In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “what is suicide” and give you some insight into why a person may be feeling suicidal and plans to help curb these thoughts.
What is Suicide?
An insight into the workings of a suicidal mind and how to prevent it from jumping over the precipice.
Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we respond to it. Life is considered a gift.
Something that has to be cherished, lived and something that requires us to prove to ourselves and others why we are here in the first place. That is life.
L – longing
I – idealistic
F – fulfillment
E – everyday
This is what we expect out of it, but this isn’t what we actually get out of it.
Every individual is born unique, that is the reason they are called ‘individuals. Each with an exclusive package that sets them apart from each other.
Life as we know it famously, is not fair. To many it seems a piece of cake, a walk-in the park and people call themselves happy go lucky, but for many it becomes a cell they are imprisoned in.
To break out of this very ‘prison of life’ they attempt or commit suicide.
Suicide is taking of one’s life, killing oneself because they were unable to take the pressure imposed on them or suffered from depression.
Whatever the cause, suicide is one of the leading cause of deaths in the United States.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of approximately 47,000 Americans each year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide.
This number is magnanimous for such a sad act and a sadder state of mind. This figure helps us to wonder what is it that drives people to take their lives?
The answer lies in the suffering the person feels, the suffering being so unbearable that there is nothing else he could do, but end his life to end the suffering.
Suicide is thus also called a ‘desperate attempt’ to end the suffering of the person.
Facts of Suicide
We need to break away the facts from the myths of suicide. It is very much real and afflicting a huge number of people.
Fact 1; People who are suicidal are either depressed or suffer from a grief so intense that it despairs their daily life.
These people do not suffer from insanity or any other mental illness alone.
Fact 2; people who commit suicide give a warning or a clue of some sort. They may have spoken about dying or ways to die.
They may even have spoken about what would happen after their death.
Fact 3; people who want to commit suicide are very serious about their actions, they will not wait for the right moment, but will end their life when the pain of their suffering becomes unbearable for them.
Fact 4; not all people who are depressed will have suicidal ideation.
Fact 5; women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men.
Fact 6; one person dies every 11 minutes in the US on an average, due to suicide.
Fact 7; 79% of global suicides occur in low and middle socio-economic households.
Causes of Suicide
Suicide is caused due to factors that are beyond the control of the afflicted. For them a simple trigger is enough to initiate the attempt and execute it fully.
1) Major psychiatric illness – in particular, mood disorders
(e.g., depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia)
The following illnesses contribute to a great extent to suicide. Depression leads the list of the causes.
Depression is one of the leading causes of suicides. Depression is a state of the mind that is brought upon by extreme anxiety due to an illness of self or loved one/s.
The most common state of mind of person who commits suicide is a depressive state of mind.
Depression can be caused due to an environmental factor, like death of a loved one, financial loss or loss of a loved one, if being jilted.
People who commit suicide suffer from a feeling of hopelessness. This feeling of hopelessness propels the person to indulge in this grave act.
During this phase of the mental state, the person feels that there is no use of going on with his life as there is no hope.
Hope is ‘being able to see light despite the darkness’, but the person who is depressed and has suicidal ideation just cannot ‘see that light’, cannot fathom that there is an end to the darkness.
He is engulfed in it, suffocated by it. His thoughts of negativity and continuous abysmal existence, leads him to take that gift we call life.
People who are suicidal suffer from another feeling, that is the feeling of helplessness.
They have a strong belief that nothing can be done to get them out of the sorry condition they are in. they cannot see any help from anyone around them.
‘They can’t pretend that they are ok anymore. They can’t fake it anymore. They are hopeless. They are helpless.
And they are afraid that they will never get better anymore.’ This is the belief of a person who is suicidal. These are the thoughts that
It is also physiologically caused by depletion of the hormones in the brain. These hormones include Dopamine, Serotonin.
Serotonin is also called the ‘feel good’ hormone and if the levels are low then this affects the mood immensely.
The person will not feel elation or satisfaction in anything that he does. It is this very chemical that motivates us to task completion.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that creates the reward or reinforcement in an individual and is responsible for the completion of tasks and activities.
Depression is a serious mental illness that affects how a person feels, thinks and acts.
It brings upon a state of sadness, a low-key mood and a loss of interest in activities that once were joyful for the person.
Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental disorder that brings about a state of mania and depression.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that brings about the symptoms of delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic misperceptions, that are out of touch from reality), problem in thinking, concentration and lack of motivation.
2) Substance abuse (primarily alcohol abuse)
Alcoholics have a higher tendency to commit suicide. Substance abused people and alcoholics are the ones at the most risk of suicide.
3) Family history of suicide
People who have a family history of suicide, have a higher probability of committing suicide.
4) long term difficulties with relationships with friends and family
This is due to estrangement of family and friends or the person is in a state of helplessness, feeling that there is no one who can alter his sad state of mind and a life without hope.
5) losing hope or the will to live
Due to severe depression and an extremely sad state of mind, the person will suffer form an utter bleakness that nothing seems to go the way it should and this leads him to think of ending his life.
There seems to be no hope and where there is no hope it seems to them that life is not worth living.
People who suffer from toxic shame are also the ones who suicide.
6) significant losses in a person’s life, such as the death of a loved one, loss of an important relationship, loss of employment or self-esteem
Losing a loved one is always painful and the people who are suffering from a predisposition of a mental illness will face depression and subsequently from suicidal ideation,
7) unbearable emotional or physical pain
If a person is suffering from a disease, like HIV or cancer and has lost all hope or the will to live due to the pain and the constant anxious body state, he will most likely end his life to end this state.
The rate of suicide is also high in the elderly. They are in a state of loneliness away from their children.
