Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Elderly Suicide Risk Often Missed in Primary Care

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Elderly Suicide Risk Often Missed in Primary Care

Article excerpt

More than half of the elderly men who commit suicide or who kill themselves after murdering their wives have clear evidence of psychopathology, but their primary physicians apparently fail to detect or properly treat it.

In what they described as the first empirical study to compare the characteristics of older married men who commit suicide with those who commit murder-suicide, researchers at the University of South Florida, Tampa, found that 61% of the former group and 52% of the latter showed evidence of at least one psychiatric symptom--primarily depression--before they acted. Yet only 5% were receiving psychiatric care at the time.

Toxicology tests revealed that 14%-15% of both groups were positive for benzodiazepine use, but none were positive for antidepressants or antipsychotics. These findings show that primary care physicians "need to be better educated about the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health problems in their patients. The tendency to use antianxiety medications, coupled with the absence of antidepressants, suggests a pattern of inappropriate use of these psychotropics which, in these men, may have done more harm than good," said Julie E. Malphurs and her associates (Am. J. Geriatr. Psychiatry 9[1]:49-57, 2001).

The prevalence of benzodiazepines and the presence of alcohol in about 15% of both groups at postmortem toxicology testing also suggested that both substances "play a major role in lowering inhibitions and increasing vulnerability in these older men to commit suicide as well as homicide," they said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.