Almost one in two people who commit suicide tell others of their intentions before killing themselves, a new study has found. Paul Yip Siu-fai, director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong, and his team studied 1,264 suicides that took place in 2003. They found 45 per cent of those who committed suicide had mentioned to others that they wanted to end their lives. Of these, 70 per cent killed themselves within a week while 20 per cent died on the same day. Dr Yip said most cases could have been prevented if people close to the victims had paid more attention. Of 95 victims aged below 25, one-quarter had told their parents of their suicidal thoughts and 16.9 per cent had told friends. Of 350 elderly victims aged 60 and older, 54 per cent had mentioned to others, including their own children, that they wanted to die. 'We would like to appeal to family members and friends to be more sensitive and spend more time listening to their loved ones,' Dr Yip said. 'We find that many suicide cases could have been prevented because nearly half of the victims have expressed their plan to other people before they killed themselves.' The centre director said that it was important to help the public identify the risk factors of suicide, improve people's coping skills, encourage them to express care and concern for troubled family and friends, and also encourage those with emotional problems to seek help. Dr Yip said 'a basket of problems' is usually behind each suicide, and in 2003 these mainly involved financial difficulties. Relationship problems were a leading cause of suicide among young people, while illness was a major factor for the elderly. 'Many parents think their children are reluctant to speak to them, but the figures show that it is not true. Instead, parents should be more patient and spend more time listening to their children,' he said. The number of suicides has held steady since the economy began to recover last year, he said.