Suicide Prevention

Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life on purpose. Suicidal behaviour can range from thoughts of killing oneself to actually going through with the act. In some cases, thoughts of suicide are never acted upon. In other cases, suicidal thoughts lead to an attempt at ending one’s life. Suicide can be due to mental illness but can also be driven by socioeconomic and cultural reasons. Predicting suicide is something no one can do accurately but the information below can help predict and guide us as how to handle these situation.

People who are more prone to commit suicide are:

  • 15 to 24 years old or over 65 years old
  • living alone or have no children under age 18 living in the house
  • suffering from major life events such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or a divorce

Eighty percent of completed suicides are men. However, most people who try to commit suicide but don’t actually die are women between the ages of 25 and 44 years old. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among children 10 to 19 years old.

Symptoms associated with suicide include:

  • feelings of hopelessness
  • problems concentrating
  • problems sleeping
  • difficulty finding happiness in things that previously would have made the person happy
  • severe anxiety, leading to panic
  • “accidents” occurring after expressing thoughts of suicide
  • statements indicating a desire to commit suicide
  • depressed feelings
  • sudden efforts directed at getting one’s “life in order”
  • giving away of possessions
  • change in habits, such as eating or personal care habits
  • silence or withdrawal
  • verbal statements, such as “I want to die”, or “I wonder what they’ll do when I am gone”
  • failing grades or poor work performance
  • risk-taking behaviour
  • alcohol or drug addiction

Most of the people “thinking of committing suicide” have seen their doctor within the past 6 months. Risks for suicide vary greatly. A mental disorder such as severe depression, substance abuse and personality disorders are the common risk factor.

Other risk factors include:

  • previous suicide attempts or a family history of suicide attempts
  • history of psychiatric disorders.
  • serious medical illness, such as cancer accompanied by psychiatric illness

A combination of biological, emotional, intellectual and social factors play a part in suicide risk. Factors that may contribute to teenage suicidal risk include:

  • sadness
  • stress
  • poor school performance
  • peer pressure
  • grief
  • learning disabilities
  • illness or physical disabilities
  • desire to be perfect
  • lack of friends
  • questions about sexual identity
  • feelings of being disliked

What can be done to prevent the condition?
Suicide prevention consists of taking a person’s suicide threats seriously. Others should also watch for signs that a person is planning to commit suicide. Steps for suicide prevention include:

  • listening carefully to the person at risk
  • offering an open, non-judgmental conversation
  • offering the person a positive solution
  • discussing options for seeking help
  • offering support for the person in finding help and treatment

What are the treatments for the condition?
Several factors should be taken into account when designing a treatment plan for a person who has attempted or may commit suicide. These include:

the method the person plans to use for committing suicide. It should be determined if the person has access to firearms, medications, or other methods to carry out his or her plan.
whether the person has social support
whether the person has control over his or her actions and judgment

A person should be hospitalised if he or she has:

  • a suicide plan
  • the means of carrying out the plan
  • poor ability to control his or her actions
  • poor judgment
  • lack of social support

In some cases a person who has a plan to commit suicide, but does not have the means, may not need to be hospitalised. If the individual has good mental judgment and good social support, he or she may undergo further evaluation for psychiatric disorders and stressors. Medications, such as antidepressants may also be used. Individual therapy as well as family therapy may be recommended.

A person who expresses thoughts of suicide, but does not have a plan to commit suicide should undergo psychiatric evaluation. The stressors in the person’s life should be evaluated as well. Antidepressants may be recommended. Individual, group and/or family therapy may also be used.

In some cases of suicidal plans and attempts, the doctor may recommend special programs. These may include programs for treatment of alcoholism or drug abuse. The doctor may also recommend electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This therapy might be used if antidepressants are not effective. It can also be considered or a quicker form of treatment is needed.

A person may be asked to report any new suicidal thoughts or plans. The family may be asked to monitor the person’s mood and behaviour. They may also be asked to report their perception of the person’s suicidal risk. The person should also be given a 24 hour crisis phone number to call in case suicidal thoughts or plans develop.