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Suicide is when a person chooses to kill themselves. When someone kills themselves, people say that they have "committed suicide" or "completed suicide." When a person thinks about killing themselves, the person is described as suicidal.
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The Suicide by Édouard Manet 1877–1881
There are many reasons why a person might think about committing suicide. Most people who are suicidal have some type of mental condition or illness. They may have a chronic condition, which means it has been going on for a long time. But it may be an acute condition – which means the first symptoms of mental illness happened rather quickly.
Depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts, has many possible causes. For example, it may also be caused by stress, and difficult events in a person's life, like losing a job or getting sick.
Suicide is one of the top three causes of death for young people aged 15–35 years-old. It is the second most common and the second leading cause of death for college students. Every 3 seconds, a person somewhere in the world tries to kill themselves. Every 40 seconds, some commits suicide. For every suicide, at least six other people are seriously affected.(WHO 2000)
Although depression is the main factor in suicide, it is also treatable and suicide is often preventable.
There are many risk factors for suicide. However, it is important to remember that risk factors are not the same as causes. Risk factors do not cause suicide or suicidal thoughts. They only make it more likely that some people with those risk factors may become suicidal. If a person has a risk factor, that does not mean they are going to become suicidal.
Most people who commit suicide have a mental disorder. Different studies found different rates, between 85%-95%.[source?] Depressive disorders account for about 80 percent of these numbers; schizophrenia, ten percent; and dementia and delirium about five percent.[source?]
- Hopelessness: Feeling like there is no chance that things will get better. Hopelessness is very common in people who commit suicide.
- Perceived burdensomeness: When a person feels like they are a burden to others (like they just cause problems for other people). Suicidal people often feel hopeless at the same time.
- Loneliness: Feeling alone. Sometimes people actually are alone; sometimes they just feel lonely. People are more likely to feel suicidal if:
- They do not have people to support them, such as family and friends
- They feel like they do not belong or fit in with other people
- They live alone
Substance abuse is the second most common reason for suicide and feeling suicidal. Only two serious mental illnesses - depression and bipolar disorder - cause more harm. A person is at greater risk for suicide whether they have been using drugs for a long time or just a short time. When a drug abuser is also sufffering from great sadness or grief, suicide is even more common.
More than half of suicides are at least partly due to alcohol or drug use.[source?] About one-fourth of suicides are committed by those sick with drug addiction or alcoholism.[source?] In teenagers and youth, the percent is even higher.
Problem gamblers have more suicidal ideation and make more suicide attempts compared to the general population. (Problem gambling is gambling that causes major problems in a person's life.)
If a person becomes a problem gambler earlier in life, they have a higher risk of suicide for the rest of their life. Gambling-related suicide attempts are usually made by older people with gambling problems. Substance use and mental disorders[source?] increase the risk of suicide even more in people with problem gambling.
There is a link between suicidality and medical conditions, including chronic pain, mild brain injury, (MBI) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). People with these conditions had a higher rate of suicide that was not caused by depression or alcohol abuse. People with more than one medical condition had an even higher risk of suicide.
Problems with sleeping, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, may be risk factors for depression and suicide. In some people, the sleep problem itself, not depression, may be what increases their risk for depression.
People being treated for mood disorders should be checked by a doctor. This should include a physical examination and blood tests. This can make sure the person's mood disorder is not caused by a medical problem. Many medical conditions can cause problems with mood and thinking. Seeing a doctor will also help make sure that it is safe to prescribe medications for the person's mood disorder.
- Serotonin is an important brain neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger). Some studies have found that people who tried to kill themselves had low levels of serotonin in their brains. People who completed suicide had the lowest levels. Low serotonin levels are a risk factor for suicide, even if a person has never had depression.
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): This is a protein that helps nerves grow. Problems with how BDNF works may help cause several mood disorders linked with suicidal behavior, including major depressive disorder. Studies of suicide victims have shown very low levels of BDNF in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, even in people who had no mental illness.
Even if they have the same risk factors, some people are at a higher risk for suicide than others. This is partly because of genetic inheritance. Genetics causes about 30–50% of the difference in suicide risk among different people. For example, a person whose parent committed suicide is much more likely to try to kill themselves. Epigenetics may also affect suicide risk.
How the media shows news stories of suicide may have a negative effect and trigger the possibility of copycat suicides (this is called the Werther effect). This risk is greater in teenagers and young adults.
A person is also more likely to complete suicide if:
- They have an item they can use to kill themselves
- Someone in their family has committed suicide
- They have had a head injury
- They do not have a job
- They are poor or homeless
- They have to deal with discrimination
- They were physically or sexually abused as a child
- They spent time in foster care
- They are under stress from something, for example a school assignment or work.
