Center For Elderly Suicide Prevention

“Social isolation is a risk factor; connection a protective factor.”
- Dr. Patrick Arbore, Institute on Aging

When we launched our program in 1973, older adults were the most likely age group to commit suicide, but they represented only a small percentage of calls to suicide hotlines. We discovered that seniors weren't calling crisis lines because they didn't see themselves as being in crisis; instead, they were suffering from chronic loneliness and undiagnosed depression.

After 40 years of listening, we can tell you that older adults "cry for help" in markedly different ways than teens, because depression looks different when we age. Depressed older adults are more likely to be irritable than sad, and to complain about physical ailments that their doctor can't find a reason for.

Whereas young people talk about suicide or say, "I want to die," older adults are more likely to say, "There's no place for me," or "I don't want to be a burden." And while we are thankfully more sensitive to the effects of outside pressures on young people such as bullying and online harassment, we miss clear warning signs with older adults - such as the death of a spouse, the diagnosis of a chronic or mental illness, or a lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

Too often these triggers are viewed as normal aspects of the aging process. And too often, older adults are reluctant to ask for help from friends and family they don't want to burden.

That's why our Center for Elderly Suicide and Prevention provides counseling, referrals, grief support programs, and even well-being checks for tens of thousands of older and disabled adults in California and beyond.