Older Americans disproportionately are likely to die by suicide. Although they comprise only 12 percent of the United States population, people 65 and older accounted for 16 percent of the suicide deaths in 2004. In general, 

Studies have shown that of the older adults, 75 percent had visited a primary care physician within several months of their death.

There is Help and Hope

It is important to talk to your doctor about your depression, but not all doctors are comfortable addressing depression. If this is the case, it is important to talk to someone who is. Often social workers, therapists, counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists are helpful when talking about depression. It is important to remember that it takes time to get better from depression and to give yourself time to heal, just like a physical illness. Following your health-care professional's or counselor's advice and treatment plan is an important part of getting well. It also is important to discuss your treatment with them in a trusted partnership working towards good health. Your family and friends can play a vital role in getting better after depression also. Remember, feeling better takes time, but it can happen.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for suicide are personal characteristics, life circumstances and situations that lead to, or are associated with suicide. Risk factors in the elderly population include:

 Warning signs in the elderly population include:

For good mental health:

For family and friends:

If your loved one refuses to get treatment for depression, it can be very beneficial to discuss how he or she will feel better after the depression is under control. For those still unwilling to go, it may be possible for a health-care professional to call the loved one and initiate the conversation. The phone call doesn't take the place of an office visit, but may be enough to get the person with depression to visit them in person. Try to be patient and understanding with the course of depression. Ask questions. It may be necessary for you to accompany loved ones to their health-care provider, especially when discussing medications or treatment plans.


Information adapted from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Aging.