Identifying the risk factors of suicide

The results of a study in Europe have proclaimed that depressed people who engage in risky behavior and display agitation and impulsivity are at least 50 percent more inclined to attempt suicide than others. September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, marking a reminder to learn the warning signs of impending suicide.

Research by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) determined that the behavior patterns associated with suicide “precede many suicide attempts” and that effective prevention measures were “urgently needed.” The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2012 there were more than 800,000 suicides worldwide.

The ECNP study encompassed 2,811 people suffering from depression. According to the study, 628 participants engaged in a prior suicide attempt. The researchers paid special attention to the characteristics and behaviors of the subjects with a history of a prior attempt and found patterns associated with suicide risk factors. The possibility of a suicide attempt increased by 50 percent if a person displayed:

  • Risky behavior such as reckless driving or promiscuous behavior
  • Psychomotor agitation such as pacing or hand wringing
  • Impulsivity or acting with no regard for potential consequences

Researchers discovered that “mixed” depressive states often preceded suicide attempts. These states are characterized by bouts of depression combined with symptoms of mania or excitation. Michael Mansfield, a member of the Queen’s Counsel in the United Kingdom, lost his daughter Anna to suicide in 2015 and said her death came “out of the blue.” Anna had a successful career and two children; no one suspected she was at risk for suicide. Mansfield said, in retrospect, there was a pattern of behavior that he did not pinpoint in time. He advocates educating people on the nuances of suicidal ideation.

Paul Farmer, of the mental health charity Mind, said that 6,000 people in the United Kingdom alone die by suicide every year and not enough is known about what triggers these incidents. A person who is thinking about suicide may speak of killing themselves or say they have no reason to live, they may say they are a burden to others or that they feel trapped or in unbearable pain. Telltale moods include depression, loss of interest, rage, irritability, humiliation and anxiety.

The risk of suicide grows if a new behavior appears or increases, particularly if this behavior arrives in tandem with a painful event, loss or other life change. Other indicators of suicidal ideation include:

  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Purchasing weapons or other means of self-harm
  • Reckless behavior
  • Self isolation
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling to say goodbye
  • Disposing of prized possessions
  • Aggression

If you would like further information on treatment as a means of preventing markers of suicide, such as depression and anxiety, please call the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline at any time