Understanding Suicide

Suicidal behaviour can be described like a river running through your community with a dangerous waterfall at the end. If we knew why people ignore the prevention signs in the first place or exactly what causes them to “jump in”, we could make the necessary changes to make our communities suicide-safe. Unfortunately, the exact causes of suicide are not exactly known. There is no single or perfect prevention plan.

Suicide is still a hidden or taboo topic in our modern society today. Denial, secrecy and avoidance remain common. While we no longer kill the person who fails to complete suicide or the family of those who do, avoidance of a person with thoughts of suicide can be as deadly a punishment as execution.

The taboo surrounding suicide and the stigma clinging to those who experience it has been with us for a long time. Both can influence the feelings of caregivers toward working with persons at risk in powerful and often hidden ways. They come to life as notions about suicide: ideas or beliefs that support denial, secrecy and avoidance.

Many of the approaches to understanding human behavior have been applied to understanding suicide. These include, but are in no way limited to, social structures, ego states, thought processes, learning history, self-concept, cognitive development, family dynamics, genetics and personality. More suicide specific adaptations of these theoretical approaches such as anomie, resiliency, loss and psychological pain have also dotted the theoretical landscape.

As an ASIST(Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) worker I can see how early identification of persons at risk and early intervention to prevent the immediate risk is one of the most important parts of a suicide safer community. There are two approaches to early identification and intervention. One is to focus on selected higher risk groups and design identification strategies to find and refer them to appropriate resources. The other is to prepare caregivers and helpers throughout the community to identify and provide on the spot help to anyone at risk.

The most important thing however for society to be able to even partially understand suicide is to promote more awareness. Once the problem of suicide is recognised and accepted, it becomes clear that your community has a need for suicide prevention knowledge.