Why Do People Commit Suicide?
No suicide attempt should be dismissed or treated lightly!
A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something is gravely wrong in a person’s life. No matter the race or age of the person; how rich or poor they are, it is true that most people who commit suicide have a mental or emotional disorder.
The most common underlying disorder is depression, 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffer from major depression or bipolar (manicdepressive) disorder.
Warning Signs of Someone Considering Suicide
Any one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean the person is suicidal, but several of these symptoms may signal a need for help:
• Verbal suicide threats such as, “You’d be better off without me.” or “Maybe I won’t be around.”
• Expressions of hopelessness and helplessness.
• Previous suicide attempts.
• Daring or risk-taking behavior.
• Personality changes.
• Giving away prized possessions.
• Lack of interest in future plans.
Remember: Eight out of ten suicidal persons give some sign of their intentions. People who talk about suicide, threaten to commit suicide, or call suicide crisis centers are 30 times more likely than average to kill themselves.
Suicide and Adolescents
Over the past 60 years, the overall rate of suicide among adolescents has tripled making it the third leading cause of death among 15-to-25-year-olds and the second leading cause of death among college students.
It’s important for parents, teachers and counselors to become familiar with the facts about teens and young adults, especially when it comes to depression and suicide. When teens’ moods disrupt their ability to function on a day-to day basis, it may indicate a serious emotional or mental disorder that needs attention - adolescent depression. Sometimes teens feel so depressed that they consider ending their lives.
Studies show that suicide attempts among young people may be based on long standing problems triggered by a specific event. Suicidal adolescents may view a temporary situation as a permanent condition. Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt can lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts.
Recognizing The Warning Signs
Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Pay attention to these warning signs:
• Suicide threats, direct and indirect
• Obsession with death
• Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
• Dramatic change in personality or appearance
• Irrational, bizarre behavior
• Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or reflection
• Changed eating or sleeping patterns
• Severe drop in school performance
• Giving away belongings
What To Do If You Think Someone Is Suicidal
Trust your instincts that the person may be in trouble.
Talk with the person about your concerns. Communication needs to include LISTENING.
Ask direct questions without being judgmental. Determine if the person has a specific plan to carry out the suicide. The more detailed the plan, the greater the risk.
Get professional help, even if the person resists.
Do not leave the person alone.
Do not swear to secrecy.
Do not act shocked or judgmental.
Do not counsel the person yourself.
Helping Suicidal Teens
Offer help and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their feelings. Listen, don’t lecture.
Trust your instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek prompt help. Break a confidence if necessary, in order to save a life.
Pay attention to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly!
Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life - family, friends and teacher.
Helping a Suicidal Person
No single therapeutic approach is suitable for all suicidal persons or suicidal tendencies. The most common ways to treat underlying illnesses associated with suicide are with medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two.
Cognitive (talk therapy) and behavioral (changing behavior) therapies aim at relieving the despair of suicidal patients by showing them other solutions to their problems and new ways to think about themselves and their world. Behavioral methods, such as training in assertiveness, problem-solving, social skills, and muscle relaxation, may reduce depression, anxiety, and social ineptitude.
Cognitive and behavioral homework assignments are planned in collaboration with the patient and explained as experiments that will be educational even if they fail. The therapist emphasizes that the patient is doing most of the work, because it is especially important for a suicidal person not to see the therapist as necessary for their survival. Recent research strongly supports the use of medication to treat the underlying depression associated with suicide. Antidepressant medication acts on chemical pathways of the brain related to mood. There are many very effective antidepressants.
Antidepressant medications are not habit-forming. Although some symptoms such as insomnia, often improve within a week or two, it may take three or four weeks before you feel better; the full benefit of medication may require six to eight weeks of treatment. Sometimes changes need to be made in dosage or medication type before improvements are noticed. It is usually recommended that medications be taken for at least four to nine months after the depressive symptoms have improved. People with chronic depression may need to stay on medication to prevent or lessen further episodes.
Never discontinue medication without discussing the decision with your doctor first.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784- 2433) or www.hopeline.com. If someone you know is about to take their own life, call 911.
For more information on suicide:
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Association of Suicidology
Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (SPAN USA)
Information for this article was taken from the National Mental Health Association web site www.nmha.org