Suicide in ageing
By Jacqui Tibbits, Director Consultivation
Today is RUOK? day - a national campaign to reach out to others, to start a conversation, to check in. On this day, I would like to draw attention to suicide rates in our ageing population. Touted as a young person’s activity, the reality of suicide in older people is frightening.
According to the ABS (2014) per 100,000 people, men over the age of 85 years are more likely to die by suicide than Australians of any other age group followed by men in the 80-84 year age group. Women aged 80 to 84 years have the highest rate of suicide for females from the age of 15 years onwards per 100,000 people.
We can also consider these numbers are under reported as death by suicide is subject of proving intent of self-harm to cause death; regulatory barriers; it may be hidden within the mechanisms of death such as vehicle incidents or not recorded as self-harm due to the sensitivity to the feelings, cultural practices and religious beliefs of the family of the deceased. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014)
So, what is important?
People - one simple word, one complex world.
Depression is not a normal part of ageing
For older people, they may be feeling sad or miserable or lose interest in activities they usually derive pleasure from. Sometimes the signs of depression, such as isolation, lack of sleep or confusion, are seen as people “just getting older” but depression is not a normal part of ageing.
Factors which may increase an older person’s risk of developing depression include:
Older people may have different stigmas attached to mental health, self-harm and suicide and use different language – they may not refer to depression or feeling sad but talk about their nerves or things not being o’kay. If this behaviour is on-going it could be a sign.
Be aware and notice differences. People who are thinking about suicide or harming themselves will usually give some signs. They may mention it in comment or passing. It might be subtle so make sure you’re tuned in.
Respond to warning signs. If unsure about an incident or observation, follow your instinct and ask the question, “Are you o’kay?” “You haven’t seemed yourself lately and I’m worried about you?” “Do you intend to take your own life?”
These can be tricky questions to ask and sometimes down right uncomfortable but it can be done. If you need help supporting someone else, than seek help from a doctor, family member or friend. If the possibility of self-harm is imminent call the person's doctor, mental health crisis team or emergency services on 000.
There are great resources freely available to help reach out to people who may be thinking about harming themselves; or for those people needing assistance in supporting others. Your local doctor is a great place to start. On-line resources include beyondblue, RUOK?, Lifeline and the Better Health Channel.
Supportive workplaces are important too. Ensuring there are responsible and reactive structures in place to appropriately support people, whether this be staff, volunteers, management or clients, who are thinking about self-harming; or for supporting staff who are helping others in their life. Response and appropriate referral are important.
Workplace training is a great idea and there are many organisations which can help with on-line, classroom or self-paced education models. Organisations providing work placed mental health training in Western Australia include the WA Association for Mental Health, Richmond Wellbeing and Living Works.
Most importantly, ensure you and others around you stay connected, not just today but every day.
Consultivation is an independent consultancy service driven by an ethical values base
supporting businesses and people to flourish in the community and aged care sectors.
If you would like to know how Consultivation can help you contact us today.
Lifeline is available 24/7 13 11 14.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014, March 25). 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2012 - Age. Retrieved September 08, 2016, from Australian Bureau of Statistics: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2012~Main%20Features~Age~10010
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014, March 24). 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2012 - Explanatory Notes. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from Australian Bureau of Statistics: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3303.0Explanatory+Notes12012
Better Health Channel. (2016). Depression and Ageing. Retrieved September 08, 2016, from Better Health Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/depression-and-ageing
Beyond Blue. (2016) Worried about suicide. Retrieved September 08, 2016 from Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/suicide-prevention/worried-about-suicide
Beyond Blue. (2016) Responding to Warning Signs. Retrieved September 08, 2016 from Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/suicide-prevention/worried-about-suicide/what-are-the-warning-signs/responding-to-warning-signs
RUOK?. (2016) What we’re about. Retrieved September 08, 2016 from RUOK?: https://www.ruok.org.au/about-us
Jacqui is a positive change management specialist with a penchant for public speaking.
Susan has expertise in cognitive behaviour therapy, narrative therapy & mindfulness.
Guest bloggers are invited to contribute to the Consultivation blog. If you have an idea, concept or perspective you would like to share please contact Jacqui at Consultivation.
"Consultivation delivers topics skilfully and clearly."
"I have a better understanding of what impacts the aged care changes are going to have on our clients and business." Michelle
"Consultivation delivers topics skillfully and clearly. The knowledge gained will give me guidance in doing my job and keeping up the goodwork." Mario
"Thanks to Consultivation I understand that changes are on-going in the organisation and sector to keep clients in their homes longer."
"Due to today's training I will be more open minded with staff and pull together and ask for help to improve when needed."