It has been estimated that suicide results in close to 40,000 deaths per year across age groups in the U.S. This averages to more than 108 lives lost to suicide each day.
Learn More About Suicidal Ideations
As high as this number is, it is considered an underestimate as many families convince physicians to list a different cause of death when completing the death certificate. This is due to their concern over the stigma associated with suicide, and how their loved one will be viewed should the real cause of death be discovered. An added tragedy is that most individuals who take their lives never pursued treatment or let others know of their internal pain.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Yet this doesn’t fully summarize the picture, as when interviewed, more than 1 million Americans reported having made a suicide attempt with the intent to die in the previous year, and more than 2 million people reported thinking about committing suicide in the previous year. These statistics are more than numbers. They represent a great deal of pain and suffering that was never sufficiently addressed, often because the individual didn’t, or felt that they couldn’t, bring it to the attention of others.
Statistics of Suicidal Ideations
Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, however, women are three times more likely to make one or more attempts. The highest rates of suicide occur in individuals between the ages of 45 and 54. Elderly adults over the age of 85 have suicide rates that are 36% higher than all age groups below the age of 85. Feelings of hopelessness alone are more predictive of suicide than depression. Those who are socially isolated also have significantly higher rates of suicide than those with satisfying social networks.
Learn About Co-Occurring Disorders
Results from a national survey completed in 2009 showed that there was a strong association between suicide and substance abuse. Autopsy results showed that of all suicides reported, 33.3% tested positive for alcohol, 23% tested positive for antidepressants, and 20.8% tested positive for opioids, which included both prescription pain medications and heroin.
Psychological problems have also been found to be strongly related to suicide. Research revealed that more than 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from a psychological disorder. Many of these individuals were shown to suffer from undiagnosed or untreated depression. In addition to depression, other disorders associated with suicide include schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorders, Personality Disorders, a history of Conduct Disorder in childhood or adolescence, and double depression, consisting of Major Depressive Disorder, characterized by major depressive episodes overlaid on the consistent level of moderate depression found in Dysthymia.
Suicide is defined as the intentional taking of one’s life. Sometimes suicidal behavior can be difficult to define. Overall, it is considered to be any behavior that a person engages in with the purpose of ending one’s life, including overdosing on drugs or driving a car into a tree. Suicidal ideation generally refers to thoughts of suicide and these can range from short-lived, passing thoughts to a complete plan created to carry out the act.
Suicidal intent is influenced by numerous characteristics, including the effects of substance abuse and mental disorders, constant unrelenting stress, or the cumulative effects of numerous stressors experienced across the lifespan. Additionally, a history of trauma or abuse among many other negative environmental and individual factors can lead to suicidal ideation. Those who have suicidal thoughts with minimal psychosocial risk factors are at a significantly lower risk of committing suicide compared to those who experience high levels.
Risk Factors of Suicidal Ideations
There are a number of risk factors that have been identified which increase the likelihood someone will commit suicide. These include:
- History of a prior suicide attempt
- An existing psychological or substance abuse disorder
- Having a chronic illness or a condition that could result in death, which results in the constant experience of pain or can lead to a debilitating condition
- Surviving a trauma such as a vehicular accident, rape, or sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
- Having a family history where one or more close relatives suffered from substance abuse, mental health problems, or attempted or committed suicide
- Recent release from a psychiatric hospital
- The absence of an adequate social network to rely on and interact with
- Being socially isolated and/or living alone
- Marital discord, divorce, or other family problems
- Financial trouble, unemployment or underemployment, or changing jobs
- Being rejected by a significant other
- Having access to means that can be used to commit suicide such as knives, guns, a great deal of medication, or other similar items
- Having a history of intentional self-harm
- Living in location where there has been a recent outbreak of suicide
Additional Warning Signs
There have been a number of other warning signs linked to suicide that have been noted. These include:
- Giving away special belongings
- Feeling no need to impress anyone leading to problems at school or work
- Sudden calm displayed after an outburst of agitated anxiety
- Mentioning getting one’s affairs in order
- Feeling guilty due to an illogical reason or with no relevant reason
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Expressed interest in death rituals
- Discussing death frequently
- Lack of interest in sex or any type of physical contact
Effects of Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempts and Suicide
It has been shown that those who experience suicide in childhood continue to have similar thoughts later in life and often make at least one suicide attempt. Suicidal thoughts are also associated with the development of psychological and substance abuse disorders. Individuals with suicidal thoughts often have difficulty functioning in multiple areas of life, such as job related problems and problems interacting with others.
Those who experience suicide early in life also experience social problems, often related to never having developed adequate social skills or the existence of social anxiety/social phobia. These individuals also report low self-esteem, and the lack of adaptive coping skills to deal with stress. No gender differences have been identified for any of these factors.
A history of suicidal ideation in men when they were young has been shown to be related to lower salaries, lower rates of promotion, and working in lower level jobs when compared to men without a similar history. Thus, those who experience suicidal thoughts when young are at increased risk for numerous problems leading to distress across the lifespan.
Suicide Attempts: Effects on the Family
The effects of a family member attempting or committing suicide on the other members of the family can be quite severe and long lasting. These include:
- Defenselessness, powerlessness and/or a general sense of feeling out of control
- Feeling betrayed
- Becoming angry at the individual who attempted or committed suicide followed by guilt related to these feelings
- Remorse and shame
- Self-blame related to the belief that they could have prevented the event
- Nervousness, fear, and a feelings of uncertainty
- Experiencing invasive images related to the event
- The belief they should have known the event was going to happen before it did
- Loss and grief even when the individual didn’t die
- Feeling hopeless and helpless when multiple attempts occur
- A sense of abandonment even when the individual didn’t die
- Refusal to admit their loved ones behavior was a suicide attempt
- When able to accept the reality of the attempt family members often experience shock
Not only is it crucial to get appropriate treatment for the person who made the attempt, but it is also imperative that family members get help as well. They need to have the opportunity to express and work through their feelings and thoughts regarding the attempt. This is important so that they are able to move past the attempt for their own emotional well-being, in addition to allowing them to feel able to be a source of support for the loved one who made the attempt.