India is an aging country. More than 104 million of the total population falls in the senior category.
The suicide rate in Indian older adults is very high – higher than the national rate. In fact, one in every five successful suicides is a person aged 65 or higher. A study by WHO rated suicides in men and women over 75 to be 50 per 100,000 and 16 per 100,000 respectively. In fact older adults are also likely to choose more “harder” methods of suicide.
Depression and depressive diseases are the leading causes of suicide in the elderly, followed by terminal physical diseases and poverty.
Ignoring Depression can be dangerous
Many older adults suffer from depression and depressive disorders like bipolar disorders and mood swings. Depression impacts an older adult majorly, causing changes in energy levels, sleep patterns, and interest levels. An old person with depression is apathetic to nearly everything, even their hobbies or relationships.
Unfortunately, many older adults ignore the symptoms of depression. In fact, many of them even think that depression is a part of aging. Here are some reasons why depression in the elderly is overlooked:
- Many think it is a part of aging
- Many older adults are solitary and no one notices their condition
- Sometimes, physical pain might be caused by depression and gets overlooked
- Some feel reluctant to talk about the condition
However, in India, depression is not acknowledged as a major mental illness in many cases. In fact, many older adults are given alternatives to “keep them happy” and are often advised to “stop wallowing in negative thoughts”. This, however, is a very wrong approach as the thoughts and actions of a depressed older adult are not in their control.
Older adults face a lot of changes as they age, like retirement, physical illnesses, death of loved ones or financial issues. Any of these might trigger depression.
Also Read: How to Prevent Depression in the Elderly?
What are the Other Causes of Suicides in Older Adults?
- Physical Illnesses: Studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of suicides in the elderly where serious and often, terminal illness is involved. Older adults often seem to want to relieve themselves and their loved ones of the pain involved with the illness.
- Demographical Factors: Money and social standing play a role in the suicides of older adults. In the later part of their lives, a lot of people often find themselves with less money or could even face poverty. This is a leading cause of suicide.
- Mental Health: Older adults with major psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia, delusional disorder, or anxiety disorder are more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t have them.
- Stress: Keeping up with the changing times might prove too much for some older adults. It increases stress levels and might trigger other health conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Such older adults sometimes choose suicide as a way out.
Also Read: 6 Ways to Get Rid of Depression
Detect Signs of Suicide Early
Family members and caregivers should be attentive to notice any sudden changes in behaviour of the older adults. The change may be either a sad one or a happy one. If it comes after a period of depression or illness, the caregiver must immediately inform the doctor.
Verbal statements of dying or killing oneself should be taken seriously. Constant isolation or sudden hasty decisions should also be taken into account.
Also Read: What loneliness can do to older adults?
Good attentiveness and looking for red flags in older adults can help prevent a large portion of elderly suicides in India. Seeking treatment for an underlying medical condition could also help the older adult to stop thinking suicidal thoughts.
Older adults deserve to live this golden period in their lives happily. Communication and love can help them overcome all obstacles and be healthy and happy.
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