Suicide is the intentional taking of your life. It has been described as a long-term solution to a short-term problem. Suicide can be an impulsive decision or carefully planned. In most cases, suicide occurs from depression. It is during those dark moments of depression when no other solution is seen as viable, that you may choose to end your life. If and when the depression is successfully treated, suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide) decreases or goes away altogether.
Most people think of suicide as the direct attempt on your own life, such as by taking an intentional overdose of pills or shooting yourself. However, there are many suicidal behaviors or actions that may not directly involve an attempt on your life, but can still result in death. Suicidal behaviors can include: reckless driving, drug abuse and/or risk-taking behaviors. With suicidal behaviors, the intention may not be to actually end your life.
How Many People Commit Suicide?
In 2007, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death; nearly 35,000 people died as the result of suicide. The World Health Organization reports that, worldwide, approximately 1,000,000 commit suicide annually; rates have increased by 60% since 1966.
For decades, people who ended their own lives tended to be elderly men. However, the rate of suicide for young people has increased to the point that they are now considered to be the group at the highest risk in both developed and third world countries. It is believed that as many as 3,000 young people from ages 15 to 19 kill themselves each year, which does not include the 10,000 American college students who attempt suicide annually.
Why Do People Commit Suicide?
One of the characteristics of major depression is suicidal thoughts or attempts. Disorders that include self-destructive behaviors such as: schizophrenia and bipolar disorder increase the risk of suicide. If substance abuse, frequently associated with depression, is included in the mix, the chances of suicide are greatly increased.
People who commit suicide are not always suffering from a mental disorder. Some people who commit suicide are overwhelmed by life situations, guilt, loss, or rejection. For example, elderly people suffering from a painful, irreversible disease may decide to commit suicide to spare themselves and their families unnecessary suffering. Many people who commit suicide believe that they are helping their families or friends by removing themselves from their lives.
What Myths Surround Suicide?
There are scores of myths about suicide, particularly in regards to the signs that a suicide attempt is going to occur. Identifying the facts from the myths about suicide can help people prevent the suicide of someone close them.
- One of the most commonly-believed myths is that a person who talks about committing suicide is very unlikely to do so. Approximately 75% of all suicides occurred after people clearly communicated their intentions before committing suicide.
- Another misconception is that there are no warning signs of suicide, when in fact people seriously considering ending their lives frequently make remarks about their loved ones being better off without them or they give away their prized possessions.
- The symptoms of depression frequently include a lack of energy and interest in life. When these symptoms pass, many people believe that the risk of suicide has also passed. However, people who are planning suicide can often experience a lift in mood and energy, which comes with their decisive plan to end their lives.
- An unsuccessful suicide attempt does not mean that the person was not serious about ending his/her life. The average person often is unable to accurately plan a suicide, such as calculating the lethal dose of medication or the mechanics of hanging.
- One seldom thinks about children committing suicide, but it is the fifth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14.
Suicidal Warning Signs:
In many cases, a person will show some warning signs before they commit suicide such as:
- Giving Away Personal Effects
- Speaking About “Going Away”
- Sudden Behavioral Chances (such as becoming calm or happy after a prolonged period of anxiety or depression)
- Speaking About Death or Self-Harm
How Can I Prevent My Loved One or Friend From Committing Suicide?
People who attempt suicide are, for the most part, suffering from a highly treatable mental disorder such as: depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. Successful treatment of the underlying disorder is crucial to preventing suicide.
Therapy can be very helpful in preventing suicide, particularly if the person is able to see that there are options for alleviating their pain other than suicide. Even if talking merely eases them back from the edge of despair, it may be enough to prevent them from taking their lives.
Where Can I Learn More Information On Suicide?
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) is open 24 hours, seven days a week. The hotline is free and confidential and calls are routed to the nearest local crisis line. The website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org lists local numbers and provides a wealth of information. There are also links to a one-on-one chat line.
Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2001). Abnormal psychology (8th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
National Institute on Mental Health. (n.d.). Suicide. Retrieved from www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Suicide prevention. Retrieved from www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/