Sep 02, 2016

Suicide Rates in Elderly Men: Let’s Talk About the Elephant in the Room

With a significant portion of the Australian population ageing quickly, one thing that frequently gets overlooked in this demographic is the suicide rate. When you see stats about suicide rates in elderly men, it’s extremely sobering in the numbers.

Unfortunately, it’s also much too ignored, probably because we always expect younger people being prone to committing suicide than the ageing population. Suicide rates have had significant peaks and valleys in Australia going back to the early 1960s. However, since 2014, elderly men have become a major focal point in higher suicide rates. More specifically, the highest percentage comes from men aged 85 and older. This comes out to about 37.6 people per 100,000.

With these statistics, it’s time we started talking about this elephant in the room. It’s turning into a major Australian crisis that can’t continually become ignored just because someone is older. Life needs value, no matter what someone’s age is.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on and why we continually overlook elderly men in getting them the help they deserve.

Examining Australia’s Dark Secret

More media reports keep coming out about older men committing suicide, so Australia’s dark secret may not continue for long. Nevertheless, finding a solution to the problem may take longer than we think. There never is a quick solution to solving the psychological issues associated with suicide. In many cases, it’s due to complex reasons not everyone can clearly understand.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some clear indications in why older men decide to end their lives. Many mental health analysts point to elderly men having perceptions they aren’t valued in today’s world. It includes their ability to participate in life, which may have limits due to physical illness.

Overall, it adds up to sometimes overwhelming difficulties in life as men age. In many cases, it involves having a downgrade in life due to illness and being unable to care for themselves.

Another problem is one needing more attention: Loneliness. Social isolation can affect many people, no matter what their age. When an older man had decades of being socially relevant in their careers, suddenly feeling like social outcasts makes them feel like life isn’t worth living.

All of this gets worse based on accusations the Australian government continues to ignore the issue. Australian broadcaster, comedian, and assisted suicide advocate Andrew Denton is one taking up a cause for the government to start taking more action rather than focusing exclusively on suicide prevention in younger men.

Why Do We Often Forget the Elderly?

Assumptions still continue that younger men are the prime source of suicides. Forgetting about elderly men in this equation is what most analysts counter is nothing but ageism.

Unfortunately, the public’s view of older men is one where everyone expects them to suffer from depression once reaching an old age. In truth, depression is more apt to hit younger men, hence why so much focus goes on them in suicide prevention.

What’s important is to start paying attention to the problems of elderly men and allow them to talk about their feelings to a professional.

Much of this can start through Australia’s recent social media initiative called “It’s Okay to Talk.” Started by UK rugby player Luke Ambler after his brother-in-law committed suicide, the focus group is mainly those aged 15-44.

We can only hope this includes those in the 85+ category after the media push to do so. When older men can talk out their problems, the more they’ll get the help they need to feel valued.

Let’s never forget what our older society once contributed and what they can still contribute to those willing to listen.

If you are experiencing depression, want to talk to someone or are in need of support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36.

 

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