Posts Tagged ‘risk factors for elderly suicide’

Just days before he commits suicide, the 88-year-old man of the two previous posts is writing about his “biological life” as a stream on which he rides in a canoe. He goes on to say that downstream are rapids–“biological problems of severe injury, disease, disability, Alzheimer’s”–rushing to a waterfall which marks the end. “When a person’s canoe gets there, everything vanishes–stream, shores, canoe, and passenger. That life is over.”

Two years prior, in 2007, he himself had begun to hear the rapids in the distance, calculating that by mid-2009, he might be near enough to the rapids to consider “quitting while he was ahead.”

“My timing was sound; now I have entered the rapids. ‘Paddles up!’ When the prow of my canoe touches shore, the result will be the same as reaching the waterfall. But, I will have avoided most, and certainly the worst, of the rapids. I provided myself with the real-life equivalent of that virtual paddle in the summer of 1995—a .32 caliber revolver. No one knows of its existence nor will until I paddle ashore.”

On the back of the note, he added a picture of himself waving to the camera and a final remark about his sense of duty: “For those who will receive this but do not know me really well, I should add that I am a widower with no dependents and no debts. Otherwise, I wouldn’t think of doing this now.”

And finally: “No nursing home for me! Adios!”

Shortly after writing those words, he joined the more than 5000 elderly people who die by suicide each year in the United States, the majority of them men. (Jordan and McIntosh, Grief After Suicide, p.66)

According to the American Association of Suicidology, the elderly die for more than one reason, usually. Risk factors include the recent death of a loved one, physical illness, uncontrollable pain or the fear of a prolonged illness, perceived poor health, social isolation and loneliness, and major changes in social roles such as retirement (www.suicidology.org).

What hope might have been offered the gentleman of these posts?

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