Journal Article

Social Work with Older People—Reducing Suicide Risk: A Critical Review of Practice and Prevention

Jill Manthorpe and Steve Iliffe

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 41, issue 1, pages 131-147
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online October 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Social Work with Older People—Reducing Suicide Risk: A Critical Review of Practice and Prevention

Show Summary Details


Although suicide remains an uncommon event among older people in most developed countries, suicide rates do increase with age, mainly accounted for by the higher incidence among older men. A critical interpretive synthesis review that emphasises practitioner perspectives reveals three problems: (i) a scarcity of research that takes a system-wide approach to suicide prevention in later life; (ii) a dearth of evidence about the social work contribution to reducing the risk of suicide in later life; and (iii) a noticeable absence of reference to social work practice in national guidelines for mental health practitioners. This absence of social work services from studies about later life suicide arises partly from concentration on medical, nursing and psychological literature and partly from the use of a hierarchy of evidence that grades research by quality of the science and stands to miss accounts of practice, let alone the experiences of older people. This article suggests that emphasis should be given to guideline development, and to improving sub-optimal care and support. These actions would use social work skills in opening channels of communication between other professionals; communicating with carers; advocating on behalf of individuals with mental health problems; and offering acceptable and accessible support.

Keywords: older people; suicide; social work; social care

Journal Article.  6490 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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