With the sheer amount of stressors we face day in and day out, life can feel overwhelming and at times, unliveable. Personal stressors, crises around the world, and past traumas that seem to haunt us when we least expect them, are always there, lurking in the background. There are people who have the resources and strength to move past these trying times. But for those who struggle to simply stay alive, suicide is a real risk that must be addressed.
On The Brink of Suicide
Committing suicide literally means “taking one’s life” or “causing one’s death.” There are a number of factors that lead some to attempt to end their lives, and others that lead them to successfully complete the act. And while there is not a single one of us who does not have to deal with pain and heartache from time to time, there are certain factors that make suicide more likely for certain parts of the population.
Impaired mental health is a significant contributing factor to suicide, but in no way serves as an axiomatic truth. However, the Centers for Disease Control, known also as the CDC, report that more than half of suicide victims are either not diagnosed with mental illness or are not mentally ill at all. And while there are those who may go through life undiagnosed, this particular set of statistics encourages us to consider factors other than mental illness as those that may spur suicide.
Substance abuse is highly correlated with suicidality. Whether the intention is to end one’s life through the use of drugs or alcohol, or consumption of these substances leads to an accidental overdose, the correlation between substance abuse and suicide is significant.
Traumatic events, whether they have occured in the recent or distant past, can trigger a desire to end one’s life in order to escape the memories or reliving of a trauma. All forms of abuse, previous suicide attempts, and significant personal, relationship, or financial losses have also been identified as precursors to suicide.
Lastly, certain communities are at greater risk for suicide than others. Military veterans, particularly those who most recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan, have demonstrated alarming rates of self harm that speak not only to the traumas they faced in service, but our obligations to those who fought on our behalf.
While the risk factors for suicide should not be overlooked, the warning signs surrounding suicide must be heavily weighed and considered. If an individual says they feel like a burden, experience frequent, pervasive, and extreme mood swings, or talk frequently about wanting to die, help should be sought immediately.
If someone flat out says they not only want or are considering killing themselves, but have access or means to their selected method of self harm, the likelihood that they will try to end their lives increases exponentially. The speed with which help must then be sought, should reflect that urgency.
Myths Surrounding Suicide
Talk of death, whether inadvertent, due to disease, or self inflicted, scares people. Death is one of several topics that many people resist discussing because it is uncomfortable and scary. But not discussing the risks of suicide, the causes that most often lead to it, and the myths surrounding self harm, do a disservice to us all.
Myth #1 Only white men kill themselves.
Suicide is an equal opportunity endeavor, across genders, religions, and races. Indeed, mental health continues to be a somewhat stigmatized issue within the African American community. Additionally, those with mental illnesses do not always seek help. Still, the belief that only caucasian males attempt to end their lives is simply false.
Myth #2 There is never a warning before someone kills themselves.
While there are people graced with the ability to ask for the help they need and want, not everyone is able to similarly express themselves. That said, the belief that suicide attempts come without any sort of warning is false. Indications of self harm may be subtle, but suicide attempts that have not been alluded to in some way, are far and few between.
Myth # 3 Talking about suicide encourages people to consider or do it.
No one can be talked into killing themselves. Discussing suicide attempts, ways in which others have successfully killed themselves, or directly asking someone if they want to kill themselves, does not make someone inherently suicidal. In fact, openly discussing suicide is not dangerous, and without the fear of repercussions or backlash, can be quite refreshing.
Suicide is a public health issue that affects the welfare of people worldwide; in 2016, it was considered the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
In order to prevent suicides we must not only educate ourselves about the warning signs and risks, nor leave our attempts to understand suicide in strongly worded convictions. The only way we can help ameliorate the epidemic of suicide is by conducting ourselves in ways that allow us to listen without judgement, improve mental health services, develop community support systems, and discuss the causes of suicide without stigma or negative consequence.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). To discuss ways in which to alleviate stress and strain while also improving your quality of life, contact Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC of Body Systems Wellness in Glendale, California.