Understanding Suicide

Let’s begin with a few statistics about suicide. The most common reason for suicide, or attempts at suicide, involves interpersonal relationships. The most common age group for attempted or actual suicide involves people under the age of 35. Three times more women make more suicide attempts than men, but men are more successful at the first attempt.

Roughly half of all suicide attempts made are directly associated with some mental health problem. The most common of these is depression, but substance-related disorders, bipolar disorder (of which depression is a key component) and schizophrenia account for a good proportion. Rates of suicide start to increase again with older people, due variously to disability, loss of independence, depression and bereavement of a loved one.

Russia, has one of the highest rates of suicide at 40 for every 100,000 people. Greece, by contrast, has as few as 4 per 100,000 (World Health Organization). Around 60 per cent of suicide attempts occur after the person has consumed alcohol. Early life experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, or loss of parents through death or divorce are frequently associated with people who attempt suicide. Also quite common is a lengthy period of stress, anywhere between six months to a year, prior to the suicide attempt.

People attempt to take their lives for a variety of reasons. For some it is a rational choice and a way of maintaining some level dignity as their physical condition worsens. People with painful and/or degenerative diseases, for which there is no cure, are known to sometimes opt for suicide.

Suicide attempts are also made by people who see no solution to a particular problem or who may be unable to see alternatives where they actually exist. Very often, this type of individual will have a number of core beliefs involving their lack of mastery over situations, a perceived lack of personal value and a strong sense that they are not, and will never be, loved. Their future is perceived as hopeless and too complex for solutions to be found. They feel they can never match or live up to the qualities that other people admire and they become overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness.

The great sadness with people who attempt suicide is that they are quite likely to benefit from psychological therapy. Psychological therapies can provide alternative coping strategies and can help to cut through the sadness, anger and high levels of physical and emotional arousal (including revenge) that may frequently be present. Problem-focused and cognitive behavioral interventions have a good track record at helping to reduce repeat attempts at suicide.

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