Risk factors for suicide among older persons differ from those among younger persons," observes THE JOURNAL of THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION. Those risk factors include a higher prevalence of alcohol abuse and depression, greater use of highly lethal methods, and social isolation. In addition, older persons....have more physical illness and affective disorders." The book Suicide, by Stephen Flanders, list the following risk factors, any of which deserve attention.


"Researchers report that 50% or more of those who kill themselves have a history of serious depression."


In some studies, even people who did not seem depressed were more likely to be suicidal if they had no hope for the future.


"It is  estimated that between 7% and 21% of alcoholics kill themselves, compared to less than 1% of the general population."


"Studies reveal that members of a family touched by suicide are at greater risk for committing suicide themselves."


Fear over the physical decline, leading to possible institutionalization, can be enough to precipitate a suicidal response among some older people."


The loss may be tangible, such as a mate, friend, a job, or a person's health. It can also be something intangible. Examples include loss of self-worth, status, or loss of a sense of security." In addition to these risk factors, Flanders' book lists the following warning signs that should NEVER be taken lightly: PREVIOUS SUICIDE ATTEMPT: "This is the single best indicator of possible suicide." TALK OF SUICIDE: "Statements such as 'They won't have to worry about me much longer' or 'They'd be better off without me' are examples of obvious threats of an impending suicide." FINAL ARRANGEMENTS: "Such behavior includes making a will, giving away prized possessions, and making arrangements for pets." PERSONALITY OR BEHAVIOUR CHANGE: When this is "accompanied by expressions of worthlessness or hopelessness," it can be "a sign of depression severe enough to lead to self-destructive behavior."


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