Sharp increase in attempted suicide among the elderly

(Photo: Unsplash/Siarhei Plashchynski)

There has been a six-fold increase in the number of suicide attempts by elderly people during the coronavirus crisis, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. 

The rise is down to feelings of depression and anxiety brought on by social isolation during the lockdown, The Telegraph reports.

With many older people shut up at home alone and unable to see family members or friends, they have been "particularly hit by social isolation", the RCP's Dr Amanda Thompsell told the newspaper. 

This has been compounded by many older people having the attitude that they should not complain, Dr Thompsell said.

"What I am concerned about is that we are seeing a lot more suicide attempts by the elderly. These are not pleas for help but serious suicide events," said Dr Thompsell, chair of RCP's faculty of old age psychiatry.

"These are people in a desperate way, seeing no end to coronavirus and what type of life they will have. Some had not been known to services at all.

"One large acute service said it had seen more suicide attempts during covid period than in the whole of 2018. This is data from one service but an increase in suicide attempts in older people has been reported by other old age psychiatrists."

She said it was important that people struggling with depression during the lockdown know that mental health services remain open. 

 "We are open, we are there for you. That message has not got to older people," she said. 

It echoes a plea from Prince William during the Church of England's online digital service on Sunday, in which he urged people to "reach out" and share their struggles with a friend or family member. 

The Duke of Cambridge joined the service to mark the end of Mental Health Awareness Week. 

"The impact of coronavirus has been far-reaching and we shouldn't underestimate its effect on us and on those in our families and communities," he said.

"Whether people have lost or are worrying about loved ones, struggling with isolating at home, feeling anxious about our job security, or working on the frontline, now more than ever, it is important that we talk to one another about issues we're struggling with."