It is a shocking fact, but 20% of all suicide deaths in the U.S. occur in the 65+ population. Major depression, which is the disorder most closely related to suicide in the elderly is often under-recognized and under-treated. Yet, more than 2 million older adults in the U.S. over the age of 65 suffer from some form of depression!
So, while some seniors experience the normal emotions of grief, sadness and mood changes that relate to the losses associated with aging, it is important to realize that depression is NOT a ‘normal’ part of aging and action should be taken.
What Signs to Watch For
There are some common signs to look out for if you are concerned that you or an elderly loved one may be suffering from depression:
Losing interest in the things that once brought pleasure and joy - such as family gatherings
Significant increase or decrease in appetite or sleep schedules
Persistent feelings of worthlessness and guilt and verbalizing that life just isn’t worth living anymore
Being constantly agitated, irritable and experiencing chronic pain
So, What Should I Do?
If an individual is experiencing these symptoms, you should encourage them to visit their Primary Care Physician, and to speak up about how they are feeling!!!!!! Studies show that 40%
of elders who commit suicide had seen their doctor in the week prior. BUT, a doctor can only help if you say how you are feeling.
If the situation is more acute and you are feeling unsafe or you suspect someone you love is - get them ASAP to a hospital emergency room for an evaluation! Do not let embarrassment or shame stop you - this is a serious medical situation.
You can also call a hotline to talk to someone if you are feeling scared or unsafe! The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255. That number is available 24 hours per day.
The Really Good News
Fortunately, research has shown that a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy is extremely effective in treating the major depression of older adults so they can get back to living the life they deserve.
If you are struggling to navigate the mental health care system for an elderly loved one, Paula can help. Call her today at (207) 329-9080.
NOTE: WE MUST AS A SOCIETY END THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND START TALKING - PARTICULARLY WITH OUR ELDERS. THEIR LIVES DEPEND ON IT!