Lack of company and the aches and pains that come with age, all serve as causal factors for the person to commit suicide.
Symptoms of a suicidal person
The person who has suicidal ideation will surely display symptoms that should be very carefully observed.
These symptoms can also be stated as the warming signs of suicide. They should be observed and immediate intervention should be given.
Ø Lack of interest in activities
Ø Social withdrawal – from family and friends
Ø Having mood swings – anger outbursts, irritability, over sensitive to others’ emotions
Ø Feeling hopeless
Ø Feeling helpless
Ø Giving away of personal possessions
Ø Writing goodbye notes or farewell letters
Ø Feelings of worthlessness
Ø Fear of loss of control over self and situations
Ø Extreme sadness
Ø Feeling tired
Ø Feeling anxious
Ø Declining academic performance
Ø Declining work performance
Ø Altered eating habits
Ø Personal neglection with a disheveled appearance
Ø Feelings of lethargy
Risk Factors of Suicide
The persons who are most at risk for suicide are
- Suffering from a mental disorder
- Suffering from extreme grief
- Suffering from a trauma
- Are harassed or bullied and cannot get out of the pain
- Have experienced discrimination
- Belong to low socio-economic groups
- Indigenous people
- People who have been imprisoned
- People who have already attempted a suicide in the past
Prevention is better than cure
Suicides can be prevented if timely intervention is given.
First of all, education about suicide and its prevention should be given in schools and colleges. Discouraging losing hope and how to seek help if things seem to go wrong should be a norm.
Children should be encouraged to ask for help and not bottle up those things inside them, that are bothersome.
Specialized health workers should be given training to deal with such cases also.
Seminars and awareness workshops for parents and guardians should be conducted on a regular basis.
This will help parents detect early signs in their children and seek help or get intervention immediately.
Community Support Groups or Peer Mentoring Programs to be initiated that replicates group therapy, but actually is a support system for the afflicted.
A place where he/she can come together with peers of the same age. These peers can act as mentors and are ‘high on life’.
They can be elemental in lifting the person out of the doldrums of suicidal ideation at the same time providing positive motivational support and guidance.
Alternatives can be probed and the afflicted be guided.
Strict drugs and alcohol policies should be adhered.
School and college counsellors should be separate from emotional counsellors.
They should work alongside teachers and parents to closely monitor and help the person who has been identified as a high risk for suicide case.
Stigma revolving around suicides should be broken so that people who are suffering should openly discuss their condition.
Sit down and talk to your loved one about suicidal ideation. It is not true that talking about suicide will bring it about.
Once we talk the afflicted person will sense a support and their suicidal ideation transforms into a positive approach
World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes suicide as a public health priority. The first WHO World Suicide Report “Preventing suicide: a global imperative” was published in 2014.
It aims to boost the awareness of suicide and attempted suicide. Its focus is to make suicide prevention a significantly top priority on the global public health agenda.
Encouraging and supporting countries to develop and strengthen comprehensive suicide prevention programs.
In addition, the suicide mortality rate is an indicator of target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and well-being.
Creating a Suicide Safety Plan
The safety plan is a contingency plan and is made with the help of a trusted person.
This person can be the parent, sibling friend or a therapist. These are a written set of instructions that are used in case the person has suicidal ideation.
I – acquaint yourself with the types of situations that might instigate the suicidal ideation like, images, thoughts, feelings, and also those behaviors that would come before suicidal urges. These are to be listed as the warning signs.
II – Create a list of comforting activities that you can refer to at the time of the ideation. This may include meditation.
III – Create a list of activities that can be soothing to you when you’re upset.
Let us conclude on a note that suicide is a sad state that berefts the person of all peace of mind and finally his life.
Life that he takes himself. A life that would have given him so much more, had he given himself a chance to experience all that it held true.
Therefore, it is important that we provide support, a listening ear, understanding to the person who may display signs of committing a suicide.
When life pulls you down, get up and look it into the eyes and start living again. Support system provided will be the force lifting you up.
In this brief guide we have answered the question, ‘what is suicide?’We have given an insight in to why a person may be feeling suicidal and how suicides can be prevented.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is suicidal behavior?
Suicidal behavior refers to the thoughts and/or actions taken to end one’s life.
It includes suicidal ideation as well preparation that one might take up to commit suicide.
Is there a suicidal month?
Suicide can take place anytime of the year or any time of the month, but there are mental illnesses that are cyclical and if suicidal ideation co exists with these then very likely it could occur during the months that the depressive cycle is progressing.
There are researches validating that suicides can peak during the long winter months in countries that have lesser hours of daylight during the winters.
What are the 5 warning signs of someone who is suicidal?
ii)Low self esteem
iii)Ideas of worthlessness
iv)Feelings of hopelessness
v)Feelings of helplessness
How common is suicide?
According to the statistics provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) every year approximately 800,000 people die of suicide. A staggeringly alarming figure!
Can suicide be prevented?
Yes. Suicides can be prevented, by firstly taking the ideation or thoughts of the suicidal person seriously.
Every threat of suicide is not an empty threat, but a cry for help.
Secondly, treating depression by getting to the root cause can treat suicidal thoughts and thus prevent suicide.
Counselors in schools and psychologists at work are now the need of the hour.
Titles to Read
- How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me, Revised Edition: One Person’s Guide to Suicide Prevention by Susan Rose Blauner
- The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Suicide Risk Assessment and Management by Liza H. Gold and Richard L. Frierson
- Save the Teens: Preventing suicide, depression and addiction by Carolyn C. Zahnow Katharine Leslie, et al.
- Preventing Suicide: A Lay Person’S Guide to Preventing Suicide by Susan Norman
- I SEE YOU: Igniting Hope and Preventing Suicide by Cheron K. Griffin