Elderly Suicide Prevention, Intervention & Management


Suicide is a global tragedy. At least a million persons a year kill themselves. This translates to one suicide per 40 seconds in the world (WHO, Sep 2004). The rates of elderly suicides, though declining, are still amongst the highest compared to all other age groups, across the world. In Singapore, whilst government’s policies and attention to issues of mental health have bore fruit in recent years in bringing the overall rates of suicide down, the rates among older adults are still relatively high. Between 2003 and 2006, for every 100,000 men in their 40s, the rate jumped from 14 to 19. For every 100,000 women in their 50s, the rate jumped from eight to 13 in the same period (Straits Times 29 Aug 2007).

Within the elderly population, suicides rates are still the highest among those 80 and above. This has not changed for the past 10 years (Chia, 2001; Kua, Ko & Ng, 2003). Hence, when an older person expresses a wish to die, it should be taken seriously. Unlike younger people who may perceive that they still have the opportunity to change or improve their circumstances, older persons are more likely view their future and the potential for positive changes to be very limited. This is so in the face of failing health, limited financial resources and poor social support (Ko, Mehta & Ko, 2006). It is therefore crucial for those working with the elderly to be able to assess suicide risk in older adults, as well as be equipped with the necessary intervention skills. They would also need to be aware of their own attitudes towards suicide in the elderly and the influence this will have towards their interventions. Moreover, they should be able to make appropriate and timely referral, and institute a system to support professionals managing elderly suicide in their agencies, to prevent burnout among them. This workshop will address these issues.

Target Participants

  • Managers, administrators, counsellors, therapists, case managers, social workers, nurses and volunteers who work with the elderly.
  • Participants should have attended “Eldercare: Gerontological Counselling – Introduction” course conducted by SSTI or its equivalent. Those who do not meet the criteria may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand their own attitudes towards suicide in the elderly, and the impact of these on their professional practice
  • Recognize risk factors for elderly suicide in Singapore
  • Be equipped with suicide assessment and intervention skills
  • Be able to make appropriate and timely referrals
  • Be able to institute a system of support for professionals managing elderly suicide in their agencies

Course Outline

  • Attitudes towards suicide & the elderly
  • Myths and facts of elderly suicide
  • Risk factors associated with elderly suicide in Singapore
  • Suicide risk assessment & tools
  • Suicide prevention, intervention & postvention
  • Suicide intervention model
  • Suicide aftermath & grief
  • Resources & referral procedures
  • Caring for the professionals

Course Duration

One day


Chia, B.H. (2001). Age of Despair: A study of elderly suicide in Singapore. Singapore Times Books International.

Ko, H; Mehta, K.M. and Ko, S.M. (2006). Understanding and Counselling Older Persons: A Handbook. Singapore: SAGE Counselling Centre.

Kua, E.H. : Ko, S.M. & Ng, T.P. (2003). Recent trends in elderly suicide rates in a multi-ethnic Asian city. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 533 – 536.