Suicide is for many an uncomfortable and taboo subject matter, which makes it no less of a problem around the world. Generally, happy people marvel at how someone could reach such a place of despair as to end their own life. As with any subject matter, the more we know about it, the greater our understanding and development of interventions can be. Knowledge is power. In this article, we will outline some of the grim facts about suicide and discuss some of the underlying causes and sources. In the next article, we will spend time talking about suicide prevention.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines suicide as “a suicidal act with a fatal outcome”. Suicide can be conceptualized on a spectrum of thoughts and behaviors. At one end can be risk-taking behavior, extending across varying degrees of ideation and thought, all the way over to suicide attempts and actual suicide. Suicidal thoughts cut across nearly all age groups, races, demographics, and orientations. In fact, it seems only pregnant women are more protected from suicidality, relative to all other groups. Even our youth are not protected. In a 1997 Youth Risk Surveillance Survey of 16,000 nineth to twelfth graders, 50% of New York high school students report that had “thought about killing themselves.” Suicide is in fact the third leading cause of death in the young. Overall, about 48,000 Americans commit suicide every year across all age brackets with about 1.4 million attempts. This makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death over all age groups. Women may attempt suicide two to four times more frequently than men, but men are four times more likely to succeed in a suicide attempt. Men are more likely to choose a more lethal means of suicide, specifically firearms or hanging. Of those who attempt suicide and are unsuccessful, about 10-15% of them will eventually kill themselves.

There are some common themes among those who attempt and commit suicide which can provide some useful direction. Of those who commit suicide and leave a note explaining their suicide, the most common theme is a general description of pain, weariness, and hopelessness. Although not the sole culprit, psychopathology is one of the greatest factors putting people at risk for suicide. Depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, and schizophrenia are among the leading mental health issues that put a person at risk for suicide. In fact, the combination most associated with suicide is a mood disorder combined with alcohol or drug use. Depression that is mild to moderate are not nearly as at risk as those with severe depression. Cognitive changes during depressive states increase the risk of suicide. Specifically, slowed thinking, increased distractibility, suffering memory, mental tiredness, and mental rigidity all increase the risk. People with severe depression that are experiencing agitation, emotional upheaval, and alcohol and drug use are at the highest risk for suicide. Likewise, bipolar depression brings with it a high risk for suicide. Nearly 50% of people with bipolar disorder will try to kill themselves at least once. Increasing this risk is the fact that nearly 66% of people with bipolar disorder abuse alcohol and drugs. Many in a failed attempt to alleviate the symptoms of mania and depression.

Catching and addressing mental health issues early on is key to treating it and avoiding the risk of suicide that come from untreated mental health problems. If you want to start getting help now, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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