Depression and Suicide in Later Life

Most of the elderly will not develop any form of mental problem but there are a few who will. Depression is the most common mental problem among the elderly. It is also the most prevalent reason why almost half of the elderly decided to committed suicide.

Symptoms of depression in the elderly

Depression can be diagnosed if at least two of the symptoms below occur during most of the time every day, for the last two weeks or so:

  • Lethargy
  • lack of energy or constant fatigue
  • does not enjoy the things that they once found interesting

Other symptoms for depression include the following:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Causes of depression in the elderly

Factors which cause depression in the elderly are the same for the younger people who have been diagnosed with the disorder. It includes a wide variety of symptoms like the ones listed below:

  • Physical pain and illness
  • Poverty
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Bereavement or losing a loved one
  • Being physically or sexually abused

The elderly face more of these symptoms than the younger people who have the same disorder. This increases the risk of developing depression among the elderly. The elderly who are beyond the age of 85 faces the most risk.
20% of the elderly in the UK community show early signs of depression. The figure rises to about 40% for the elderly living in nursing homes. If left untreated, the elderly are most susceptible to suffer form depression.

Depression in the elderly is not readily addressed by health professionals because the elderly would want to prevent being stigmatized by other people. It may be too late when the elderly would seek help for their depression. It is usually mixed with age-related disorders like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or dementia. Many may think that becoming depressed is part of the natural ageing process especially if the signs are related to physical pain or medical conditions. But this is not true and the elderly is entitled to receive medical treatment the same way as younger people with the same conditions do. It may be harder for the elderly to cope up with their every day routine, or recover from physical pain if their depression is left untreated. Depression in the elderly should be remedied immediately to prevent them from thinking of suicidal thoughts.

Suicide in the elderly

Suicidal rates are highest for the elderly male in the UK. The most prevalent reason why people commit is because of depression; be it in a younger age group or the elderly. There are more contributing factors which can lead to suicide but depression is ranked at the top of the list. Aside from depression, the following can also be considered to cause suicide:

  • Age and gender – elderly men who were over 75 years of age had the highest suicidal rate in all the groups
  • Marital status – this is a high risk factor for men especially if they are single, widowed or divorced
  • Physical pain
  • Social isolation and feeling of loneliness
  • hopelessness and guilt
  • substance and alcohol abuse
  • Previous suicidal attempts

Warning signs to suicide

The symptoms of depression that might lead to suicidal thoughts vary from person to person but the symptoms may be included in assessing the elderly:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Being a failure, worthlessness, hopelessness
  • Becoming socially withdrawn or isolated
  • Lack of grooming and self-care
  • Builds up medical supplies which he can use for suicide
  • Changes the will, gives things away or takes out his life insurance
  • Stops medical routines like taking in medications or not eating properly
  • Talks about suicide
  • Unruly behaviour

Who to turn to for help

Studies have shown that the elderly will let other people know that they are planning to commit suicide. If there is someone who has told you that they are going to take their life, you should take them seriously and try to talk them out of it. You should also encourage them to open up and talk about their feelings or if they have problems. Persuade them to seek medical help. Doctors could help them by prescribing anti-depressants or engaging them into talk therapies which works efficiently. Someone close to the elderly could accompany him during his therapy especially if the elderly is not comfortable talking to his doctor about his feelings and troubles.

The Samaritans is available to offer emotional support for those who wants to commit suicide, are down, depressed or bogged down by numerous worries. They are ready to help twenty-four hours a day. They can be reached through their number: 08457 90 90 90 or email them at jo@samaritans.org. Calls are charged at local rates.