Addressing suicide in older adults: a Q & A with Suicide Prevention Director Cindy Richard

Addressing suicide in older adults: a Q & A with Suicide Prevention Director Cindy Richard
Cindy Richard

Depression is a medical condition, it’s not a normal part of growing older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and yet older adults are at increased risk for experiencing depression.

Depression and suicide in older adults will be the topic of the fourth and final installment in a series of free presentations on aging being hosted by the McDaniel College Center for the Study of Aging. The center developed as a resource for professionals who work with older adults; caregivers, such as family and spouses; and older adults themselves, according to director Diane Martin. The Focus on Aging series has featured one presentation a month, September through December, to help answer people’s questions and prepare them for working with, caring for or just plain being older, she said.


December’s theme will be Matters of the Soul and the Dec. 5 presentation will feature Cindy Richard, director of Suicide Prevention of York, Pennsylvania.

“The topics of depression and suicide awareness were selected for this final presentation because, as we come into the holiday season, most of us will be spending more time with our older family members and friends,” Martin said. “The intent is to bring awareness to very real concerns that are often missed because people believe that depression is a normal part of aging; it is not.”

The Times recently caught up with Richard to learn more about depression, suicide and her upcoming talk.

Q: Why did you want to address this particular topic and event?

A: Suicide is rising in all ages now in our country but between the ages of 40 and 60 seems to be the most deadly ages. In south central Pennsylvania, we are seeing a rise in older adult suicides.

Q: Can you tell us about your background in this work?

A: The past 10 years I have been working in the field of suicide. Outside of my [Bachelor’s of Social Work] and Community Counseling degrees, I am a certified suicide assessment interventionist and online counselor. My practice is completely working with people who have suicidal thoughts, lost a loved one to suicide, or self harm. I run three survivor support groups in York, Pennsylvania. [I am] founder and executive director of Suicide Prevention of York. Within that nonprofit I provide education and prevention throughout York County in many ways. [I am also a] certified [Question Persuade Refer] and [Mental Health First Aid] trainer.

Q: Depression and suicide do seem to come up as topics of conversation in the winter — perhaps it’s the dark. But people also seem to accept that depression is a part of growing older, to expect it in seniors even as they may see it as problematic in the young. Is that a harmful perception?

A: Yes to all of that! People need to listen to what the older adults in their life are saying. Growing old and depression do not have to go together. It may be more difficult to do some of the things you have done earlier in life but life is still worth living! Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about possible depression.

Q: What other myths about depression or suicide, especially around the holidays, do you think are important to address?

A: This time of year is not nationally a popular time for suicides. I believe it's because it's a family time of the year. But if you have lost someone to suicide it can be a very difficult time. Families tend to make new traditions and to remember their loved one in new ways. It's very individualized.

Q: What are some basic things people can do for themselves, or their older loved ones, around the holidays to help buoy their mental health?

A: Find ways to do the things you enjoy and with the people you enjoy being around. Take care of yourself. Try to not drink or eat too much which can expedite the depression. Take time every day for yourself.

Q: Lastly, who should come out to hear your talk and what would you like them, ideally, to come away with?


A: Anyone and everyone should be in attendance. Suicide and depression has no boundaries, it happens to anyone. I would hope that they would leave knowing a little more than they came in [with]. But, most importantly, new ideas that they can talk about and/or try outside of this lecture. Also where to go for help.