Seniors commonly talk about the end of life. Your family member may speak of dying or longing to go to heaven. This doesn’t have to be cause for alarm. It’s important to recognize the difference between sadness, reflection on one’s life, and thoughts of suicide.
If you see a loved one exhibiting serious signs like prolonged depression, anxiety, or talking about harming themselves, they may be at risk. If you believe a loved one is suicidal, you must take action.
1. Call 911 if it’s an immediate emergency.
Get help from professionals who specialize in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. See below for crisis hotlines, and the sources at the bottom of this article for additional resources.
2. Do not leave the person alone.
Take away access to firearms, medications, sharp objects, belts, cords, cars, plastic bags and other means that could be used to attempt suicide.
3. Do not be sworn to secrecy. Reach out to family members, friends or clergy who may be able to help talk to the person.
4. Be direct. It is a myth that talking about suicide will lead a person to be suicidal. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about the person’s feelings and intentions.
5. Do not be argumentative or judgmental. This may make the person feel defensive and less willing to accept help.
6. Crisis hotlines and other resources:
St. Louis County Suicide Hotline: (218) 723-0099 or 1-800-720-3334
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255, TTY: (800) 799-4889
Veterans Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255, or text 838255
Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line (for anyone 60+): (800) 971-0016
Crisis Text Line: text 741741
Medicare Insurance Coverage: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/preventing-suicide-older-adults
SAMHSA’s senior suicide prevention toolkit: http://newsletter.samhsa.gov/2016/02/02/preventing-suicide-among-seniors/