For a long time, I’ve wanted to write about the elderly and death by suicide. Last week I attended a Zoom meeting sponsored by the USDA. The topic was Farm Stress and Suicide. It’s the first meeting in a series focused on Mental Health Awareness in Rural America. So when one survey showed the number of farmers over age 65 in the USA who died by suicide and then were glossed over as apparently not as necessary as other groups, I took that as a nudge.

Many times I have mulled this topic over in my head. Yet, I’m uncomfortable writing about it. So far, I’ve cleaned most of the house, removed the trash, wrapped birthday presents, fed the birds, and snacked. I can find a million other things to do instead, but it’s on my heart, so here I am on the keyboard, typing away.

Why is it so hard? Suicide has intimately touched my family. Another reason is that a sibling has had bouts of depression since a heart attack and is a Veteran with PTSD.

Each study I’ve read on elderly suicide (over age 65) has a different focus and suggestions of why older people are at the most significant risk of suicide, higher than teens or millennials. I was shocked by this latter revelation, even though some of my past presentations have focused on loneliness and older people. We can feel lonely even when with other people. This is one reason I don’t support the idea of housing that corrals older people like cattle. Cattle probably get more respect. Isn’t variety the spice of life?

From the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I found a study that is well done. “Risk factors attributed to this phenomenon are depression, social isolation, substance abuse, poor physical health or function, financial stress, and access to lethal means, among others.” ( Many of these risks are the same for any group, yet one factor may be more emphasized: “social isolation.”

This study focused on older Americans, but this factor is present in studies on other cultures. Even Native Americans, perhaps thought of as a more cohesive culture, indicate that elders suffer from isolation, boredom, and hopelessness. I’ll add humiliation and lack of healing of past trauma to the mix, two areas that seem to be underemphasized. What we know for sure and can agree on is that depression and Suicidal ideation are not natural aging progression.

Mental wealth services and programs help, as well as approaches like yoga and meditation. Prevention is served well when we focus earlier on children by building self-esteem, spirituality, relationships with feelings, and emotional expression.

Suicidal ideation doesn’t mean people don’t want to live; they don’t want to live with the way things are. What helps older people is a connected community filled with compassion and continual relationships with plant life, wildlife, pets, other people, and especially children.

If you have suicidal ideations, don’t be embarrassed. Tell someone. You are deserving and worthy of support and love.

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