Depression and Suicide in Older Adults

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This paper examines the occurrence of depression and suicide in older adults and what can be done to lessen these problems in individuals that are part of the older population. While many people might assume that adolescence is the most difficult time for these problems, older adults actually have higher rates of both depression and suicide - much higher than may be expected or assumed.

Introduction

Recognizng depression can be tricky because depressive symptoms manifest themselves differently in older people than they do in younger people. Health care workers need to be alert to the signs and symptoms of depression because untreated depression represents the greatest risk factor for suicide among older adults.
Many people may believe that depression in older adults is simply a normal event that most people go through at one time or another; and that there is no real reason to be alarmed. It might be thought that these individuals should accept sad feelings and disinterest in life as a typical part of growing older. Nevertheless, depression is a very real disorder, and not just one that comes with age. Depressed individuals often cannot just 'snap out of' the problems they are facing. All too often, older adults end up taking their own lives when their depression becomes too painful for them and remains untreated (Brent, et al, 1997).
Older adults have the highest rate of suicide in the United States, with over half of all suicides occurring in adult men, aged 25-65. Moreover, suicide rates steadily increase with age (Heisel, 2004). ...
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