The suicide rate among older adults is higher overall than at other points in the life course and poses particular challenges for prevention. Older adults take their own lives with high lethality of intent and utilize firearms more often than younger age groups. Suicide attempts are also less frequent and older adults less often express suicidal ideation than younger adults. While interventions must be aggressive in the actively suicidal older person, the lethality of suicidal behavior in older adults underscores the need for relatively greater emphasis on upstream preventive interventions.
In addition to access to deadly means, risk factors for completed suicide in later life can be characterized as “the 5 Ds”: demographic characteristics (male, older, unmarried), depression, disease (physical illness), disablement, and disconnectedness. Because older adults who take their own lives are more likely to be seen in primary care than mental health care settings, primary care-based integrated care models hold promise for reducing suicide in this age group. Social disconnectedness, which is made worse by the “social distancing” required by the coronavirus pandemic, is also a modifiable state for which community-based services and supports should be mobilized.
At the conclusion of this webinar, participants will understand the scope of the problem of suicide in older adults, factors that place older people at increased risk for suicide, and evidence for effective approaches to its prevention.
Yeates Conwell, M.D. received his medical training at the University of Cincinnati and completed his Psychiatry Residency and a Fellowship in Geriatric Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. He is now Professor of and Vice-Chair of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he is Director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Program and the UR Medical Center’s Office for Aging Research and Health Services, and Co-Director of the UR Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide. In addition to teaching, clinical care, and service system development, Dr. Conwell directs an interdisciplinary program of research in aging, mental health services, and suicide prevention.
David Jobes, PhD, ABPP, is the founder of CAMS-care, LLC. He began his career in 1987 in the Counseling Center of the Catholic University of America, where he developed a suicide risk assessment tool for college students. Dr. Jobes has trained thousands of mental health professionals in the United States and abroad in the assessment and treatment of suicide risk and the use of CAMS.