The Family Relied On Me. And Now They Can’t. - OC87 Recovery Diaries

The Family Relied On Me. And Now They Can’t.


Case Studies: A Conversation about Older Adult Suicide is a new three-part Recovery Diaries series that presents the difficult conversation around the topic of suicide among older adults. Tom’s story, highlighted in this video, sparks a dialogue about compounding issues of aging and health concerns that might cause someone to consider suicide.

Tom is married and was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

In 2022, among the nearly 49,449 suicides that took place in the U.S., 10,433 were attributed to people age 65 and up.

Feelings of hopelessness, a lack of independence and a perceived lack of control over his medical decisions may be factors in Tom’s decision. “We can guess that that Tom feels like a burden,” says therapist Bianca O’Connor McDermott, LPC. “A sense of burdensomeness is always a risk factor in any suicide, but in older adult suicide, specifically in this case, I think we can guess that Tom’s thinking ‘Someone would have to care for me.  Maybe I was the breadwinner. Maybe I was the caretaker. Maybe the family relied on me and now they can’t.’ That thought may be too painful to bear.”

The number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040.

Case Studies: A Conversation about Older Adult Suicide features commentary from mental health professionals to promote awareness about this significant and growing public health issue. Interviewees include Jennifer Haeussler-Barnhart, Montgomery County Office of Senior Services; therapist Bianca O’Connor McDermott, LPC; and Tony Salvatore, MA, from Montgomery County Emergency Service.  Jennifer, Bianca and Tony comprise the Older Adult Suicide Prevention Committee of the Montgomery County Suicide Prevention Task Force.

The series features animated stories of seniors who have attempted suicide (artfully envisioned by motion graphics designer Andrea Bitai) as a springboard for each discussion. The case studies shared here are stories taken from real life and are used by mental health professionals in presentations to promote understanding and awareness about the issue. They present startling truths about older adult suicide, as well as raise important questions that we need to ask ourselves as we wrestle with this difficult topic.

We hope that Case Studies: A Conversation about Older Adult Suicide can serve as an awakening of the issue, an exploration that presents the scope and scale of the problem and a search for solutions. Our goal with this series is to help people all over the world who are struggling to find anything on this topic to gain access to hopeful, helpful messaging around older adult suicide.

According to Bianca O’Connor McDermott, “If there are two things Americans are afraid of, it’s being old and death. Those are two things that we don’t talk about in any context. I mean, you put them both in one conversation that is a conversation we are not going to have.” We invite you to join this important conversation.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline outlines five action steps that you can take if you know an older adult who is thinking about suicide.

If you or someone you know may be in crisis or considering suicide, please call, text, or chat the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | SITE ORIGINATOR: Bud Clayman

Glenn is an award-winning director who loves to create compelling documentary story experiences of all lengths for screens of all sizes. He is an avid reader, studied literature in college, and his passion for stories with strong characters and interesting narratives stems from those years. His career as a visual storyteller began at WHYY (the public television station in Philadelphia) where he worked for 15 years before becoming an independent filmmaker. In addition to his PBS documentaries about arts and culture, he has directed films about justice and human rights, and now, mental health. He was emboldened to undertake his current documentary project, Hollywood Beauty Salon, a colorful feature-length documentary about surviving mental illness and finding the courage for recovery, after his transformative experience directing OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, along with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston.