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Adults over 70 have the highest rate of suicide worldwide.

Older adults are among the highest-risk populations for suicide; in fact, adults over 70 have the highest rate of suicide worldwide. Most people who die by suicide suffer from one or more mental disorders (such as untreated anxiety or depression), but these illnesses may be especially undertreated or undiagnosed among older adults. For example, common somatic symptoms of depression—such as sleep disturbances, aches, and pains—may be incorrectly attributed to normal aging when older adults describe them.

Preventing older adult suicide requires a multidimensional approach: an understanding of risk factors, knowledge of life-span development, and coordination among professionals and community members who are invested in older adult wellness. Dr. Matthew Fullen recently proposed a community-based suicide prevention strategy that employs this multidimensional approach.

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SPOTLIGHT PROJECT: Training Natural Helpers in Suicide Prevention

What we learn will help us transform how we care for older adults across the nation.
Laura Shannonhouse, principal investigator, Georgia State University

Beginning in 2018, the AgeWell lab partnered with Georgia State University, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the University of Tennessee to train nutrition service volunteers in the Atlanta area to identify and act when older adults appear at risk for suicide. Through a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the team will equip nutrition service volunteers with suicide-risk identification and intervention skills when they make home visits or deliver meals to older adult community members. At the end of the project, the team aims to create a manual so that other agencies and communities can enact a similar program.

Read more about the HHS grant.