With suicides among senior males on the increase, this R U OK Day we have a look at contributing factors and how community living can help.
Australian Bureau of Statistics suicide rates from 2017 shows that the age-specific suicide rate was highest in men aged 85 or above (32.8 per 100,000), which has been the age group with the highest rate since 2011.
While depression is the factor we most associate with suicide, in senior suicides there can be a range of contributing factors, including:
- physical or economic dependency
- mental and/or physical health problems
- chronic pain
- carer stress
Professor Brian Draper, Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at UNSW and Assistant Director, Academic Department for Old Age Psychiatry at the Prince of Wales Hospital Sydney, believes suicide in old age remains a neglected topic and says that there are a variety of circumstances leading to a suicide attempt in the senior years, usually involving “…declining health including chronic pain, in combination with social isolation, lack of social support, and evolving depression and hopelessness.”
With social isolation and lack of social support such big factors that can reduce quality of life for older people, R U OK Day is a reminder about the importance of making time to chat and listen to an older loved one who may be experiencing any of the above difficulties.
RU OK Day suggests four conversation steps:
- Ask R U OK in a quiet and comfortable location
- Listen to the response in a non-judgemental way without trying to fix the problem
- Encourage action such as speaking to a friend, family member or professional
- Check in regularly to remind them you’re here for them
How Seasons communities create a supportive environment to ask R U OK?
Seasons Aged Care communities provide a caring environment for older people to remain feeling connected and supported as they get older. The support not only comes from the care staff but from fellow residents who look out for each other and join in a range of activities and social groups.
For the Wandering Gourmets Men’s Group at Seasons Waterford West, being there for each has had a positive impact on the group members’ mental health.
In a chat together for Men’s Health Week, group members shared how having someone to talk to and feeling a sense of connection and mateship has helped them through a variety of issues from health complaints, grief, loneliness and carers stress.
“My wife’s been dead for three years now, I put on a big brave front on the outside but inside I’m still grieving,” says Joe.
“Having the support of my friends helps – they all support me.”
“I lost my wife six years ago and I lived by myself for four years and after living by myself I decided to move into Seasons, which is a really good place as far as I’m concerned for company,” says Noel.
“When I was living by myself, you’d get up and cook your meals and sit down and eat it by yourself. Whereas here I go down to the dining room and I’ve got half a dozen fellas to talk to.”
“When I was nearly suicidal so many people said to me ‘get over it’,” says John, referring to a time when he was caring for his wife with dementia.
“I never got any real help from the doctors or the professional side of things. The only help I got was from these blokes,” says John indicating his fellow group members Joe and Barry.
“My Mrs was going down so quickly, and it was only the fact that I didn’t want to leave her on her own or I would’ve been gone – I’d had enough.
“I don’t want to die now.”