Suicide, Risk Factors and Causes
Suicide is the act of taking your own life. Most people would associate suicide with depression. Suicide can also occur when extreme circumstances appear to be out of a person’s control. In the media, you see people more commonly commit suicide as a result of depression. A few things to take caution of is knowing the warning signs for yourself and others who experience suicidal ideations and what to do to help prevent carrying out the plan to end life.
Suicidal ideation, or suicidal thoughts, means the thought or planning of committing suicide. Some causes of suicide ideation are depression, anxiety, eating disorders like anorexia, and substance abuse. People who have relatives that have a history of mental illness can have suicidal ideation as well.
Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations:
I. Behavioral symptoms:
- Change in personality – they develop a major change in attitude or behavior
- Excessive sadness or moodiness – they experience mood swings and unexpected rage.
- Decreased social contact and interactions – choosing to be alone or avoiding friends.
- Sudden calmness – suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness indicates a person has made the decision to end life.
- Withdrawing from what was once pleasurable activities
- Increased risky behaviors (unsafe sex or reckless driving)
- Increasing use of drugs and alcohol
- Obtaining items needed for suicidal attempt
- Giving away prized possessions
Getting affairs in order
- Saying goodbye to loved ones
II Physical symptoms:
- Scars from new injuries or open wounds from past suicidal attempts
- Change in appearance – people become less interested in hygiene, grooming and appearance
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Acute or Chronic terminal illness
III. Cognitive symptoms:
- Talking about death and dying
- Using phrases such as “when I’m gone…” or “I’m going to kill myself…”
- Preoccupation with death and dying
- Belief that dying by suicide is the only option or way to end emotional or physical pain
IV Psychosocial symptoms:
- Excessive hopelessness – the experience of feeling a deep sense of hopelessness about the future or life circumstances. All hope is gone.
- Psychosis – is a severe mental disorder in which the person’s thoughts and emotions are so impaired that contact with external reality is lost.
- Self-loathing – moving with unusual slowness, lying around
- Paranoia – is loss of touch with reality, or an intense, irrational, persistent instinct or thought process of fearful feelings and thoughts.
- Intense emotional pain – the feeling of being trapped by emotional pain.
- Severe Anxiety – extreme fear characterized by behavioral disturbances.
- Agitation – extreme emotional disturbance
Common statements, actions and explanations to be aware of:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
Many factors can affect a person to start thinking about suicide. It could be family history, feeling of hopelessness, history of attempted suicide, experience an awful event, substance abuse problem, mental disorder, dangerous environment, or being part of the LGBT+ community and having an unsupportive support system.
Suicide cannot be prevented with surety. The risk can be reduced with timely interventions. People must be knowledgeable of the warning signs, risk factors and signs of depression and other mental disorders in order to intervene in a timely manner. If you suspect someone is at risk, ask them if they are suicidal or having suicidal thoughts, and do they have a plan. Depending on how they respond, you can suggestion options for intervention.
- If someone has suicidal thoughts but no plan, have them to seek therapy or reach out to a friend or family to let them know what is going on for support. Be an active listener to what is being said. Encourage them to call the hotline 1-800-273-8255 for more assistance.
- If someone has suicidal thoughts and a plan, call 911, their therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, medical doctor or the hotline 1-800-273-8255 for help. Life is worth saving. Your actions make the difference in preservation of life and their future.