Community Blog

Prevent Senior Suicides in New Port Richey

By Debbie Humphrey

A 74 year-old senior in New Port Richey had a loving wife, a grown son, a beautiful daughter, and a grandson, yet he was depressed. No one realized how troubled the man was, as he appeared to be his same-old, grumpy self, hunkered-down in his easy chair watching old movies on TV and grumbling about stupid commercials. He did not venture out much anymore.

National Suicide Awareness MonthOne cold December day in 2010, three days after his daughter’s birthday, he made the decision to end his life. He took his pistol out of the case, put the barrel to his head and pulled the trigger. There was no note and he had not spoken of suicide before. He was just gone…the end.

However, it was not the end for his family. They each grieved their loss individually, but none more so than his daughter. They had had a tumultuous relationship at times, but she truly loved her Father. Not only does this tragedy haunt her to this day, she continues to ask herself the painful, unanswered question:  “Why?”

In 2014, more than 740 seniors in Florida aged 65+, committed suicide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI] has outlined these warning signs and ways you can help prevent senior suicides in New Port Richey:

Warning Signs

If this man’s family had been aware of some of the warning signs of depression and had entertained the notion he might be suicidal, the outcome may have been much different. Pay close attention to seniors if they exhibit these potentially suicidal traits:

  • Avoidance of family, friends and social activities
  • Difficulty understanding and relating to people
  • Changes in sleeping habits and energy levels
  • Changes in eating habits, such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling extremely sad or low
  • Confused thinking, or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Inability to perform daily activities or handle problems and stress*

 What You Can Do to Help

  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stock-piled pills
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, such as “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” rather than, “Would you rather I call your psychiatrist, your therapist or your case manager?”
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
  • If your loved one asks for something, provide it, as long as the request is safe and reasonable
  • If you are nervous, try not to fidget or pace
  • If your loved one is having hallucinations or delusions, be gentle and sympathetic, but do not get in an argument about whether the delusions or hallucinations are real*

September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. If a senior in New Port Richey has come to mind while reading this blog, reach out to them. If you are unable to connect with a troubled senior you love, contact the compassionate caregivers at Home Helpers. They are experts at providing companionship and assisting seniors in ways that can lift their spirits, make them feel safe, loved, cared for, and less alone. 727.942.2539

*Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness