The key Facts from World Health Organization, 17 June 2021 article (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide) are:
• More than 700 000 people die due to suicide every year.
• For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide. A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
• Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds.
• 77% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
• Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.
After reading the article and a few more about the reactions from some people after they heard about cases of suicide, I thought compiling this together would somehow assist some and maybe the sensitization of suicide causes could help reduce the statistics of suicidal cases.
To begin with, suicide is the act of taking one’s own life on purpose whereas Suicidal behavior is any action that could cause a person to die, such as taking a drug overdose or crashing a car on purpose.
Some of the reasons people commit suicide are as follows:
Most decisions on suicide are impulsive and not extensively planned and the huge factor to such decisions is severe depression. This can cause one to feel great emotional pain and loss of hope, thus blinding them to see any another way to relieve the pain other than ending their own life. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, depression is present in about half of all suicides.
b. Traumatic Stress
People who have had traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse, or war trauma, are at a greater risk for suicide. They are at suicidal risk not only immediately after experiencing these but years after. Being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) or multiple incidents of trauma raises the risk even further, partly because depression is common after trauma and among those with PTSD, causing feelings of helplessness/hopelessness that can lead to suicide.
c. Substance Use and Impulsivity
Drugs and alcohol can also act as a fuel in suicides as someone feeling suicidal is made more impulsive and highly likely to act upon their urges when drunk than when sober. Substance and alcohol use can also lead to other reasons people commit suicide, such as the loss of jobs and relationships. The rates of substance use and alcohol use disorder are also higher among people with depression and other psychological disorders. Put these together and the risks increase.
d. Loss or Fear of Loss
A person may decide to take their own life when facing a loss or the fear of a loss. These situations can include:
• Academic failure
• Being arrested or imprisoned
• Bullying, shaming, or humiliation, including cyberbullying
• Financial problems
• End of a close friendship or romantic relationship
• Job loss
• Loss of friends or family acceptance due to revealing your sexual orientation
• Loss of social status
Short term or long term feeling of hopelessness has been noted as a contributing factor to the decision to commit suicide. A person may face a social or physical challenge and may see no way the situation can improve and suicide becomes the easier option. When people feel they have lost all hope and don’t feel able to change that, it can overshadow all of the good things in their life, making suicide seem like a viable option. While it seem obvious to an outsider that things will get better, people with depression may not be able to see this due to the pessimism and despair that go along with this illness.
f. Chronic Pain and Illness
Cases where a person has chronic pain or illness with no hope of a cure or reprieve from suffering, suicide may seem like a way to regain dignity and control of their life. Health conditions associated with a higher risk of suicide (According to a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine) are Asthma, Back pain, Brain injury, Cancer, Congestive heart failure, Diabetes, Epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Heart disease, High blood pressure, Migraine, Parkinson’s disease etc. Chronic pain can cause anxiety and depression, which increases one’s risk of suicide. Research shows that people with chronic pain are four times more likely to have depression or anxiety than those who are pain-free.
g. Other causes
The other causes for suicidal decisions are from some of the already mentioned scenarios. Due to prolonged pain or illness one may feel like a burden to others for example it may become harder and harder to ask for another ride to the doctor or assistance with house chores or paying hospital/utility bills. In such cases, one would feel the world is better off without them due to the overwhelming emotional burden they carry which is also a warning sign of suicide.
Social isolation also plays a part in suicidal decisions. When one feels isolated, could be because they lost friends or a spouse, they are undergoing a separation or divorce, physical or mental illness, social anxiety, retirement, or due to a move to a new location or internal factors such as low self-esteem; this can lead to loneliness and other risk factors of suicide such as depression and alcohol or drug misuse.
A cry for help plays another reason to the decision to suicide. Sometimes people attempt suicide not so much because they really want to die, but because they simply don’t know how to get help, who to talk to etc. Suicide attempts are not a cry for attention but a cry for help and it becomes a way to demonstrate to the world just how much they are hurting. Unfortunately, these cries for help may sometimes prove to be fatal if the person misjudges the lethality of their chosen method. People who make a failed attempt are also at a much higher risk of trying again, and their second attempts are much more likely to be lethal.
Other suicides are accidental. Examples of such are the choking game (also known as “pass-out challenge,” “flat liner,” and “space monkey”) where teens strangle themselves to achieve a high-like sensation and autoerotic asphyxiation are examples of suffocation suicides. Other accidental suicides include Russian roulette game, unintentional overdoses and firearm and poisoning suicides.
Warning signs of suicide
Inasmuch as suicide can be a surprise to loved ones, suicidal people do send signals/flares beforehand that they need help. It is sad that the loved ones tend to realize these signs after the victim have succeeded in taking their life. There is a need to take it very seriously for instances when one talks about death or mentions suicide. Prolonged, pervasive sadness is another signal that a person may be contemplating ending their life. We need to be watchful of changes in behaviour for example if a normally outgoing person opts out of all activities or a studious person skips class. There is also a need to be mindful if someone seems to be making plans such as settling their affairs, creating will, writing goodbye letters, giving away their possessions, procuring means of suicide such as obtaining a gun, etc these are red flags.
What you can do to help
It is of paramount importance not to brush it off when one exhibits such signs. Express your concerns and don’t fear “planting the suicidal seed” in the persons because that won’t happen. There is a great need to be thoughtful and considerate when it comes to the language you use while talking to a friend in distress. Don’t shy away from checking in cause to find out how someone is feeling you do not need a brain sophisticated brain scan or psychologically validated measure but to simply ask e.g “I’m concerned about what you just said” or “I’m feeling worried about you because of XYZ.” Then, look for practical ways to lend a hand. “If someone is so depressed that they’re thinking of taking their life, even the most minor tasks becomes daunting.” Something as simple as offering to find a doctor, make an appointment, and drive the person there can be hugely helpful. In general with friends and family, reinforce that it’s OK to struggle. That will create an environment where people feel comfortable reaching out for help and support and sharing what’s on their minds, even if it’s sad, scary, or unpleasant. Talking about mental health and suicide is important. The brain is complex, and we don’t fully understand it but that’s no reason to limit discussion, he says. “The more communication, the better,” suggested one Doctor Govenese.
“Soak up the views. Take in the bad weather and the good weather. You are not the storm.”Matt Haig