Every 40 seconds someone commits suicide. Every 3 seconds someone in the world intentionally injures themselves. While you are reading this article, more than 20 people will die of suicide. While you are reading this article, 400 people are intentionally injuring themselves. Over the past 45 years, suicide rate around the world has increased by 60 percent. Why does this happen? Why do people commit suicide?
What Is Suicide?
Suicide (from Latin “sui caedere” – “to kill yourself”) is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. As a rule, this act is independent and voluntary.
All suicides can be conditionally divided into two classes – true and demonstrative (the so-called “pseudo-suicide”). As a rule, a pseudo-suicide occurs in a state of affect and is not as much an attempt to deprive oneself of life as a “cry for help” – an attempt to draw attention. These actions are also called “demonstrative suicide attempt”. True suicide, on the contrary, is usually a well-planned action aimed at depriving oneself of life at any cost, regardless of the opinion and reaction of relatives, friends, etc. In some cases, death with someone’s help is also considered a suicide.
Behavior that usually does not lead to immediate death but is dangerous and/or shortens life is called “self-destructive behavior”. There are situations when a person understands the danger but is indifferent to the possible risk. For example, drinking, smoking, refusal of medical care for serious diseases, deliberate disregard for traffic rules or safety equipment, extreme sports without proper training and equipment, neglect of danger during combat actions. Some researchers identify this behavior in the third class of suicides – concealed suicide.
The attempt to kill yourself which failed is called a suicide attempt. Such suicide is called serious if it could lead to death with a high probability. After such an attempt, the health of the person (mental and/or physical) is often seriously damaged.
According to some experts, most failed suicides have a very high probability of a second suicide attempt.
What Does One Need to Know About Suicide?
Although heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide, they are observed mainly in the elderly. Suicide is committed by both old and young people. Over the past decade, in many countries there has been a sharp jump in suicides among young people. Now suicide is the third most common cause of death of people from 15 to 45 years. Suicide is a serious reason for unrest in society.
Understanding and preventing suicide is an important task. Suicide significantly affects the population. What’s more, the death of a person because of suicide has a lasting impact on their family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
Attitudes toward suicide and self-harm differ, depending on personal perceptions and culture. In some countries, suicide is still prohibited by law. Also, many religions call it a sin. It’s no wonder that people who think about suicide do not want to talk about it.
In some countries, so-called suicide assistance is a legal form of suicide for terminally ill people. Here arises an important ethical question: do people have the right to commit suicide and, if so, under what circumstances?
There are several distorted representations about suicide and self-harm. This is very important. Television, radio, newspapers and other media have a significant impact on society’s perception of suicide. For example, in Hong Kong, after a carefully described suicide case, the number of the same suicides increased. In Germany after the episode of the popular television series where one of the characters rushed under the train, the number of suicides on the railway increased as well.
People Prone to Suicide Can Be Divided into Several Groups
Death seekers are people who have a firm intention to take their own lives at the time of committing suicide. For example, a person who has lived a completely successful life suddenly loses their job, fails, feels humiliated and desperate. In such a case, a person can think about the idea of committing suicide for a long time. Some positive events can temporarily improve the state and mood but, in the end, if the situation does not change and the person finds no other way out, they commit suicide.
Initiators of death
This group includes those who believe that they are already dying and are simply accelerating the arrival of death. As a rule, this group includes fatally or seriously ill people. A person experiencing severe pain every day can decide to take their own life, being tired of fighting the disease or not wanting to become, in their opinion, a burden to their relatives. What’s more, this group can include those people who consider themselves terminally ill, even if this is not true.
Denial of death
These are people who do not consider death to be the end of existence. It can be followers of separate sectarian or religious trends. Or simply people who view death as a transition to a different form of existence. For example, a person who survived a recent loss of someone they loved, can sincerely believe that after death they will join the one whom they lost.
