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Conference explores suicide and older people

Conference explores suicide and older people, why does it happen and what can be done about it?

Next Tuesday, 10 September, is World Suicide Prevention Day. A conference to be held in Auckland on the day will cover a wide range of topics including a session on suicide prevention in older adults.

This presentation is very timely given the concern raised by the Chief Coroner’s recently released provisional suicide figures about suicide among older people.

“These figures are distressing, but not surprising when we consider the change and loss experienced by older people says Marie Hull-Brown (86). Marie is a mental health promoter for older people at the Mental Health Foundation.

“Seeing friends die, family moving away and one’s home becoming increasingly hard to maintain are losses that are hard to bear, and older people may become depressed and anxious about their ability to manage alone, yet not want to see their GP about the ‘black dog’ that sits on their shoulder.”

Isolation and loneliness are undoubtedly detrimental to older people’s health, but Marie says there are signs that things are improving for older people.

“We are seeing young people wanting to interact more with older generations, to hear their stories and to learn from them what life was like when they were younger. If support is not forthcoming from others, it may be that it will be the young people who lead the way in making older people realise that they have a purpose in life and are valued by the community.”

One of the presenters at the conference is geriatric psychiatrist Professor Yeates Conwell, from the University of Rochester Medical Centre, NY. His research on suicide and depression in later life indicates that more attention should be given to suicide among older people and what can be done to prevent it.

Suicide Prevention 2013 is organised by researcher Dr Annette Beautrais, and will be hosted with the assistance of the Mental Health Foundation and the support of the University of Otago. It will be held at Ellerslie Events Centre, Auckland on Tuesday 10 September 2013 from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm.

Other topics to be covered at the conference include:

Suicidal behaviour in adolescence
Antidepressants and suicide
Targeting men in the workplace in suicide prevention
Building community understanding about suicide and suicide prevention
Online community support for suicide prevention
Stigma and suicide prevention for those in the LGBTI community
Suicide risk assessment
Suicide bereavement and postvention
Survivor stories


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