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Mental Health in the Elderly

Over the past weeks, suicide has come to the forefront of American news as several celebrities have taken their own lives.  In almost all of the cases, people were unaware that the person was hurting or so close to the edge.  It was said that they were some of the “happiest” or that they “smiled all the time”.

In America there are approximately 17 elderly deaths from suicide each day.  The CDC says that “adults over age 65 made up 16% of  all suicide deaths in 2004”. (1) 

Mental health has traditionally been a taboo subject in our culture.  Among the elderly, it's been a stronger taboo than in any other group of people.  So, in light of recent happenings we're going delve into this topic a bit in hopes that you'll come away better able to spot severe depression & help someone get help.  In this circumstance, the saying, “If you see something, say something,” applies.  If you believe that someone is struggling to cope & needs professional help, do not be afraid to speak up!


So what is depression & how can we spot it in order to help our aging friends & family to be able to get help?

Depression is most often characterized by these qualities.  This is not a comprehensive list, & furthermore, all of them may not be present at all times.  If you suspect that something is wrong, do your best to find help for them.



-no longer finding favorite passtimes enjoyable

-feelings of loneliness, sadness or emptiness

-loss of appetite


-stomach aches

-feeling hopeless

-crankiness, nervousness, severe anxiety

-insomnia or sleeping too much


-concentration & memory problems

-digestive problems

-thoughts of suicide


Of course this is not comprehensive, but it should get you started in the right direction if you suspect that there is a problem.  Pay attention to the signs, then, if you suspect that the person could benefit from professional help, start seeking out a person that might be able to help.

The causes for depression are wide & varied, but are usually triggered by extreme stress from a changing life event or the death of a loved one.  Those who have family members that have been depressed may have a higher genetic risk for depression.  Also, a couple of recent studies suggest that abuse during childhood may increase the risks of depression & suicidal tendancies.  Chemical imbalances in the body can also contribute.  There are often a number of contributing factors, and no easy answers, but if you can begin the process of getting help before  it goes on for too long, chances are, you could save their life!


If anyone you know has need of immediate assistance, the suicide prevention hotline number is listed below:

Call 1-800-273-8255




















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