The suicide rate among elderly people is on the rise, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Sunday, urging the public to help tackle the issue.
The over-65 age group was the only category that showed an increase in the suicide rate last year, rising 7.7 percent from 2009, said Shih Chung-liang (石崇良), director of the Bureau of Medical Affairs, citing department statistics.
With the nation’s overall suicide rate continuing to decrease, self-inflicted death was no longer among the top 10 causes of death in the country as of last year, Shih said.
For four consecutive years, from 2006 until 2009, suicide was the ninth leading cause of death in Taiwan.
Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center chairman Lee Ming-been (李明濱) said the average suicide rate in the country reached a peak of 19.3 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people in 2006, with the rate in the over-65 age group reaching 39.3.
In 2009, the average suicide rate shrank to 17.6 per 100,000 people, while the rate in the over-65 age bracket dropped to 35.8 per 100,000 people.
Despite a slight decline in the suicide rate among people over 65, the rate in that age group is still two to three times higher than in all other age groups nationwide, figures released by Taipei City’s Department of Health in June showed.
Shih said the DOH hopes to see the suicide rate among the elderly drop to less than 33 per 100,000 people by the end of this year.
Illness and social isolation were tagged as the major contributing factors, Shih said, adding that mental health, which is often neglected, could also be an issue.
The DOH said the nation’s suicide prevention hotlines, such as 1995, prevented 143 deaths in 2009 and saved 375 lives last year.
Most of those cases were among younger people, since such services are rarely used by the elderly, it said.
Shih urged people to keep in touch with older family members by calling them on the telephone at least once a week and stopping by for a personal visit at least once a month.
According to WHO statistics, the global suicide rate was 16 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people in 2009. The WHO predicts that by 2020, 1.5 million people will kill themselves each year.
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