This article discusses issues in mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance abuse crisis or is having suicidal thoughts, call 988 for 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors. For help finding services locally contact Our Village at 863-447-0473.
When someone dies by suicide it leaves loved ones with a million questions, the most asked question is, “Why?” Suicidal ideation is not uncommon. Most people face these thoughts at some point in their life, and many factors may play a role in a person’s decision to attempt suicide. Knowing the risk factors is a not only crucial part of prevention, but it may also help a person affected by a loved ones suicide through the grieving process.
The most common reason a person attempts suicide is mental illness. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are all linked to a heightened risk of suicide. Research shows that 90 percent of people who complete suicide had untreated depression, an estimated 20 percent - 40 percent of people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders attempt suicide, and the rate of suicide among people with bipolar disorders is 10 to 30 times higher than the general population. Although there are medications and treatments available, finding what works for an individual can present a challenge. Even with treatment, some people may stay in a constant state of mental anguish.
A traumatic experience, such as abuse, sexual assault, or witnessing a traumatic event, may lead a person to attempt suicide. Victims of physical abuse may feel that suicide is the only way to escape the abuse. Sexual assault or abuse can result in severe psychological trauma, an increased risk of depression, and lead to suicidal thoughts. Witnessing a traumatic event can lead to flashbacks, anxiety, and fear. Traumatic experiences often lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a debilitating illness marked by intense anxiety or fear that can interfere with a person’s daily life so much that they may contemplate suicide.
Bullying and cyberbullying also increase the risk of suicide. Bullying is repeated, unwanted, and aggressive behavior, while cyberbullying is the act of bullying through technology. Children and adolescents who are the victims of bullying experience feelings of sadness, isolation, and hopelessness. Children who are bullied are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, have low self-esteem, and have poor physical or mental health. In addition, adults may not immediately recognize that their child is being bullied, often victims of bullying suffer in silence due to fear or embarrassment. Studies show victims of bullying are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide.
People who abuse drugs or alcohol have several factors that increase their risk of suicide. Often, people resort to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress or to escape from problems. Long-term use of drugs or alcohol can have serious neurological consequences, and people who struggle with alcohol or substance abuse are more likely to have a depressive disorder. In addition to depression, people who abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and have social or financial problems. The addiction and results of the addiction may be too much to bear, the person struggling with substance abuse issues may feel that suicide is the only way out.
People who suffer from chronic pain or terminal illness often face hopelessness and depression. Chronic pain can impair a person’s ability to function and affect their mental health. They may become depressed and see suicide as the only way to end the pain. A person who has a terminal illness may choose to complete suicide to end their suffering, or they may want to die on their terms.
Lastly, genetic factors and family history impact the risk of suicide. People who have a family history of suicide are more likely to complete suicide, and those with a family history of suicide often have a family history of psychiatric disorders or mental illness. Furthermore, while mental illness can be a result of a traumatic experience, it can also be inherited. Inherited traits such as borderline personality disorder and stress sensitivity increase risk factors.
There may be other reasons a person attempts suicide; however, the ones mentioned above are the reasons most identified. The goal of suicide is most likely to escape some form of pain and suffering; the pain becomes so overwhelming that the person believes that they have no other choice. Unfortunately, pain is a part of life that we all experience in one way or another. With the right tools and information, we may be able to help a loved one get through their darkest hour. Knowing the risk factors that may lead a person to contemplate suicide can help us, help the people we care about. Talking to our loved ones will not only help us identify issues, but it will also show the people we care about, that they are not alone.