Now Charles Sturt University researchers are inviting adults aged 60 years and older who live in Australia to participate in a study that is investigating whether risk factors associated with suicide have increased among older adults during the pandemic.
Participants taking part in the study will be asked to complete an online or print survey, which will ask a number of questions about their mental health and their experiences during the pandemic.
The study will examine whether risk factors for suicide, including feelings of being a burden to others, feeling a sense of loneliness and disconnection from others, feeling a higher tolerance to physical pain and death, and suicidal thoughts and behaviours have increased among older Australians.
Research following the 2003 SARS pandemic in Hong Kong showed the social isolation required to minimise rates of infection among older adults was linked to increased rates of suicide.
Lead researcher for the project, Professor Suzanne McLaren in the Charles Sturt School of Psychology, said participants will be helping health professionals to conduct research into how times of crisis affect the mental health of older Australians.
"Little is known about the factors that either increase risk or protect older Australians from suicide during times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic," Professor McLaren said.
"By participating in this study you will assist health professionals who are working to improve the mental health of older Australians and to enhance suicide prevention efforts, especially during a health crisis that requires older adults to self-isolate.
"It is important to see if there is an impact on the mental health of older adults in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Little is known about the factors that either increase risk or protect older Australians from suicide during times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Print copies of the survey can be obtained by contacting Professor McLaren via telephone on 02-6582-9459.
The study will be the first of its kind to investigate the unique values of older adults in order to better develop suicide prevention efforts.
The study received $27,000 in funding from Charles Sturt's $200,000 COVID-19 research grants pool.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline Australia on 13-11-14 or Beyond Blue on 1300-224-636.