Suicide thoughts and behaviour in later life
Hafford-Letchfield, T. Gleeson, H. Ellmers,T., Rasmussen, S., Cogan, N., Goodman, J., & Hanna, J.
The unique factors which contribute to suicide actions in later life are often more difficult to recognise than contributing factors in younger individuals. Suicide thought may be passively expressed and can be triggered by the experience of existential loneliness or a sense of a ‘completed life’. This can give rise to self-neglect, particularly of one’s own health, and death hastening behaviour such as the voluntary stopping of eating and drinking, as well as more purposive suicide acts. Taking a life course including a trauma-informed approach can help practitioners identify contributory risk and protection factors. Ageism and stigma can mean that suicidal thought and action are less likely to be recognised in later life. Existing suicide prevention interventions are not sufficiently nuanced for older people. Practitioner skills and knowledge on how to screen, approach and discuss the topic of suicide in later life should draw on principles of time, space, and compassion.