“It is estimated that each suicide victim leaves behind an average of six close survivors who are left confused, guilt-ridden, and traumatized by the suicide act.” Hoyert, 2001
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for all ages. Approximately 37,000 Americans commit suicide each year. More than 600,000 will attempt to kill themselves unsuccessfully; such attempts are sometimes called “parasuicides”.
Suicide is defined as, an intentional self-inflicted death in which one makes a direct and conscious effort to end one’s life.
“Although females attempt suicide more often, nearly five times as many males die by suicide.” U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Although a large portion of suicides are linked to depression, half of all suicides result from other disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol dependence, or they involve no clear psychological disorder of any kind.
Edwin S. Shneidman was an American thanatologist who is regarded as the foremost authority on the subject of suicide. Shneidman published 20 books of the subject of suicide and suicide prevention. In 1968, he founded the American Association of Suicidology. He is also credited with identifying the four general suicidal personality types.
Four general suicidal personality types identified by E. Shneidman
- The Death Seeker: A person who clearly intends to end his or her life at the time of the suicide attempt. The method is irrelevant, what matters is that the person single-mindedly behaves in a way that makes it nearly impossible for others to save them.
- The Death Initiator: (terminally ill or elderly) A person who attempts suicide believing that the process of death is already underway and they are only hastening the inevitable. Many suicides among the terminally ill and the elderly fall into this category. They are essentially trying to cut short the dying process.
- The Death Ignorer: This person attempts suicide without recognizing the finality of death. Some people believe they are trading their life for a better or happier one. Many child suicides and suicides among people with certain religious beliefs fall into this category. These individuals believe that after they terminate their life by suicide they will continue to exist in some other way such as in the afterlife.
- The Death Darer: This person is ambivalent about their wish to die, even as he or she attempts suicide. Although these people wish to die they are indirect in their approach and prefer to engage in risk taking behavior like playing Russian roulette or other reckless acts.
Most common suicide myths:
- Those who discuss it do not do it
- All who commit suicide are depressed
- To commit suicide is insane
- Lessened depression = less risk
- Suicides are committed without warning
Most common mental health disorders related to suicide:
- 70% Depression
- 20% Alcoholism
- 10% Schizophrenia
Most common suicide triggers:
- Stressful Life Events
- Serious Illness
- Abusive Environments
- Occupational Stress
- Mood and Thought Changes
- Alcohol/Drug Use
- Mental Disorders
Many suicidal acts are triggered by current events or conditions in a person’s life. The act may be triggered by recent stressors, such as the loss of a loved one or of a job, or by long-term stressors such as serious illness, an abusive environment, or stress in the workplace.
Suicide attempts may also be preceded by changes in mood or thoughts, particularly increases in one’s sense of hopelessness. In addition, the use of alcohol or other substances, mental disorders, or news of another’s death may precede a suicide attempt.
“Around 15% of all persons who make a non-fatal suicide attempt will eventually manage to kill themselves.” Stolberg 2002
Other suicide warning signs:
- Talking about suicide
- Looking for ways to die (internet searches on “how to commit suicide”, looking for guns, pills, etc.)
- Statements about hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness
- Preoccupation with death
- Suddenly happier and calmer
- Loss of interest in things once cared about
- Visiting or calling people one cares about
- Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions
The National Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK or visit The National Suicide Prevention website.
Source Material: Worth Publishers, CDC.gov, save.org, NIMH.gov