I heard it on the news just this morning–another murder-suicide of an elderly couple. This same awful news happens in every community. Most of us assume that suicide and murder are “young people” crimes–that it’s our youth to blame. The truth is that the highest suicide rate in our country is for males over the age of 65,+ white males and the murder-suicide rates for elders are alarmingly high–and many of these deaths are due to the strains and stress of caregiving, depression, alcohol abuse, and isolation.
What are the signs of suicide?
- Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.
(Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.) Talking or writing about death or suicide
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling strong anger or rage
- Feeling trapped — like there is no way out of a situation
- Experiencing dramatic mood changes
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Exhibiting a change in personality
What are the symptoms of murder-suicide among the elderly?
- Prolonged illness which may also include pain
- Medical financial issues
- Being told you don’t have long to live
- Alcohol abuse
- Previous suicide attempts
- wrapping up details/talking about dying
- Prolonged hospital stays and unresolved caregiving issues
- A history of violence, jealousy, or clinical depression
- A recent purchase of or interest in a handgun or hoarding of pills
What can you do if you suspect the possibility of a murder-suicide?
- Get the guns out of the house–every major study on violence has shown that guns make it too easy to take a life–a recent study showed that 34 out of 39 murder-suicides involved a gun.
- Get the “victim” out of the house. If an attempt has been made, or you strongly suspect it might, don’t take a chance.
- Take a hard look at your dad/the male. Elder suicides are almost always perpetrated by the male and they often struggle with severe depression and find that caring for their sick wife or being sick themselves makes life unbearable. Get them help–after you get the female/your mom/loved one out of the house.
- Get them help–quick. Suicide is the culmination of feeling completely helpless, hopeless and alone. You’ve got to ease their burden–get them assistance–and most likely get them out of the house. The isolation and despair are just too much or a pull. They need to be with others, need outside assistance, and need to not be able to hide the depression and/or violence that are the hallmarks of murder-suicide.
If you suspect there’s a problem, there probably is. Listen to your gut. Do something fast.
Here are a few organizations who can help.
Suicide hotline: 1-800-suicide
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Helpline and Treatment: 800-234-0420 800-234-0420
Elder Abuse Hotline: 800-252-8966 800-252-8966
Alzheimer’s Association Hotline: 800-621-0379
~Carol D. O’Dell
Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle