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Letter: Talking about suicide

On June 14, the one-act play, “Talking With Dolores,” will be performed at Memorial Hall/Pothole Pictures, 51 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls from 1 to 3 p.m. The play explores the issue of elder suicide as the main character, 85-year-old Mo, struggles with aging, loneliness and end of life choices. At the end of the play, the actors bring the audience into the discussion about Mo’s choices and right to control his life.

The production is sponsored by the Pioneer Valley Coalition for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the Center for Human Development. Admission is free. The issue of elder suicide is a rarely talked about topic. There are nearly 6,000 suicides of elders (65-plus) in the U.S. every year. While the risk for suicide for women drops after age 60, it increases dramatically for men. White men over age 85 have the highest rate of completed suicides, six times the rest of the population. Physical illness, chronic pain, depression and fear of becoming a burden are all risk factors. Isolation is one of the most recognized factors as seniors witness spouses and friends pass, leaving them alone and isolated.

We, as a society, fear talking about suicide with those at risk for fear of “putting an idea into their heads.” In fact, talking about it opens the door to important discussion. “Talking With Dolores” has been successfully performed and well received by general and professional audiences. It provides an opportunity for elders, their families and care providers to explore attitudes about aging and end-of-life choices. I hope the public will take a moment to attend this production, and begin the hard discussions about our elders, aging and risk factors for suicide.

PAMELA PETERSON

LICSW assistant director Preventive Services/Tapestry Health Member,

Pioneer Valley Coalition for Suicide Prevention

Florence

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