Player with death
To this group belong those who experience dual feelings toward the idea of depriving themselves of life. A man, on the one hand, wants to take his own life but, at the same time, he is not sure that this is the only way out, even at the very moment of committing suicide. For example, a woman suffering from unrequited love, even after swallowing pills, calls her lover. At this point, her decision on whether to continue living or not may depend on his answer. Players with death try to dramatically arrange their suicide attempt. Give hints to others about their intentions. This type of suicide can be prevented by correctly assessing hints and providing support.
There is also a group of so-called unintentional deaths. For example, a seriously ill person takes prescribed medications, violating the instructions. In this case, they don’t fully realize their intention to take their own life.
Why Do People Commit Suicide? What Factors Affect the Number of Suicides?
Season of the Year
The number of suicides at different times of the year is very different but there are some patterns. Contrary to popular belief, the number of suicides is slightly less than the average between Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the other hand, there are more suicides on the New Year’s Eve than on any other day. There is also the concept of the “Monday effect” which means a higher percentage of suicides occurring on the first day of the week.
In suicide, men have a dubious advantage over women. Men commit a final suicide 4 times more often than women. But women make more attempts. Male suicide attempts often lead to death because men usually choose a gun or other method that causes death. Women usually attempt suicide by taking an excessive dose of medication. So, there is more chance of helping if you have time before death. Unfortunately, women began to use more deadly methods in comparison with the past. This, combined with a high percentage of suicide attempts, can soon put women on an equal level with men in the risk of suicide.
The number of suicides is also associated with age. Cases of suicide are not uncommon since adolescence. In early youth (20-24 years) there is a sharp increase in the number of suicides. Then their number gradually increases up to 44 years. As a result, more than a half of all suicide victims are over 45 years old. However, there is a constant increase in the number of suicides among adolescents and young people nowadays.
Part of the increase in the number of youth suicides falls on the student period. Contrary to popular belief, the most dangerous time of student suicide is the first 6 weeks of the semester, not the final exams. Studying can become a factor of suicide in some cases. But only when students who are prone to suicide have not coped with their overstated standards. Other important factors of student suicide are chronic health problems and difficulties of interpersonal relationships.
Professions such as medicine and psychiatry have a higher than average suicide rate. In general, suicide is fairly democratic. To an equal extent, this is a problem of the rich and the poor.
Marriage (if it is successful) may be the best natural protection against suicide attempts. The highest percentage of suicide is among divorced people. The next highest percentage is among widowers and widows. A lower percentage is observed among single people. The lowest is among married people.
Why Do People Commit Suicide? Possible Causes
Among the reasons for suicide are the following:
Problems in personal life:
- family conflicts, divorce;
- unrequited love;
- death or loss of a loved one, illness of a loved one;
- loneliness, lack of attention and concern from others;
- chronic or protracted psycho-traumatic situations in the sphere of interpersonal, most often intra-family relationships;
- failures at work, in studies;
- financial losses, bankruptcy;
- unsuccessful social experience (for example, falling out of a social group, loss of work, career crash), social isolation;
- obstacles to meeting the actual situational need;
- change of the habitual life stereotype;
- coming out (public disclosure of personal information about the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person against their will and consent);
- severe somatic disease or disfiguring defect;
- the absence of psychotherapeutic and palliative care for patients in terminal stages;
- mental illness, in particular, depression (according to WHO reports, up to 15% of depressions result in suicide).
Incitement to suicide:
- Targeted bullying, slander, threats, humiliation.
- Rape, physical mockery, beatings.
- Extreme conditions characterized by the severity or impossibility of survival.
- Satiety with life, fatigue from life, lack of purpose and interest in life.
- Religious fanaticism, ritual suicide.
- Ideological (political, non-acceptance of the values of the society as a whole).
- Forced suicide (under the threat of painful death, etc.).
- Fear of punishment (fear of conviction, fear of judicial responsibility).
- Self-condemnation for an unseemly act.
- Suicide for the preservation of honor (for example, hara-kiri).
