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Suicide and Older Ohioans

An older man stares out a window with a sad look on his face.

According to the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, five Ohioans die each day from suicide. The Summary Assessment of Older Ohioans found that Ohioans age 60 and older have high rates of depression, and suicide deaths among this group have increased by 40% over the last 10 years. 

The National Council on Aging cites that suicide attempts are more likely to end in death for older adults than for younger adults. Older men die by suicide at a rate that is more than seven times higher than that of older women. The rate of suicide in men age 85 and older is four times higher than the nation’s overall rate of suicide.

Suicide is preventable. Know the risk factors and warning signs. Then, explore available resources and learn how you can act to save a life.

Preventing Older Adult Suicide

Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs

According to the National Council on Aging, suicidal thoughts in older adults may be linked to several important risk factors and warning signs.

  • Depression, feelings of hopelessness, and feelings of loss of independence or sense of purpose
  • Medical conditions that limit what they can do or how long they are likely to live
  • Being isolated from friends, family members, and others
  • Recent death of a loved one
  • Access to lethal means, such as guns, knives, and certain medications
  • Cognitive impairment (changes in how they think and view the world around them)
  • Prior suicide attempts

Warning signs include:

  • Sudden or unusual personality changes
  • Daring or risk-taking behavior
  • Alcohol or medication misuse or abuse
  • Giving away prized posessions
  • Verbal threats, such as “you’d be better off without me,” or “maybe I won’t be around”

Strategies to Prevent Suicide

The national #BeThe1To campaign https://www.bethe1to.com/ recommends five actions steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal.

  • Ask. Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.
  • Be There. Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by after speaking to someone who listens without judgment.
  • Keep Them Safe. A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline.
  • Help Them Stay Connected. Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness.
  • Follow Up. Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Call 1-800-273-8255 or text “4HOPE” to 741741

Donate or volunteer to support a crisis center in your community.

Staying Connected Service

The Ohio Department of Aging’s Staying Connected Service helps fight social isolation in older adults by providing a free, daily check-in by phone for Ohioans age 60 and older. Each day, participants receive an automated phone call during the time frame they choose. In addition to making sure participants are physically okay, the system can also link them to available services and supports and provides an opportunity for a friendly chat.

Medicare Coverage for Mental Health Services

Medicare helps pay for mental health services through Part A and Part B. 

  • Part A covers you if you are a patient in a general or psychiatric hospital. Medicare helps pay for therapy, lab tests, and other services. 
  • Part B helps cover mental health visits you would get from a doctor and services you generally get outside of a hospital, including annual depression and alcohol misuse screenings, opioid use disorder treatment services, and other services.

Further, Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage helps pay for drugs you may need to treat a mental health condition. 

For answers to questions about your Medicare coverage, contact the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program.