North Richland Hills, TX -- The controversial Netflix series about a teenaged girl’s suicide, 13 Reasons Why, has teens and parents everywhere talking. Medical experts at the Geriatric Behavioral Unit at Medical City North Hills are hoping it will also bring attention to the disturbing rates of senior suicide, on the opposite end of the age spectrum.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2015 the highest suicide rate (19.6) was among adults between 45 and 64 years of age. The second highest rate (19.4) occurred in those 85 years or older.
“The sense of loss of control over one’s life including their health condition or financial circumstances can contribute to depression, a key factor for suicide thoughts in the elderly,” says Paul Schneider, DO, medical director of the Geriatric Behavioral Unit at Medical City North Hills, a specialized inpatient unit designed to meet the needs of those 55+ who are having episodic behavioral health issues.
In addition to depression and unresolved psychological issues, Dr. Schneider says other factors that influence senior suicide rates include social isolation, substance abuse, socialization, poverty, pain and physical disability. And while the majority of suicides for all ages is attempted by men, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), experts say older men often feel heightened depression over perceived unreached potential.
Dr. Schneider says it’s vitally important for family members to take note of changes in sleeping or eating habits in elderly loved ones. Verbal comments about ending their life should also be taken as a sign for intervention or assistance.
“Those comments should be taken seriously and professional mental health help should be sought immediately,” Dr. Schneider says.
Another tip for helping prevent suicide in the elderly is removing access to firearms. Almost 50 percent of all suicide is attributed to use of firearms, according to the CDC.
The Geriatric Behavioral Unit at Medical City North Hills is a dedicated unit designed to treat high acuity senior patients who typically require treatment for disorders including serious depression, suicidal ideation, bipolar disorders and/or schizoaffective disorders.
Other local resources for information and assistance include: NAMI of Tarrant County 817-332-6677,
MHMR of Tarrant County Crisis Hotline 800-866-2465 or 817-335-3022; National Suicide Prevention 800-273-TALK (8255), with an online chat option at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.