Mental health disorders
may cause their victims to attempt suicide. We have commented on the
suicide risk associated with several disorders. However, our
failure to mention suicide risk in connection with a disorder
doesn't mean that it isn't a possibility.
It is impossible to estimate how a person will react to receiving
a diagnosis of mental illness, or how a person will deal with the
symptoms associated with the illness. However, there usually (not
always) are signs that a person is considering suicide.
If you suspect suicidal
ideation (thoughts of suicide), you should ask the person if in
fact they are having those thoughts. Asking about this will not
put the thoughts into his or her head, as many believe. Keeping
silent when you suspect something is the worst thing you can do.
Furthermore, if you ask, you are likely to get a straight answer.
Finally, if you are worried
and don't think that you can determine the level of risk, just take
the person to the emergency room. There, a mental health professional
will assess the danger and determine what steps need to be taken.
Some risk factors to consider
suicide before. People who have already attempted suicide
are likely to attempt it again, especially if the problem that
precipitated the attempt has not been resolved. If the person
engages only in suicide gestures (not real attempts to die but attempts
to get attention), there is still cause for concern. These individuals,
who may not want to die, end up doing so in many cases by mistake.
Never disregard talks of suicide.
about death. People who contemplate suicide usually do so
for some time before deciding to carry it out. During that time
they may become especially interested in death, types of dying,
and others who have committed suicide. Also, if they make statements
such as "everyone would be better off without me," there
is cause for concern.
to say goodbye, gives things away, pays off debts. Sometimes
people who are contemplating suicide will want to settle their
affairs before dying. Don't disregard any behaviors that are
suspicious in this sense. If you see them happening, ask the
person and consider taking them to the emergency room.
plan. When people contemplating suicide have a plan set
up of how they are going to take their lives, the probability
that they will attempt suicide increases significantly.
If the person has a plan and also has the means to carry out
that plan (wants to shoot self, has a gun), again the risk increases
even more. In a situation such as this one, the most appropriate
step is to take the person to the emergency room.
Depression and Schizophrenia
are the mental health conditions most associated with suicide attempts.
Research has shown that for those who are depressed, suicide is
more likely to occur soon after depression begins to lift than when
it is at its worst. What this means is that when the person is so
depressed that he/she can barely function, he/she is less likely
(but not unlikely) to attempt suicide than when he/she is beginning
to feel better. This may seem to be counterintuitive, but it is
true. Unfortunately, once the person begins to feel better, loved
ones begin to relax their guard.
Other risk factors are: being
male (women attempt more than men, but men are successful at higher
percentages than women), not strong religion (religious beliefs
are a great deterrent for suicide), being Native American or Caucasian
(higher suicide rates in these groups), being older (most common
among elderly, but increasing in teen years), unmarried (married
people have lower rates than others), and unemployed (higher rates
among this group).
June of 2000 Dr. Kevin M. Malone at the New York State Psychiatric
Institute reported that giving depressed people reasons to live lowered
the risk that they would attempt suicide. Hence therapy should try to
instill hope in these patients. Another study reported in June showed that
a 10-minute survey, followed by an interview, could identify most
teenagers who were, and would remain, at risk for suicide. Dr. David
Shaffer, who directed the study, believes that detecting and treating the
at-risk teenagers would prevent most suicides in this group. A third study
indicated that, despite the stress of study and tests, college students
were no more likely to commit suicide than age-matched young adults who
were not in college.
For additional information
on the web visit:
(Suicide Awareness Voices of America)
Beacon of Hope help
for families in crisis
Self-Injury: You Are NOT the Only One
To read about one suicide
attempt, click here.