The finding should alert those who attend to older persons to take extra care and caution that there will be no further attempts. Researchers surveyed the records of 1,206 patients suffering from depression with melancholia or psychosis. The patients were followed up after 50 years. In that span of time, 116 of the 1,206 patients committed suicide. Of the 116, 16 were excluded as their depression was alcohol-related. Of the remaining 100, 60 attempted suicide 133 times, mostly close to hospital admission. Most of them took an overdose of pills. The research found that suicide attempts decreased with age (Anderson).
Some studies suggested that middle-aged women who stopped taking or never took hormone replacement therapy are more susceptible to depression (Busko 2008). Baby boomers are thus at a higher risk for drug abuse and depression as well as to increasing prescription drug abuse (Busko).
Most middle-aged White women committed suicide by poisoning at 19.3% per year
(Busko 2008). Suicide by hanging was 2.3% per year and by firearms, 1.9% per year. These were sourced from the web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System mortality reports from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the other hand, middle-aged White men took their lives mostly by hanging or suffocation at 6.3% per year; by poisoning at 2.8% per year; and by firearms at 1.5% per year (Busko).
Another study conducted on examiner-certified suicides in New York City from 1990-1998 revealed that those 65 or older committed suicide by falling from tall buildings where they lived more than by other means (Abrams et al. 2005). Other places were bridges, health care facilities, hotels and public transit (Abrams et al.).
One more method is for competent, terminally ill patients to ask their physician to prescribe lethal amounts of medication (Walker 2001). This is called physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, based on the "right-to-die" concept. A study conducted on the legality of the practice found significant public support for legalizing this method and voluntary euthanasia in the United States. The only ground against it is an adherence to traditional physician morality and treating voluntary euthanasia legally as homicide. But if voluntary euthanasia is a medical choice, then legalization possibly exists. The study concluded that if the courts will allow physician-assisted suicide as a fundamental personal right of the patient, similar to the right to refuse treatment, they will likely extend this form of suicide to voluntary euthanasia and non-voluntary euthanasia. This means that the method may be applied to incapacitated patients who are able or not able to express a choice due to the incapacity (Walker).
These include improved social contact, support and integration into the community (O'Connell 2004). Currently, many at-risk older persons have low social contact at 27%. It has been observed that telephone help lines have significantly reduced rates of completed suicides among these individuals (O'Connell).
Limiting their access to the means of suicide or decreasing the chance of completing suicide is another form of intervention (O'Connell 2004). Access to over-the-counter medicines can be restricted. The lethality of car exhaust fumes with catalytic converters can be reduced. Suicide may be prevented by screening them for hopelessness and suicidal feelings when they visit a practitioner. Most suicide victims see their doctors in the same month of the suicide. Thus, general practitioners should be trained to detect and manage older patients with suicidal tendencies. Religiousness and life satisfaction were also found to be protective factors against suicides. These factors have been observed to lower suicide risks even among terminally ill older persons (O'Connell). #
Abrams, Robert C, et al. Preference for Fall from Height. 95 (6): 1000-1002, American
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Anderson, Pauline. Predictors of Completed Suicide Differ by Sex in Older Individuals.
Medscape Medical News: BMC Psychiatry, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/709842
Busko, Marlene. Suicide Rises in Middle-Aged White Americans. Medscape Medical
News: Medscape, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/582403
McKeown, Robert E., et al. U.S. Suicide Rates by Age Group, 1970-2002: an Examination
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O'Connell, Henry, et al. Suicide in Older People. 329: 895-899, British Medical
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