A new study has revealed that a shocking number of older Australians are dying by suicide each year.
Flinders University researchers found that 354 older people, who were in the process of accessing or waiting for aged-care services, died by suicide in the nine-year focus of study.
The research also showed that fewer than 20% of the older people who died by suicide received any Medicare-subsidised mental health service in the year before their death.
Senior researcher, Doctor Monica Cations, said these staggering results required immediate attention..
“We need to take this risk seriously … we’ve older people who are really vulnerable falling through the cracks [when] each death by suicide is potentially preventable,” she said.
The deaths of elderly Australians are preventable. With declining health, many older adults may feel isolated and helpless. Furthermore, they may be apprehensive about the quality of care in aged care facilities due to media coverage.
To address this, we must ensure adequate funding and access to aged care services, as well as mental health and suicide prevention resources.
Dr Cations said that effectively preventing suicide in older adults requires multi-component interventions that target social isolation, clinical symptoms, access to lethal methods, stigma, help seeking, and access to mental health services.
She said awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention strategies are vital for and more resources need to be available for those who need them.
“All the negative media attention (these events) have bought, would likely have only made people more afraid,” Dr Cations said.
We should engage in meaningful dialogue with elderly individuals, especially those transitioning into long-term care facilities, to recognise and address the emotional implications of this change. Furthermore, we should offer resources such as counselling to aid in this transition.
The research was undertaken pre- COVID and before the The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality.