The pandemic’s assorted pressures have caused a spike in suicidal thoughts among subsets of people, including older Americans whose risk for suicidal ideation — and suicide itself — is linked to some of the particularities of aging.
According to a March 2021 analysis by geriatric researchers at Adelphi and Columbia Universities, 28% of U.S. adults who were at least 65 years old, or 14.7 million people, resided alone. That tally of older people living solo — and often enduring the gut punches of isolation and loneliness — only went up from there. Approximately 44% of women ages 75 and older lived alone.
There’s a kind of pile-on effect at play, researchers suggest, as societal and health problems circle in and out of each other. Social isolation can and does often worsen chronic illness, which disproportionately besets older people. The CDC calculates 85% of those age 65 and older have at least one chronic illness; 60% have two or more.
Men 75 and older had the highest risk for suicide, according to the CDC’s most recent data, with 39.9 such suicides per 100,000 Americans. The comparable figure for women in that age group was 4.3 per 100,000. For those ages 65 through 74, the respective rates were 26.4 and 5.9. (This 2018 analysis in Clinical Interventions in Aging put the rate for white men who were 65 and older at 48.7 per 100,000.)
Photo: Chris Landsberger, courtesy of The OklahomanThis photo from Jaclyn Cosgrove’s series for The Oklahoman shows a male inmate in the Oklahoma County Jail’s mental health unit.
Amid a nationwide push to pare the number of incarcerated people with mental and/or behavioral disorders, a South Dakota pilot project giving law enforcement officials 24/7 online access to mental health clinicians has diverted from lockdown and into community-based care about 75% of people confronted by police during a mental/behavioral crisis.
Launched in January 2020, Virtual Crisis Care is among the first endeavors of its kind in rural America. It mirrors a comparatively small but slowly growing number of mainly urban projects that, along with virtually connecting police and probation officers with social workers, psychologists and other mental health clinicians, have sometimes placed those professionals in a cop car. Continue reading
The first of four briefs Mental Health America will release in 2021 has concluded that 38% of 725,949 people who completed the organization’s clinically validated mental health screening had suicidal thoughts in 2020.
The “Suicide and COVID-19: Communities in Need Across America” brief is based on an analysis of those individuals’ answers to questions in the organization’s online screening tool. In total, 2.6 million users did that voluntary screening in 2020, the highest number since Mental Health America in 2014 launched the screening, which allows deep analysis zip code by zip code of who’s in mental distress. Continue reading
A half-hour before nursing supervisor Jotis Lee was scheduled to end her shift on the Friday before July 4th, the text came through: A 24-year-old who was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 had, nevertheless, contracted the virus and just been admitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ hospital.
That patient’s admission was another marker of the pandemic’s persistence, said Lee, who, at that Little Rock, Ark hospital, supervises a team of nurses in an outpatient clinic that mainly has done telehealth care during the pandemic.
“In many ways, the pressure has gotten worse,” Lee said, of the anxiety, depression and other stresses members of her team are experiencing. Continue reading
Photo: Alane Golden via FlickrWarriors Against Trauma poster from a past National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day campaign
The American Psychological Association’s Psychological Services journal is preparing to announce its first call for papers in the field of “practice-based evidence,” a body of research about mental health treatments primarily derived from analyses of evidence-based practice but enlarged by what clinicians of color, in particular, are seeing in community-based and -informed clinical practice.
Greater attention to this area of study would be a significant shift from the “evidence-based research” and practices derived from clinical trials that now strongly influence everything from the types of mental health care that health insurers will pay for to the areas of mental health research that get funded. According to critics, over-reliance on more rigidly designed and conducted studies, which often end up recruiting a disproportionate number of white and middle-class trial participants, results in standards of care that don’t address the lived experience of communities of color, particularly in rural areas. Continue reading