Suicide is a tragic and potentially preventable public health problem. In 2005, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. The total number of suicides was 32,637, or 1.3 percent of all deaths.
Suicidal behavior is complex. Some risk factors vary with age, gender and ethnic group and may even change over time. For example, suicide was the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds, and the second leading cause of death for 25-34 year olds. However, the risk factors for suicide frequently occur in combination. Research has shown that more than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have depression or another diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder, often in combination with other mental disorders. Also, research indicates that alterations in neurotransmitters such as serotonin are associated with the risk for suicide. Diminished levels of this brain chemical have been found in patients with depression, impulsive disorders, a history of violent suicide attempts, and also in postmortem brains of suicide victims.
It should be noted that suicide is far more common than homicide, indeed, suicide deaths outnumber homicide deaths by five to three. It has been estimated that there may be from eight to 25 attempted suicides per every one suicide death. The alarming numbers of suicide deaths and attempts emphasize the need for carefully designed prevention efforts.
Adverse life events in combination with other risk factors such as depression may lead to suicide. However, suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to stress. Many people have one or more risk factors and are not suicidal. Other risk factors include: prior suicide attempt; family history of mental disorder or substance abuse; family history of suicide; family violence, including physical or sexual abuse; firearms in the home; incarceration; and exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, including family members, peers, or even in the media.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, you should take action. If the feelings or thougts are mild, contact a psychologist and schedule an appointment. If they are pressing and you are considering self-harm, there are hotlines, such as 1.800.SUICIDE (784-2433) that you can call at any time to speak with someone who will listen, or you can even consider the emergency room.
Theraputic treatments for suicide include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, http://www.cognitive-therapy-associates.com/therapy/cognitive/ as well as appropriate medications used in combination. Given the interrelationship between anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges, its important that a professional assist you in understanding what is contributing to your suicidal thoughts or ideations.
© 2011 by Allison Conner a New York Therapist and clinical director of Cognitive Therapy Associates