Suicide is national epidemic with over 2,000 Australian men taking their lives each year. Much of the focus and resources within preventative men’s mental health is aimed at men between the ages of the 14-44, which is understandable: Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst men in this age bracket.
These statistics, however, are misleading in understanding the real number of suicides.
As men age, a range of other health factors start to play a larger role in life-expectancy, including exposure to accidents and other forms of death. As a result, suicide accounts for just 0.3% of deaths of men aged 80+.
However, it is a mistake to assume that the rate of suicide decreases as men age. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Suicide, in raw numbers, somewhat spikes in the 35-45 age bracket, and exponentially in the 85+ age bracket.
The driving factors behind suicide in older men are wide ranging and often complex, though core factors largely fall into the following categories:
Living with illness (physical and mental)
Loss of connections, relationships and people
Loss of independence / autonomy / dignity
Loss of privilege
Stoic, generational and cultural beliefs that prevent help seeking.
These factors are compounded by under-diagnosis or failure to recognise symptoms of depression and anxiety as “normal, elderly behaviour”. These symptoms may include eating problems, sleeping trouble, shyness, timidity, frustration, hypochondriasis, seclusiveness, etc.
The above symptoms may set also contribute to a negative spiral of self-isolation, further compounding the issues and limiting support channels.
Connectedness and support networks are key in fostering positive mental health and reducing the rate of suicide.
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