Suicide and the Elderly During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Overview of Different Suicide Theories

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Objective: To expand knowledge during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic with regard to suicide prevention among the elderly population by providing recommendations for interview strategies using 3 suicide theories.

Methods: Two hypothetical geriatric suicide cases (1 low lethality and 1 high lethality) are presented and categorized according to 3 suicide theories: interpersonal theory of suicide, three-step theory of suicide, and hopelessness theory of depression.

Results: In crisis intervention, the clinician’s interview must match the intrinsic belief of the suicide attempter to enable engagement and rapport. Use of different aspects of the 3 suicide theories can be useful but are dependent on the emergent nature of the attempt.

Conclusion: The need for identification and treatment of those with mental health issues, especially among the elderly population, and collaborative multidiscipline management teams is increasing during the current global pandemic. Specific interview strategies are needed when engaging with elderly suicidal patients. Suicide prevention in elderly patients is worthy of strong public attention.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2020;22(5):20nr02676