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Suicide rates are harder to gauge because the media usually doesn’t report suicides due to stigma. Another aspect of why suicide statistics are skewed is largely due to the media portraying most of the gun violence in the country as being homicidal, as opposed to suicidal. When suicides are underreported, the urgency of finding a solution to the problem is diluted. Some studies suggest that the underreporting of suicides is also due to social or religious values.
Many suicide attempts of non-intentional, self-harm behaviors go unreported and untreated. Males are four times more likely than females to die by suicide, and females attempt suicide three times as often as males do. In 2013, 494,169 people visited a hospital for self-harm injuries, suggesting that for every reported death by suicide, approximately 12 people are engaging in self-harm behavior and not necessarily intending on killing themselves (CDC 2014).
While society as a whole may be working on bettering its approach to viewing and keeping track of suicides, it is important that individuals learn how to recognize risk factors and symptoms in their loved ones. Knowing these facts could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Risk factors and signs of suicide
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), the most common risk factor for suicide is mental illness. People diagnosed with major depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline psychotic disorders or anxiety disorders are more likely to have attempted suicide. Age also makes a difference as well, as both those under the age of 25 and those over the age of 65 are at a higher risk of suicide. (NAMI 2013).
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the most common method of committing suicide is by use of firearms. In 2013, more than half of all suicide deaths were caused by use of a firearm, 24.5 percent were due to suffocation, 16.1 percent were due to poisoning and 8 percent were due to other causes (AFSP 2013).
Knowing who is more at risk of suicide is a good starting point. The next step is to know what symptoms to look for. Symptoms of suicide may include:
- Constantly talking about and/or thinking about death
- Clinical depression
- Having a death wish and tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death
- Talking about being hopeless or worthless
- Abrupt change in mood from sadness to calm
- Visiting people or calling people to say goodbye
Suicide link to antidepressants and depression
It has been noted that those who are dealing with mental health disorders are often more at risk of suicide. One such example is the link between suicide and depression. Depression is a mood disorder exhibited through depressed mood, feelings of sadness, social isolation, slowed thinking, changes in appetite and weight and a loss of interest in pleasurable activities. Depression has also been known to cause suicidal thoughts and actions.
While it is important to know that those dealing with depression are at a higher risk of attempting suicide, it is also important to see how and where antidepressants may play a role in the rate of suicide of those with depression.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did a study in regards to the relationship between antidepressants and people who committed suicide in the United States between 1996 and 1998. The study found that approximately 30,000 people die by suicide every year in the United States and 60 percent of these people had an untreated mood disorder. The suicide data was broken up by county and took age, sex, income, and race into consideration.
The results of the study didn’t find significant data in regards to a relationship between antidepressants and suicide rate, except for the data they found that revealed a positive association between tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) prescriptions and incidences of suicide. Higher suicide rates in rural areas are associated with fewer antidepressant prescriptions (SSNR & SSRIs), lower income and more prescriptions for TCAs. The high number of TCA prescriptions were thought to be a marker for the counties that had limited access to quality mental health care.
Therapy for suicidal ideation
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a valuable therapeutic modality that has proven to be effective in treating depression, self-harm, various types of substance abuse issues, as well as for treating suicidal ideation and other suicidal thoughts and behaviors. CBT teaches patients how to identify the negative thoughts that lead to destructive behaviors and then to understand the foundation of where the thoughts came from. A person can often find that his or her thoughts aren’t based on reality, or fact, but are based on fear or distorted thinking. Once the foundation of the thoughts are able to be understood and validated as rational or irrational, the patient learns tools to use in order to change his or her thinking, which in turn allows the preceding feelings of the trigger or thought to change as well.
If you or a loved one is battling depression, having suicidal thoughts or has attempted suicide, there is quality help just around the corner. Call the Mental Health Helpline at 855-653-8178 immediately to speak with someone who can help.