Today, September 10, 2018, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Today is about promoting an understanding about suicide, spreading awareness on how to prevent suicide, and providing support for individuals who have attempted or thought about attempting suicide, and those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
What is Suicide?
Suicide is an individual ending his or her own life through self-directed injury. A suicide attempt is a non-fatal attempt at harming oneself with an intent to die. Suicide is difficult to understand because there is no single cause. It involves many factors. Suicide can occur to anyone, regardless of age, social status, and ethnic background.
Common Misconceptions about Suicide
1. Suicide only occurs in individuals diagnosed with a mental illness.
This is false. Not all individuals who take their life have a mental illness and many individuals living with a mental illness are not affected by suicidal thoughts or behavior.
2. Individuals who threaten suicide are weak and simply seeking attention.
This is false. Individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts are struggling with intolerable emotional pain. For this reason, those considering suicide think ending their life is the only way to stop the pain and suffering. If an individual discloses that they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or planning to harm themselves or take their own life, it should be taken seriously and emergency services should be contacted.
3. Talking about suicide normalizes and encourages it.
This is false. The widespread stigma associated with suicide discourages individuals who are contemplating suicide to talk to someone and seek help. Talking about suicide can prevent an individual from suffering alone and allows them time to rethink their decision and to potentially seek and receive help.
4. Suicides happen without warning.
This is false. Verbal or behavioural warning signs precede most suicides. This is why it is extremely important to be able to identify warning signs to prevent potential suicides and suicide attempts.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Warning signs are indicators that an individual is considering or planning a suicide attempt. Suicide warning signs may also indicate that an individual is in danger and needs urgent help.
Warning signs include:
- Planning or preparing for death (such as giving away stuff or writing a suicide note)
- Threatening to harm oneself
- Wanting to die or kill oneself
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol
- Increased reckless behaviour
Some warning signs that are less easy to identify include feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, feeling like a burden, feelings of unbearable pain, feeling trapped, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing from family and friends, feeling alone or isolated, and extreme mood swings.
Risk Factors of Suicide
Risk factors are characteristics that may increase an individual’s chance of considering, attempting and/or committing suicide. However, risk factors do not predict or cause suicide.
Risk factors include:
- Having a mental illness, specifically mood disorders like schizophrenia or depression
- Experiencing a major loss, such as the loss of a loved one, a relationship or a job
- Major physical or chronic illnesses, such as cancer
- History of trauma or abuse
- Family history of suicide
- Serious financial or legal issues
There are numerous ways to help individuals with suicidal thoughts and prevent them from engaging in further suicidal behaviour. This includes effective treatment for mental, physical, and substance use illnesses and disorders, strong family support, easy access to seek help, and overall mental health promotion. Individuals are encouraged to speak up and get the help they need.
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Click here for a list of suicide prevention hotlines. If your country is not listed, please call emergency services immediately.
Learn more about the latest research on suicide below:
1. Why is the risk of suicide higher in physicians and veterinarians?
In 2015, the tenth leading cause of death in the United States of America was suicide. Physicians and veterinarians are at higher risk of suicide compared to the general population. Researchers examined the risk factors for why the suicide risk is increasing in physicians and veterinarians. Find out the risk factors of physicians and veterinarians here.
2. Insomnia may be an independent predictor of suicide attempts
Approximately 800,000 people in the world die annually by suicide according to The World Health Organization (WHO). Insomnia is one of the most prominent sleep disorders in the world. Researchers in Taiwan conducted a study to assess the potential relationship between insomnia and suicide. Find out if insomnia is a risk factor for suicide here.
3. Does age affect outcomes of major depression?
A study in the Netherlands explored whether old age is associated with a higher risk of major depression compared to younger ages. The study looked at clinical, social, and health factors. Read more to find out if older individuals have a harder time with depression.
4. Trends in Suicide Attempts Over the Past 15 Years
The most powerful risk factor for completed suicide is a suicide attempt. Efforts to prevent suicide begin with preventing suicide attempts. Researchers examined surveys over the past 15 years to determine if there is a corresponding increase in suicide attempts. Read more about the findings and the trends in suicide attempts here.
5. Reviewing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for Mental Health
On a global scale, improving mental health is just as important as improving physical health. A review explored the relationship between mental disorders and social factors. Social factors play a huge role in determining the development of mental disorders. Treatment is only a partial solution if the society is not improving. Read more about the social factors affecting mental health here.
Want to know more? Read about the latest research on suicide here.
Written by Alana Punit
- Bernshtein, Maor. “Reviewing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for Mental Health”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/un-sustainable-development-goals-mental-health/ Accessed 6 Sept 2018.
- Borsellino, Lisa. “Trends in Suicide Attempts Over the Past 15 Years” Medical News Bulletin, 2018,” https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/trends-suicide-attempts/ Accessed 6 Sept 2018.
- Fernandez, Sonia. “Does age affect outcomes of major depression?”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/age-outcomes-major-depression/ Accessed 6 Sept 2018.
- Fernandez, Sonia. “Insomnia may be an independent predictor of suicide attempts”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/insomnia-independent-predictor-suicide-attempts/ Accessed 6 Sept 2018.
- Vashi, Neeti. “Why is Suicide Risk Higher in Physicians and Veterinarians?”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/suicide-risk-physicians-veterinarians/ Accessed 6 Sept 2018.
- “Warning Signs Of Suicide”. Suicide Awareness Voices Of Education, 2018, https://save.org/about-suicide/warning-signs-risk-factors-protective-factors/. Accessed 6 Sept 2018.
- “World Suicide Prevention Day”. Canadian Association For Suicide Prevetion, 2018, https://suicideprevention.ca/World-Suicide-Prevention-Day. Accessed 6 Sept 2018.