Suicide in the older adult population

Suicide Statistics, Warning Signs and Covered ServicesIMG_1006

By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, MSW

Suicide Statistics

According to the American foundation for suicide prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year 44,193 Americans commit suicide; for every suicide there’s 25 attempts.  Suicide costs the United States $51 billion annually.  Suicide in the older adult population is one of the highest percentages, in 2000 the highest suicide rate was 20% among the 85 and older population. In 2015 the numbers have only slightly dropped to 19.4%. Holding steady for the past 15 years. Fire arms are the most common method of death by suicide, counting for about 49.8% of all suicide deaths. Around 500,000 people visit hospitals every year due to self harm, that’s approximately 12 people harming themselves for every reported death by suicide. Females attempt suicide three times more often than males, yet males are four times more likely to die than females.

Suicide attempts among the 85 and older population are much more likely to result in death because older adults plan more carefully and use more deadly methods. The older adult is less likely to be discovered and rescued. The physical frailty of older adults also makes them less likely to recover from the attempt. Some of the risk factors are depression and other health problems, substance use including prescription medications, physical illness, disability and pain, social isolation.

Risk Factors & Warning Signs


•Prior suicide attempts

•Marked feelings of hopelessness; lack of interest in future plans

•Feelings of loss of independence or sense of purpose

•Medical conditions that significantly limit functioning or life expectancy

•Impulsivity due to cognitive impairment

•Social isolation

•Family discord or losses (i.e. recent death of a loved one)

•Inflexible personality or marked difficulty adapting to change

•Access to lethal means (i.e. firearms, other weapons, etc)

•Daring or risk-taking behavior

•Sudden personality changes

•Alcohol or medication misuse or abuse

•Verbal suicide threats such as, “You’d be better off without me” or “Maybe I won’t be around”

•Giving away prized possessions

Medicare Will Pay for Mental Health Care 

When an older adult finds themselves having a medical event such as a heart attack or broken hip it’s expected that their Medicare benefits will cover services needed in the event of an emergency. Coverage for mental health services is also available in the event that an inpatient hospitalization is needed. If an individual’s emotional well-being is compromised an inpatient hospital stay is available. Medicare part A covers room costs, meals, nursing care, medications, psychiatric and counseling services. In addition, Medicare part B services pays for outpatient services, such as clinical psychologist, clinical social workers, a psychiatrist, it also pays for partial hospitalization services and intensive outpatient care. Prescription drug coverage under Medicare part D will help pay for medications needed for treatment of mental health conditions.

I’ve met several individuals who’ve attempted suicide. In all the conversations I’ve had I don’t remember anyone saying they wish they would have been successful. Many times, I’ve heard people say I didn’t even realize it was happening, it was almost as if I was in a dream state. I’ve met individuals who mixed substances and prescription medications not realizing the significant risk and possible death this deadly combination can cause. Thoughts of suicide is a lot more common than we think. It’s important that we’re realistic about the possibility of the topic of suicide entering our lives and to be prepared and proactive.

ES Life Coach – Changing the way we view aging.

Portions of this blog provided by the following web resource

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Fatal injury reports, national and regional, 1999–2014. Retrieved from

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