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The Warning Signs of Suicide

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The person who completes suicide dies once. Those left behind die a thousand deaths, trying to relive those terrible moments and understand…why?” ~ Clark

This is honestly a bit of a sad topic for me to write about but information is power so… Let’s begin with some of the statistics.

Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the US (34,592 people annually) 2 ; an average age range for suicide completion is between 45- 54 years old1. There’s a higher rate of completed suicides in men (up to 4x higher), compared to women2; although the stats show that women have a higher rate of suicide attempts2. Rates are lowest in married people, 15- 24-year-olds, and in people older than 65; but higher in divorced, widowed and single people1. In terms of racial demographics, it has been reported that rates are highest in Caucasians and Native Americans compared to Blacks and Hispanics1.

“People who die by suicide don’t want to end their life, they want to end their pain.”

The risk factors for suicide are diverse and range from mental, to physical, environmental and even genetic factors. It’s associated with a few physical and mental conditions such as chronic or terminal illnesses like HIV/AIDS and Cancer, chronic pain from any cause, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders (especially borderline personality disorder), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol, and substance abuse to mention a few. Of all these associations, depression is by farrrrr the most significant. Bereavement, poor family and/or social support, as well as an aggressive or impulsive nature, have also been known to contribute to suicide rates.

Interesting fact alert: Suicide rates are higher in the Spring and Summer seasons! ‘Why’ you ask? A story for another day my friend.

Some of the attributes that could contribute to Suicidality are below. I have put them into four categories for ease of understanding.

Mental health

Mental illnesses especially depression are major contributors to Suicidality. Some of the key players include depression and other mood disorders, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, isolation, substance and/or alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, bulimia nervosa, PTSD, and previous suicide attempt(s).

Physical conditions

Physical illnesses especially those that are chronic and debilitating contribute to Suicidality in the sense that the physical suffering could affect a patient’s mind negatively. Negatively could mean mood deterioration possibly compounded by depression and eventual suicide ideation or attempt. The illnesses will generally include chronic pain of any cause, severe or terminal illness, and even side effects of some medications being taken for illness.

Personal factors

These will largely comprise of certain elements of the individual, including personality traits and genetics. A few of them are impulsive or aggressive personality, financial difficulty, lack of social support, age, the feeling of worthlessness/ hopelessness/ helplessness, family history of suicide (especially approaching the anniversary of the family member’s suicide event), bereavement, relationship difficulties, divorce, and living alone.

Environmental factors

The environment and society also play a role. These factors include season of year (spring and summer have highest rates), increased media reporting of suicide, access to means and purchasing of means (e.g guns, ropes), isolation, economic recession, incarceration, and what I’ll call ‘The contagious effect” which occurs especially in adolescents who know someone that has committed suicide.

“The only difference between a suicide and a martyrdom really is the amount of press coverage.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

In my opinion, mental health isn’t given as much attention as it’s worth (in comparison to physical illnesses) considering it is a disease of the mind, and the mind is pretty much what controls everything else about us. Suicide is preventable and the ideations can be nipped in the bud before it gets a chance to progress to actual intent and attempt. One thing we can all do is arm ourselves with the key facts and be on the lookout for anyone who might be dealing with mental health issues, especially depression. Be sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. If you’re going through something, reach out to someone or people you trust. If you don’t trust anyone, call a mental health helpline. No one ever has to be alone guys, that’s why we have loved ones and even acquaintances.

 

Here are a few helpful websites for more information:

National Office For Suicide Prevention

Centre For Disease Control And Prevention 

National Institute Of Mental Health 

American Association Of Suicidology 

American Foundation For Suicide Prevention 

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier ~Mother Teresa

 

References: (1) National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) Report 2015 (Published by the HSE in 2016. (2)National Institute of mental health. Suicide in the US: statistics and prevention

Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

The author Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Web Design. She is a member of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She also runs a Medical Communications and Publishing business, and is the author of the newly published children's book "The Things Around Me".

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