depression. Older adults have higher rates of depression than the general population.
  • Other mental health problem, such as severe anxiety, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), or schizophrenia
  • Alcohol or substance use
  • Being alone for long periods of time (social isolation)
  • Being preoccupied with death in conversations
  • The diagnosis of a serious physical illness
  • Recent life change, such as the death or chronic illness of a spouse or child, retirement, or financial problems
  • Physical disabilities

Drug Advisory. The Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB) of Health Canada has issued:

  • An advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. The HPFB does not recommend that people stop using these medicines, but to watch for warning signs of suicide in those using them. This is especially important at the beginning of treatment or when doses are changed.

Take any mention of suicide seriously. If someone you know is threatening suicide, get help right away and learn more about Suicidal Thoughts or Threats.

Related Information

Credits

Current as ofSeptember 11, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
David Messenger, BSc, MD, FRCPC, FCCP - Emergency Medicine, Critical Care Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health

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