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November 22, 2011

Suicide in Elderly Highest in 10 Years (NEW ZEALAND)

Suicide in elderly highest in 10 years
By CHRISTOPHER HARRESS
- Sunday Star Times
20/11/2011

The number of elderly New Zealanders killing themselves has surged 11 per cent to a 10-year high, fuelled by mounting health and economic worries.
The spate of deaths has pushed the country's overall suicide numbers to 558, the highest since 1997.
While youth suicide rates continue to decrease, the 65-plus age group is growing, with 54 deaths this year – around 10 per cent of all suicides.
But some nurses are concerned not all suicides are being recorded properly, and the number could be much higher.
Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand figures show an average of 49 deaths a year in the older age group since 2000, compared with an average of only 33 in Australia.
Recent reports have suggested as many as half the residents in care homes could be suffering depression, but some nurses have challenged that, saying the rate could be even higher.
Registered nurse Kerry Howley, who lectures on depression care for rest home residents, said in her experience many residents were unhappy.
"The staff are aware of just how unhappy older people are in residential care. It's not uncommon for them to talk about wanting to die. As far as suicides go in residential care, I think that many of those would not be recorded," she said.
"When an older person decides that they don't want to live any more, they stop eating and drinking – do we consider that suicide? It's quite a decision on their part, and it's the only power that a person in care has in terms of having control over their life."
Age Concern chief executive Ann Martin said older people were concerned about "social isolation and loneliness, elder abuse, being able to afford the basics, and getting the care they need".
In August, chief coroner Neil MacLean issued a report calling the overall suicide rate "a shocking commentary on our society" after numbers began to edge closer to the epidemic of the 1990s.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said suicide among the elderly could be influenced by health factors and immobility, while loneliness was also a problem.
The issue reopened the debate on elective euthanasia, the New Zealand Voluntary Euthanasia organisation said. "Our stand is that we agree with both Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff, who have both publicly stated that we need debate on the subject. It can't be swept under the carpet any longer," spokeswoman Janet Mary Marsland said.
The issue had been highlighted with Sean Davison pleading guilty in Dunedin earlier this month to "inciting and procuring" his mother's suicide.
Patricia Davison was diagnosed with a terminal illness and was on her 35th day of a hunger strike when her son helped her die using crushed morphine pills. His sentencing is due to take place on Thursday.



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Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty.

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