- Imitative suicide (after similar deaths of famous personalities or literary characters).
- The impact of solitary confinement in individual cases.
Why Do People Commit Suicide? Risk factors
Approximately half of the people who committed suicide made at least one suicide attempt before. After such an attempt 1 person out of 100 commits suicide within a year. This means a hundredfold increase in the risk of suicide.
Social and Demographic Factors
Some factors influencing the level of suicides in a society include:
- the attitude of society towards suicides (conciliation, incentive, permissive, prohibitive or indifferent);
- socio-economic and political instability, leading to social stress (rise in unemployment, crime, disasters, etc.);
- intensification of migration flows;
- increased business and leisure activity of the population (characterized by the rupture of habitual ties and stereotypes, increased conflicts and mental trauma);
- ethnic and cultural characteristics of society (a high level of religiosity, the presence of strong tribal ties, the traditions of the “big family”, etc.).
Other Risk Factors
Young people and adolescents commit suicide more often than adults, especially often between the ages of 15 and 24. The second peak of suicidal activity occurs at the age of maturity (from 40 to 60 years); the third peak of suicidal risk is the elderly. The suicide rate at this age is very high.
Men commit suicide 4 times more often than women (although women commit 4 times more suicide attempts).
The unemployed, as well as unskilled workers, have a tendency to commit suicide. Doctors, especially women, are also at increased risk. A meta-analysis of 25 sources showed that female doctors commit 2.3 times more suicides than the average for the population, and men – 1.4 times. The high-risk group also includes musicians, lawyers, lower officer ranks, insurance agents, retired people, and prisoners. In general, people with higher education have a high probability of suicide as well.
Ill-treatment and other negative experiences in childhood increase suicidal tendencies in adulthood. At least through such intermediate factors, closely related to negative experiences in childhood, such as alcohol and drug abuse, and a tendency to depression. There is an increased risk of suicide in people who experienced cruelty and violence in childhood; people whose parents died when they were no more than 11 years old or divorced; in people whose upbringing in childhood was neglected.
Personal factors of self-injurious behavior are well studied in the specialized literature. They include:
- psychasthenic type of personality;
- increased tension of needs;
- self-esteem inadequate to personal opportunities (understated, labile or overstated);
- decreased resistance to emotional stress;
- inability to ease frustration and low ability to form psychological defense mechanisms;
- maximalism, uncompromising attitude, the immaturity of judgments;
- lack of life experience and inadequate planning mechanisms for the future;
- impulsiveness, explosiveness, emotional instability, increased suggestibility;
- the presence of guilt;
- hyporeactive emotional background in the period of conflict, difficulty in restoring value orientations;
- the decrease or loss of the value of life;
- infantile attitudes in interpersonal relationships.
According to some researchers, a special artistic type of character is predisposed to suicide. Thus, poets, artists, musicians are prone to suicide.
Are There Any Signs That a Person Is Planning to Commit Suicide?
Sometimes suicide happens so suddenly that friends and family simply cannot understand anything. However, the desire for suicide usually develops gradually, and it is difficult for people to talk about it. Changes in behavior indicating the possibility of thinking about suicide boil down to the following:
- alcohol or drug abuse;
- putting affairs in order;
A person can hint at suicidal thoughts using the phrases like: “I can no longer live like this.” If you hear something like this, take it seriously.
What One Has to Do?
For those who think about committing suicide.
Although you may think that you want to kill yourself, part of your “Self” still wants to live. Those who survived after a period of active contemplation of suicide are almost always happy about it. Often they say that they wanted not to die but to get rid of the pain.
Approaching the decision to commit suicide, it is difficult to see a future. Therefore, it is very important to go through the period when life seems unbearable and you think it’s better to die. There is an old saying: “Suicide is an irreversible solution to a temporary problem”. There is a grain of truth in these words, and those who work with people approaching the boundary between life and death know well enough that the situation can change over time.
And the most important thing: always keep in mind the following – suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse, suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better.