Protective factors make it less likely that a person will commit suicide. They help protect a person from the risk of suicide. They can also help protect a suicidal person from the effects of suicidal thinking.
Protective factors can be internal, such as a person's personal strengths and beliefs. For example:
- Having skills like good ways of dealing with stress and solving problems
- Having religious or cultural beliefs that say life is important
- Having reasons for living
- Having strong connections with family and friends, who are supportive
- Not being able to get items which are very deadly if used for a suicide attempt (like a gun)
- Having someone who helps the person get the treatment and help they need
- Being able to easily get good care and treatment for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
Protective factors are as important to identify as risk factors. Just as risk factors can be reduced, protective factors can be increased.
Suicide prevention tries to decrease the number of suicides by using protective measures. Some prevention strategies make it harder for people to get the most common things used to commit suicide. This includes taking away guns, poisons, and drugs.
Studies have shown that good treatment of depression, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse can decrease the number of suicides. So does follow-up contact with those who have made a suicide attempt.
In many countries, people who are at high risk of hurting themselves can check themselves into a hospital emergency department. In some countries or states, a doctor, judge, or police officer can force a person to go to the hospital if they seem suicidal, even if the person does not want to go.[source?] The person will be watched closely at the hospital to make sure they do not hurt themselves. A doctor or mental health professional will decide whether the person needs to go to a psychiatric hospital.
"SOS Signs of Suicide" is a suicide prevention program used in secondary schools for students between 13 to 17 years old. The program educations students about suicide, and tests them for suicide risk. Students who have done this program make less suicide attempts than students who have not done the program.
A suicide risk assessment looks at how likely a person is to attempt suicide. A good assessment can help prevent a suicide. It is also the first step in coming up with a treatment plan. Even though suicide risk assessments are very important, they are usually not done. Many mental health care workers have little or no training in how to do a suicide risk assessment.
- Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the world
- About a million people died of suicide every year (this means that 16 out of every 100,000 people in the world died from suicide every year)
- A person completed suicide every 40 seconds
According to 2007 information, suicides happen twice as often as homicides in the United States. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the country, ahead of liver disease and Parkinson's disease.
Suicide rates vary a great deal across the world. Lithuania has the highest suicide rate.
30% of deaths by suicide are by people who are intoxicated.(Source:SAMSHA)
A 2008 report compared 56 countries, using information from the World Health Organization. It found that:
- Hanging was the most common method in most of the countries. 53% of men who committed suicide, and 39% of women, used hanging.
- Worldwide, 30% of people who commit suicide use pesticides. This method was most common in the Pacific area, where over half of people who committed suicide used pesticides. It was least common in Europe, where only 4% used this method.
- In the United States 52% of suicides involve the use of firearms.
- In the United States, asphyxiation and poisoning are also common. About 40% of suicides in the United States were committed using one of these methods.
Other people in the world commit suicide by:
- Blunt force trauma (for example, from jumping off a building)
- Cutting themselves and bleeding to death
- Drowning themselves
- Setting themselves on fire
- Electrocuting themselves
- Starving themselves
Sometimes, suicidal people do something that will make another person kill them. For example, a suicidal person might point a gun at a police officer, so the police officer will shoot the person in self-defense. This is commonly called "suicide by cop."
Views of suicideEdit
The Abrahamic religions (like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) think that life is sacred. They believe that when a person kills themselves, they are murdering what God has made.[source?] For this reason, many followers of Abrahamic religions thinks that when a person commits suicide, they will go to Hell.
The Dharmic and Taoist religions (like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto) believe that someone who commits suicide will be reincarnated in the next life with a less enlightened soul. However, many people of these religions are more likely to commit suicide because they believe that there will be a next life.[source?] They think that by committing suicide, they may have a better chance in the next life.[source?]
Suicide as a weaponEdit
There are several famous examples of suicide attacks in history. The Kamikazes were one example. They were Japanese fighter pilots during World War II, who would try to kill American soldiers by crashing their planes into American ships. By crashing their planes, they would kill themselves as well.
- Live Through This (stories from people who survived being suicidal)
- Landmark Study Finds Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale Predicts Suicide Attempt
- Rating Scale Successfully Predicts Suicide Attempts
Help for suicidal peopleEdit
Learn more about suicide and how to get help for yourself or others
- Learn from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Learn from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
- Help for military veterans
- United States:
- Other countries:
- Crisis Text Line: Text 741741
- The word suicide comes from the Latin words sui caedere, which means "to kill oneself".
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