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Suicide Life Threat Behav. 1992 Spring;22(1):62-79.

Suicide notes of the older adult.


Although not true in all countries, older adults are the developmental age group at highest risk for death by suicide in the United States. Our knowledge of suicide in the elderly is, however, limited. The psychological characteristics for suicide cannot be attributed primarily or even solely to being old. One avenue to understanding this complicated act in the elderly is suicide notes. Despite their limitations, suicide notes contain special revelations of the human mind and there is much one can learn from them about suicide in the older adult. This paper outlines the sparse literature on the topic of suicide notes of the older adult and then presents the author's own life-span research related to the elderly. The research indicated that long-term instability was critical in understanding suicide in the older adult. However, indirect expressions (e.g., ambivalence, unconscious implications) were much less frequently observed in the notes of the elderly than other adults. The research also found that older males often wrote about painful problems in their interpersonal relations in their final letters and this pain was significant in making their final decision. Future research, specifically regarding a protocol analysis based on a review of the research on suicide in the elderly, will be discussed.

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