Suicide is exploding across the United States in frightening numbers. Today, there are over 47,000 suicides each year in America, or one every 11.8 minutes. There are roughly 2.5 suicide attempts for each completed suicide, which means that every year, over 1 million individuals attempt or complete a suicide.
Suicide is no respecter of persons, economic status, social class, age or religion. Consider these current statistics:
- Suicide today is the second leading cause of death among those 10 – 24 years of age. The rate of suicides in this group has doubled over the last 10 years.
- Twenty US veterans die by suicide every day.
- Men are far more likely to die by suicide than are women.
- The fastest growing numbers of suicides are among men, 45 – 54 years of age.
- Men over the age of 65 are the most likely sub-group to die by suicide.
I am, however, particularly focused on suicide among the elderly in this article, for the potential for a true epidemic in this age group is truly staggering.
As baby boomers enter their retirement years by the millions, certain existential realities come into play:
- Many healthy men and women are forced into retirement by arbitrary age requirements long before they are ready to do so. Depression often ensues.
- These seniors often feel hopeless and abandoned, take antidepressants and sleep medications that can be harmful to them.
- As these individuals enter their senior years, they discover that they have exhausted their financial resources through inadequate estate planning.
- The loss of a spouse is always traumatic, but in older years, such a loss leaves them alone, with a need for care that their depleted resources will not permit.
- As a result of all of these factors, persons aged 65 and older make up 13% of the U.S. population, but 18% of the suicides, and that number grows every year.
I urge that C-TAC consider this population as much in need of “advanced care” as those afflicted by physical illness.
Despair is an illness. Depression is an illness. Hopelessness is an illness. Let us attend to these precious souls who need us so badly.