OBJECTIVE: The authors' goal was to determine the impact on suicidal
behavior of Tele-Help/Tele-Check, a telephone service designed to provide
elderly people with home assistance. Tele-Help is an alarm system that the
client can activate to call for help; in Tele-Check the client is contacted
about twice a week for assessment of needs and for emotional support.
METHOD: The authors determined the number of suicides among 12,135 elderly
subjects who were connected to the Tele- Help/Tele-Check service in the
Veneto region of Italy from Jan. 1, 1988, to Dec. 31, 1991, and compared it
with the suicide rate for the general population in the Veneto region.
RESULTS: Only one death by suicide was found in the elderly subjects
connected to Tele-Help/Tele- Check, compared with the expected number of
7.44 for the general population (standardized mortality ratio = 13.44%).
CONCLUSIONS: Since many of the traditional risk factors for suicide were
concentrated in the elderly subjects studied, the Tele-Help/Tele-Check
service appears to provide support of great interest for the prevention of
suicide in the elderly.