Trigger warning: Suicide
If you’re reading this and feel helpless, I want you to remember that reaching out is always better than not feeling worthy enough to live. You are not alone, and you are worthy enough.
One cold September night,
One heart wrenching emotion,
And a canvas of incomplete thoughts.
The subtle art of feeling pain is so poetic yet also the most tragic moment in ones lifetime. We often ask ourselves, what is pain? How is it supposed to feel? How does one completely heal from an odd emotion like pain? The answer is, pain is not an emotion or feeling that can be described by someone. Pain is a word, a state of mind that can be felt at the smallest of things like a paper cut and at the largest of things such as a death of a loved one.
Suicide is considered a major public health problem around the world as well as a personal tragedy; Suicide is defined as the intentional taking of one’s own life. Prior to the late nineteenth century, suicide was legally defined as a criminal act in most Western countries. In the social climate of the early 2000s, however, suicidal behavior is most commonly regarded and responded to as a psychiatric emergency. In 2008, September was declared as the national suicide prevention month, and to this date ever year in September people speak up on the topic and raise awareness of all sorts of triggers, and insights many people are not aware of.
According to the national institute of health of mental health (NIMH) suicide has been amongst the leading causes of death in the early and mid-2000s in many countries and day by day still adds to one of the leading causes of death throughout the world.
The demographics of suicide vary considerably within many different counties, due in part to differences among age groups and racial groups, and between men and women. Adult males are three to five times more likely to commit suicide than females, but females are more likely to attempt suicide. Most suicides occur in persons below the age of 40; however, elderly Caucasians are the sector of the population with the highest suicide rate. Geographical location is an additional factor; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates in the United States are slightly higher than the national average in the western states, and somewhat lower than average in the East and the Midwest.
Difference in race is also a contributing factor in the demographics of suicide rates. Between 1979 and 1992, Native Americans had a suicide rate 1.5 times the national average, with young males between 15 and 24 accounting for 64% of Native American deaths by suicide. Asian American women have the highest suicide rate among all women over the age of 65. And between 1980 and 1996 the suicide rate more than doubled for black males between the ages of 15 and 19.
Suicide is a very intricate act that represents the end result of a combination of factors in any individual, which may include:
1. Biological vulnerabilities
2. Life history
4. Present social circumstances
5. Availability of means to suicide.
While these factors do not “cause” suicide in the strict sense, some people are at greater risk of self-harm than others, there may be many reasons as to why risk factors in individuals may vary because of:
1. A family history of suicide
2. A history of abuse in childhood
3. High stressed occupations
4. Medical illnesses
5. Presence of fire arms in the house
6. Presence of psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia, alcoholism, substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, Huntington’s disease, and epilepsy.
Neurobiological factors may also influence a person’s risk of suicide. Post-mortem studies of the brains of suicide victims indicate that the part of the brain associated with aggression and other impulsive behaviors (the frontal cortex) has a significantly lower level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood disorders. Low serotonin levels are correlated with major depression. In addition, suicide victims have higher than normal levels of cortisol, a hormone produced in stressful situations, in the tissues of their central nervous system. Other research has indicated that abuse in childhood may have permanent effects on the level of serotonin in the brain, possibly “resetting” the level abnormally low. In addition, twin studies have suggested that there may be a genetic susceptibility to both suicidal ideation and suicide attempts which cannot be explained by inheritance of common psychiatric disorders.
Many people when having vulnerable people around them think of how to cope with the issue, or what the diagnosis is. Many treatments and diagnosis have been discussed by different medical facilities. When a person consults a doctor because they are thinking of committing suicide, or they are taken to a doctor’s office or to an emergency room after a suicide attempt, the doctor will evaluate the patient’s potential for acting on their thoughts or making another attempt. Many aspects of a persons reasoning of their specific illness are taken into account which includes:
– The patient’s history, including a history of previous attempts or a family history of suicide.
– A clinical interview in which the physician will ask whether the patient is presently thinking of suicide; whether they have made actual plans to do so; whether they have thought about the means; and what they think their suicide will accomplish. These questions help in evaluating the seriousness of the patient’s intentions.
– A suicide note, if any.
– Information from friends, relatives, or first responders who may have accompanied the patient.
– Short self-administered psychiatric tests that screen people for depression and suicidal ideation. The most commonly used screeners are the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Depression Screening Questionnaire, and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.
– The doctor’s own instinctive reaction to the patient’s mood, appearance, vocal tone, and similar factors.
After analyzing each prospect of the diagnosis or treatment trials the doctor may come to a conclusion of what the solution may be of the problem or what may be done to resolve the problem. Suicide attempts range from well-planned attempts involving a highly lethal method (guns, certain types of poison, jumping from high places, throwing oneself in front of trains or subway cars) that fail by good fortune to impulsive or poorly planned attempts using a less lethal method (medication overdoses, cutting the wrists). Suicide attempts at the less lethal end of the spectrum are sometimes referred to as suicide gestures or pseudo ide. These terms should not be taken to indicate that suicide gestures are only forms of attention-seeking; they should rather be understood as evidence of serious emotional and mental distress.
A person who has attempted suicide can be legally hospitalized against his or her will if he or she seems to be a danger to the self or others. The doctor will base decisions about hospitalization on the severity of the patient’s depression; the availability of friends, relatives, or other social support; and the presence of other suicide risk factors, including a history of previous suicide attempts, substance abuse, and psychosis (loss of contact with reality, often marked by delusions and hallucinations). If the attempt is judged to be a nonlethal suicide gesture, the patient may be released after the psychiatric assessment is completed.
One group of people that is often overlooked in discussions of suicide is the friends and family left behind by the suicide. It is estimated that each person who kills him- or herself leaves six survivors to deal with the aftermath, In addition to the grief that ordinarily accompanies death, survivors of suicide often struggle with feelings of guilt and shame as well. They often benefit from group or individual psychotherapy in order to work through such issues as wondering whether they could have prevented the suicide or whether they are likely to commit suicide themselves.
It is important for everyone living in a society that is prone to these issues, to understand the reality of the situation and to help others who may be suffering from such an illness around them, educate people around you about the consequences of such actions to not just themselves but to the people around them as well.
If you’re reading this and in any way you feel deprived of the feeling of despair, you need to remember that God does not burden a soul beyond that it can bare and if you feel like your problem does not have a solution please reach out to the people around you and let them help you, because when there is will there is always a way.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Teen Suicide. AACAP Facts for Families #10. Washington, DC: AACAP, 2004.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Suicide Contagion and the Reporting of Suicide: Recommendations from a National Workshop.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 43 (22 April 1994): 918. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00031539.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Suicide: Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/suifacts.htm.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In Harm’s Way: Suicide in America. NIH Publication No. 03-4594. Bethesda, MD: NIMH, 2003. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/NIMHharmsway.pdf.
Friend, Tad “Letter from California: Jumpers.” New Yorker, 10 November 2003. 〈http://newyorker.com/printable/?fact/031013fa_fact〉. A journalist’s account of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the world’s leading location for suicide.
Fu, Q., A. C. Heath, K. K. Bucholz, et al. “A Twin Study of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Suicidality in Men.” Psychology in Medicine 32 (January 2002): 11-24.
Plunkett, A., B. O’Toole, H. Swanston, et al. “Suicide Risk Following Child Sexual Abuse.” Ambulatory Pediatrics 1 (September-October 2001): 262-266.