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Suicide risk during COVID19: protecting the elderly


Dr. Gayani DeSilva MD


Family and Relationships

Gayani DeSilva is a Child Adolescent Psychiatrist with 20 years experience. She is the author of A Psychiatrists Guide: Helping Parents Reach Their Depressed Tween, and A Psychiatrists Guide: Stop Teen Addiction Before It Starts.

Being in quarantine during COVID19 will create some of the greatest stresses we will face as a global community. And the Elderly are at risk, not only of dying from COVID19, but from suicide also.


Self-imposed isolation may feel like being in prison.  I have heard some describe it as being in “the hole” of prison, or in “seclusion”.  These are terms and situations we used to shudder to think about, but now can relate to.


In prison, the first 48 hours are critical for increased suicide risk.  With COVID 19 quarantine, the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior will increase also. 


The highest risk of suicide is in the elderly, under the best of circumstances.  Now, with the elderly being isolated from family and friends, and with the death rate increasing in the elderly, they are at particularly high risk of suicide.  Communities must reach out to them as much as possible, even virtually. 


Call your parents every day.  Use FaceTime and Skype every day with your elderly loved ones. Text and call more than once a day.  Express your feelings and gratitude for them.


Have grandchildren call their grandparents every day.  Use video-messaging as often as possible. 


The elderly are not only at risk of getting the COVID19 virus, they are at risk of getting so severely depressed and lonely that they become suicidal. Help prevent this risk by being more connected and more expressive with the seniors in your family and community.

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