Suicide and Aging: What you need to know

Today at Brooksby Village (a continuing-care retirement community) in Danvers, MA, I attended a four-hour “Suicide and Aging: Gatekeeper Workshop,” presented by the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley (Family Services of the Merrimack Valley). I learned that white men over age 75+ with access to firearms are the greatest risk group; and for every homicide reported, 3-4 people are taking their lives.

The Samaritans Confidential Crisis Help Lines:
Merrimack Valley: 978-327-6607
MA Statewide: 1-877-870-4673 (HOPE)
Toll Free: 1-866-912-4673 (HOPE)

The Samaritans encourage people to call the help line ANYTIME for info – call well before someone is/you are in crisis, as well as when someone is/you are in crisis. The trainer, Mary Quinn, gently encouraged the class of social workers, nurses, and spiritual-care professionals to not be afraid to speak to someone if you have a concern about them… it is the compassionate thing to do.

A few words to remember from the handout “Suicide Facts & Language”:

Most of the time, a suicidal person is ambivalent about dying. Most suicidal individuals do not want to die. THEY WANT THE PAIN TO STOP.

LANGUAGE

Some terms are preferred and/or more comfortable for survivors.

Terms to Use:
– Took his/her own life
– Died as a result of a self-inflicted injury
– Died by suicide
– Died by own hand

Terms to Avoid:
– Successful suicide
– Committed suicide
– Chose to kill himself
– Failed suicide

(source: Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, handout: “Suicide Facts & Language”)

Look for updates to this post with more highlights from the workshop.

Moving forward with a listening heart,
vision, inquiry, and action,
~ Mary

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