Health Association in New York State, Inc.
Community Connections, Winter 2002/2003
Suicide Rates Among Elderly Highest in U.S.
The Surgeon General’s 1999 Report on Mental Health found that older adults, those aged 55 or older, have the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. population, with older white men having a suicide rate of up to six times that of the general population. Depression, one of the foremost risk factors for suicide in older adults, affects between 8-20% of older adults (that figure is higher for those in primary care settings), yet it is all too often undiagnosed and untreated.
Recognizing that most older people to seek and receive health care in primary care settings, a new awareness is growing that primary care personnel must take a more active role in preventing suicide. The University of Iowa’s Gerontological Nursing Interventions Research Center has made an important contribution to this effort with their evidence-based protocol, “Elderly Suicide: Secondary Prevention”
This protocol is designed to give nurses and other health care providers the information they need to recognize at-risk, suicidal behavior in older adults, and to provide appropriate and effective crisis intervention. The protocol lists significant warning signs, as well as protective factors that personnel can draw upon when working with an older person who is suicidal. Most importantly the protocol gives nurses and other health care providers concrete direction and suggestion on how to detect and address the risk of suicide in their patients, and stresses the importance of building an open-ended rapport between health providers and their older clients.
For more information consult the summary in the National Guideline Clearinghouse http://www.guideline.gov, or to order a copy visit the GNIRC Research Dissemination Core’s website at www.nursing.uiowa.edu/centers/gnirc/protocols.htm Or call (319) 384-4429.