As the international community marked World Suicide Prevention Day, 2020, Motti Zelikovich, CEO of Yad Tamar, an organization that assists cancer patients in Israel, discussed the increasingly high suicide rate among the elderly population, a phenomenon that has intensified in recent months due to the additional hardships caused by the coronavirus crisis.
"The suicide rates are high in general, and among the elderly, it's much more pronounced," he said during an interview with Arutz Sheva News. "Many older aged individuals feel like they're being locked up in cages during lockdowns, without the ability to leave the house or see family members. They say they're in despair, beneath everyone else in social standing, that they're being locked up now like they were during the Holocaust. It's important to protect yourself from the virus, but many amongst the elderly population who can still manage on their own are finding themselves locked up at home," he notes.
"Mental illness is killing more of them than the virus. Yes, both the old and young need to be protected [from contact with CV-19 carriers] but don't automatically close down the country," he says and adds, "Why should the Rosh Hashannah meal be any different from last Shabbat as long as I'm in a 'green' city?"
Zelikovich discussed the numerous threats facing Israel's elderly as well as training of volunteers around the country to help communities better deal with crisis scenarios. "I call on local authorities to have us train teams for dealing with crisis situations, including suicide prevention, as well as helping the elderly deal with their loneliness and not allowing them to degenerate into horrible mental conditions."
"I ask the state to think twice before imposing a general closure. I am not against precautionary measures and closing certain areas here and there, but wide-ranging measures tend to cause a lot of mental distress for the elderly population, many of whom are Holocaust survivors. That loneliness, combined with inspectors on the streets remind them of difficult images from the past. I am convinced that creative solutions can be found for individuals in need of quarantine or ones facing mental distress."