The Rise of Suicides Among Older Adults

By on June 9, 2018
The Rise of Suicides Among Older Adults

It’s not uncommon for news stories to be filled with tragedies, but recent stories have brought to light an alarming trend: the rise of suicides among older adults.

Sadly this past week both fashion designer Kate Spade and chef-turned-TV host Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.

Spade and Bourdain are individuals who have become part of a much larger epidemic. Now, it’s more important than ever to shed a light on mental illness and destigmatize the conversations around depression an anxiety. 

Anthony Bourdain

Kate Spade

Suicide has Become a Public Health Crisis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its Vital Signs Report, which noted that almost 45,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016. This was a higher number than opioid overdoses or car accidents. It also reported that there was a 30 percent increase in suicide rates between 1999 and 2016.

“Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans – and it’s a tragedy for families and communities across the country,” CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., said of the findings in the report.

She also noted that suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. and one of three causes that is increasing (the others are drug overdose and Alzheimer’s). She said she finds the results “disturbing”, and that the increased rate of suicides is considered a public health crisis.

Suicide is On the Rise Among Middle-Age and Older Adults

The CDC report also found that women between the ages of 45 and 64 have the highest rate and that it could be related to financial and job-related stress.

While we can never know someone’s reasons for suicide, they are rarely caused by one single event or factor. They’re rarely spontaneous, and other contributing factors include substance abuse, legal problems, household stress and physical health issues.

Signs Someone Might be Contemplating Suicide

Whether or not someone makes it public knowledge that they suffer from a mental illness, there are a variety of signs you can watch for if you think someone is considering suicide. These include:

  • Increased substance abuse
  • Withdrawing from activities and people
  • Becoming usually angry or reckless
  • Experiencing more severe mood changes
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness, lack of purpose, increased anxiety and/or guilt
  • Talking about suicide
  • Expressing ideas like “life isn’t worth living” or “everyone would be better off without me”
  • Getting affairs in order
  • Giving away valuable or treasured possessions
  • Changes to sleeping behaviors — either too much or too little
  • Engaging in self-harming behaviors

What to Do if You Suspect Someone is Considering Suicide*

If you suspect that a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide, there are many ways you can try to help.  Start by exploring what resources are available for people who are contemplating suicide. Whether it’s a hotline, access to a mental health professional, or getting into rehab or going to the hospital.

Though it can be challenging to start the conversation, it’s important to speak up and talk to the person about your concerns. Let them know you’re there for them without judgement and you just want to offer them help.

After you’ve spoken to your loved one, you need to assess the risk they pose to themselves. If they have a intent, a plan, means and/or a time frame for suicide, they may be at a higher risk of follow through. If this is the case, you will want to consider getting them to the hospital or calling an ambulance.

Seeking Help for Suicidal Thoughts

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please seek help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach out to a friend, family member, mental health professional or someone you trust to ask for help.


*I am not a mental health professional or a doctor. These are my own thoughts based on research and understanding. Please seek professional assistance if you or someone you know needs help.

Allegra Gallian is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in lifestyle, health, wellness and fitness. She lives in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. When she’s not writing, Allegra enjoys reading, cooking and spending time with friends and family.






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The Rise of Suicides Among Older Adults