Older Men are the Highest Suicide Risk
There are times in life when we are faced with the tragedy of suicide. And it doesn’t happen just with teens. In fact, while suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death of young people age 10-24, the highest suicide rates are among those age 85 and older and between the ages of 45-64. White men and Native American men are the largest ethnic groups prone to suicide death.
These funerals pose an additional challenge as they lead to anger, questions, frustration, guilt, grief and even imitation. Death is already a topic that has a lot of emotional charge and people overall just don’t like talking about it. Suicide, however, is one of those things that must be talked about. Talking about it, reduces the anxiety surrounding it and will help people move through the variety of emotions and can actually prevent or reduce the amount of suicide attempts and successes.
Funerals for someone who has taken their life also requires some additional “special handling”. The focus must be on remembering the deceased in a way that doesn’t glamorize their choice but instead focuses on healing. For example, if a child died from a tragic car accident or from a terminal disease, memorialization can be done publically, however, in the case of suicide, we don’t want to neither shame nor create a “celebrity” status of the person who passed. This will not lead to healing but rather to more anger or possible imitation.
For example, shame can be created by creating discussion about the person’s eternity, as some religions have specific views of suicide. Likewise, we don’t want to focus on the person being “in a better place” either. We also don’t want to memorialize a suicide death in a way that gives the person notoriety, such as naming a community landmark after them, however a fund or program to prevent further suicide, may be more appropriate.
When youth will be attending the funeral, it is important that they understand what to expect, very clearly, and that they are given additional resources to process their grief. These additional resources can include a special area for them to meet with a counselor, before, during and/or after the funeral ceremony. A resource such as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline can offer additional resources to those grieving the loss from suicide.
Know the Warning Signs
The age and resources of the person who is considering suicide will change some of the warning signs they may communicate. Not all suicidal persons will show signs, but about 80% will, which is a way for them to reach out for help. It is important to note that no one is expected to know, understand or have the ability to ‘save’ a person from suicide, however knowing the warning signs can help in increasing awareness and opening up a conversation to further prevent suicide.
They show signs of depression. They will have personality changes that can include hopelessness, declining performance in school or work, dropping or not longer participating in work, family or activities they enjoy. They may exhibit irritability, aggression, and withdrawal. Their grooming, eating and sleeping habits may change, meaning they may stop self care, over or under eat, sleep or stay in bed for significant time periods or suffer insomnia. They may begin using or abusing drugs and/or alcohol and may complain about physical symptoms associated with emotional distress. Their depression can be triggered by a variety of life events including:
A recent loss of a loved one
Shame, guilt, humiliation or rejection
Diagnosis of disease/ loss of health
Fear of the future/ financial concerns
They will make statements about their intentions. In a way, they are asking for attention, and yet, their statements are to be taken seriously. They are really asking for help. If you can’t provide it, offer a suicide hotline number or suggest a counselor or other professional.
They are preoccupied with death or dying. They may have made unsuccessful attempts in the past. They may write about suicide, watch videos about it or even research ways to die. They may plan their funerals or make wills or write notes about how they want to have their death managed. They may become very reckless or dangerous, ignoring risks.
Not Your Fault
The most important thing to understand about suicide, is that it is not your fault. The reasons for why a person chooses suicide will lie within them alone. Even in notes or statements, the person made an independent decision. There is a lot of concern these days about bullying and it is important that youth have someone to talk to about what they are experiencing. This is also true in the world of eldercare. People in the high risk categories need to be offered additional support and resources.