Treatment of Depression and Suicide in Older Adults

This article describes a cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) intervention for suicide prevention in older adults. Although many studies have found that CBT interventions are efficacious for reducing depressive symptoms in the elderly, researchers have yet to evaluate the efficacy of such interventions for preventing suicide or reducing suicide risk in older adults. In this article we describe a 12-session CBT protocol for reducing depression, suicide ideation, and other risk factors of late-life suicide. The following aspects of the treatment are described: assessing suicide risk, conceptualizing the problem through a cognitive behavioral framework, developing a safety plan, increasing hope and reasons for living, improving social resources, improving problem-solving skills and efficacy, improving adherence to medical regimen, and relapse prevention. In addition, we review other behavioral and cognitive strategies such as activity scheduling and cognitive restructuring that are commonly associated with CBT interventions for depression. We illustrate the application of these strategies through the use of case examples.