Grey Not Blue:

Depression and suicide in the older person

There are some risk factors in suicide that are particular to older people yet rarely are covered in suicide prevention training. 

It is critical that those working with older people are:

  • knowledgeable about the latest research and understanding of suicide in older people

  • confident and competent in responding to the depressed or suicidal older person.

  • able to implement a suicide postvention response and provide support for those impacted by a suicide death.

Topics covered in the workshop:

  • Grey not blue - Overview of depression and life stressors in older person and the risk for suicide

  • Promoting mental wellbeing in older people

  • The silent suffering - Social determinants of suicide in older people

  • Suicidal behaviour vs Assisted Dying

  • Identifying suicide ideation and behaviour in older person

  • Support strategies for older people who are suicidal

  • Dealing with the impact of a suicide of an older person and prevention of suicide contagion

Suicide in those over 65 is more common than is generally thought. The provisional 2019/20 suicide statistics showed that suicide among the elderly is on the increase. Often under reported, depression and suicide is a major mental health issue for this age group. Primary health professionals, support workers, aged care workers, pastoral care workers & clergy are often best placed to identify those at risk and to provide support and interventions. The identification and treatment of depression is an essential aspect of this work.

As the baby boomer generation age, many will enjoy reasonable physical health, however mental health issues, in particular depression, will be a prevalent health issue. This is not just an issue for those in primary care or aged care facilities but is one that needs serious consideration by management and workers in retirement villages.

In a study of the locations of suicide in New Zealand, it was found that apart from private home, aged care facilities and retirement villages were the most common places where older people killed themselves. This has implications for family, staff and other residents.

Placing depression and suicide in older people in a social context, workshop participants will examine the factors that promote wellbeing and those that contribute to depression and suicide. Issues such a loss, redundancy and futility, loneliness and isolation, elder abuse, quality of life will be covered.

The mental health impact of COVID-19 requires urgent attention. Being a significantly vulnerable community, the contracting the COVID-19 virus has serious health implications, including higher possibility of death. However the mental implications are just as significant and require serious attention.  Lockdowns, self-isolating and physical distancing has heightened feelings of loneliness and isolation, issues that already are major risk determinants of suicide in older people. COVID-19 related depression and anxiety in older people will also be addressed in the workshop.

With the upcoming referendum on assisted dying, there will be an increased public debate about whether people have the right to end their life at a time of their choosing and, if so, under what circumstances. It presents a combination of philosophical, moral, legal and ethical dilemmas which cannot be answered solely by one of these domains. The workshop will cover the complex interrelationship of factors between suicidality in older people and assisted dying as a way of clarifying the differences between the narrative of the suicidal older person vis a vis the person wishing to determine their imminent death due to terminal illness. This clarification is critical as each narrative requires quite distinct and different response by professionals.

Feedback from other participants

“A must attend for anyone working with older people. Learnt heaps”

Aged Care Worker

'"This workshop is long overdue. The issues you raised have for far too long not being addressed."

Older Person Advocate

"Appreciated the way you did not pathologise the aging process and provide a model to understand  suicide and depression into an appropriate context"

Geriatrician

“Thank you so much for sharing your knowlege and passion. I leave with a new determination in my work”

Older Person Mental Health Nurse

"Loved every minute. Great material by a great presenter. So much to take back to my staff"

Director of Nursing, Aged Care Nursing Home

“This is the first workshop I have attended that has provided such a comprehensive coverage of suicide in older people.  Could see many of the factors in the people I see"

Elder Abuse Worker

Me mahi tahi tautou mo te oranga o te katoa   -  Working together for the wellbeing of everyone

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