Level 16 - Colossus
Suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States. There are about 11.2 suicides per 100,000 people. It accounts for approximately the same number of deaths, as AIDS does each year. There are approximately 775,000 attempts in the United States each year. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that there are 8- 25 suicide attempts for each actual completion of suicide. It is estimated that 5 million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves.
The suicide rate varies with different age groups. The elderly have the highest suicide rate, especially older white males. White men over the age of 85 have a suicide rate of six times the national average. Research has shown this is due to age-related illness, untreated depression, loss of importance in community, loss of finances due to retirement, and loss of a spouse or friends due to institutionalization. Suicide rates have tripled for the 15-24 age group, due to an increase in mental illness in young people, increased drug use, and availability of firearms.
Gender also plays an important role. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, four times as many men, as women, complete suicide. Women are about two to three times as likely to try to kill themselves, as men. It is believed that more men succeed in committing suicide because they are more deliberate in their intentions, they tend to use more lethal methods to kill themselves, and are less likely to talk to anyone about their plan.
There are several factors, which place individuals at a higher risk for suicide. Psychologic autopsy studies have shown that 90% of the completed suicides are related to psychiatric disorders, most commonly, major depression and alcohol abuse. The studies show the illness was not the cause, but in combination with a stressful event, such as divorce, loss of a job, or failure in school, led to the suicide. Risk factors include mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, family history or suicide, sexual abuse, and impulsive or aggressive behaviors. A decreased level of serotonin in the brain is also found in some people, which may be associated with impulsive aggressiveness. Impulsiveness is linked to suicidal behavior because an impulsive person does not think about a plan or itís consequences before they act. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the strongest risk factors present in adults are depression, alcohol abuse, cocaine use, and separation or divorce. The risk factors that are the greatest in the youth population are depression, alcohol or other drug use, aggressive behaviors, antisocial behavior, and family violence or disruption. There is also an increased risk of suicide attempt due to patients with medical problems, such as cancer or head injuries. There is no way to predict suicide or suicidal behavior. Many people with these risk factors will not attempt suicide.
Research indicates there is a biological predisposition to suicidal tendencies. There was a community of Amish people in Pennsylvania, where almost 75% of all suicides happened within four families, in a one hundred year span. Studies of twins raised separately provided some evidence toward a genetic influence in suicide. People may inherit certain psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, and alcoholism from their parents. Also impulsive or violent behavior may have a biological influence.
People contemplating suicide feel their problems are inescapable and feel like they have totally lost control. They canít think clearly or make decisions. They feel that they canít stop the pain. They donít see themselves as worthwhile, and canít make the sadness stop. They may feel they can not gain control over their life, or see any kind of future without pain.
About 80% of people considering suicide give warning signs, although they may not be obvious. A person contemplating suicide may talk about it, might not be sleeping or eating like they did, or may withdraw from friends and family. They may lose interest in work or in their hobbies. They may give away things, which are their prized possessions. A person thinking about killing him or herself may be preoccupied with death, or speak of worthlessness and hopelessness. They may be signs of increased drug use, or a lack of interest in their appearance.
Prevention of suicide involves, not only removing guns and pills, or other methods of harming one self, but treating the mental illness or the substance abuse problem. Telephone suicide-prevention hotlines are a valuable service, but women usually call them, not the men who have a greater risk of suicide.
Suicide has a big emotional impact on the surviving members of the family and friends. The intentional, sudden, violent death makes the survivors feel abandoned and rejected. Close family members often have terrific feelings of guilt and shame. Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, the survivors may not talk to other people about it, or others may not know what to say to them. Ultimately, these survivors will grieve and recover. Support groups may be very helpful for these people.
If someone you know is threatening suicide, or showing warning signs, you should talk to them, in an open and direct way. Ask them if they are thinking about suicide. Studies have shown, contrary to what many people believe, that it does not encourage the act of suicide to talk about it, but it may open the door for them to receive the help they need. Never be sworn to secrecy. Show them interest and give them support. Be available to them if they need to talk. If they confide in you, be willing to listen and accept their feelings. Most of all get help from people or agencies that specialize in suicide prevention. Most suicides can be prevented because the suicidal state of mind is usually temporary.