Suicide is the act of taking your own life, and it is a heartbreaking reaction to stressful life situations that an individual feels that they cannot cope with. Someone who believes that there is truly no other option to solve their problems may be experiencing suicidal ideation, also referred to as suicidal thoughts. Suicidal ideation is the presence of active thoughts about killing oneself. These thoughts may include a detailed plan or may be a fleeting consideration. Additionally, suicidal ideation may be deliberately assembled to be unsuccessful or may be intended to result in death. Although not everyone having suicidal ideations acts on these suicidal thoughts, some individuals may make suicide attempts, so this topic should not be taken lightly.
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are complex, since a number of factors can change the way the feelings are experienced, the types of thoughts that develop, and the way in which they may be presented. Someone suffering with suicidal thoughts may feel as if no one can understand the anguish they are experiencing. Many times individuals with suicidal thoughts and behaviors are unwilling to disclose their thoughts and feelings to others for fear of being rejected, being seen as a weak individual, or being seen as flawed in some way.
The highest prevalence rates and fastest rate of growth for suicide are seen in middle age. Prevalence rates are 27.3 per 100,000 in middle-aged men and 8.1 per 100,000 in middle-aged women.
A number of different disorders are known to co-occur with suicidal thoughts and behavior. These include:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Adjustment disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Dissociative identity disorder
- Gender dysphoria
- Eating disorders
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Panic disorder
- Disruptive disorders
- Conduct disorders
- Borderline personality disorder
- Personality disorders
There is not one exact cause for suicidal behavior and ideations; it is believed to be a combination of many different factors:
Genetic: Certain disorders like major depressive disorder run in families, and the presence of one of these disorders put individuals at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Biological: It’s thought that mental illnesses may be related to changes in the structure and function of the brain. If a mental illness is strongly correlated with suicide, this may be a risk factor for suicide.
Environmental: Individuals who have not learned the coping skills needed to deal with the stressors of life may believe that suicide is their only option. These individuals may feel hopeless, alone, and that there is nothing that can be done that will make life any better.
Psychological: Many mental illnesses have high correlations with suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Individuals suffering from mental illness and/or substance addiction problems may experience higher than normal thoughts of suicide and suicidal behaviors.
Warning Signs of Suicidal Thoughts
While you are not able to always tell when an individual is contemplating suicide, there are a number of warning signs you can look for. Some of the most common signs include:
- Talking about suicide, making statements such as “I wish I were dead”
- Withdrawing from friends and loved ones, wanting to be alone
- Getting the means to commit suicide, such as stocking up on pills or buying a gun
- Severe mood swings
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about situation
- Preoccupation with death, dying, or violence
- Increased use and abuse of drugs and alcohol
- Change in normal routine, such as sleep or eating patterns
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order
- Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t see them again
- Personality changes, such as severe anxiety or agitation
Effects of Suicide Attempts
Suicide attempts can result in a multitude of negative physical effects. The effects experienced depend on the method used during the attempt. These can include:
- Total organ failure
- Specific organ failure
- Brain damage
Effects on Suicide Survivors
Suicide survivors are the people that are left behind following a successful suicide attempt. Suicide survivors can also experience a wide variety of effects as a result of their loved one’s death. These effects include:
- Prolonged or delayed grief
- Feeling alone
- Facing social stigma of suicide