It is estimated that roughly half of all suicides can be directly associated with some mental health problem. The most common of these is depression, but substance-related disorders and schizophrenia also account for a good proportion. The most common reason for attempting suicide involves interpersonal relationships and people below the age of 35 are most affected. In older people, levels of increasing disability, loss of independence and recent bereavement are causes.
Suicide rates vary across the globe. Russia, for example, is reported as having one of the highest rates of suicide at 40 for every 100,000 people. Greece, by contrast, has as few as 4 per 100,000 (World Health Organization).
Three times more women attempt suicide, but men are three times more likely to succeed. Around 60 percent of suicide attempts occur after the person has consumed alcohol. Early life experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, or loss of parents through death or divorce are associated with people who attempt suicide. Typically, high levels of stress for between six months to a year will have preceded the attempt.
Many theorists have attempted to explain suicide. At one level, particularly over the past few years, suicide as a rational choice (e.g. for people with painful degenerative diseases) has been debated more openly. In other situations it is recognized that suicide attempts are associated with people who have difficulty problem-solving. Such individuals appear to lack the capacity to see alternatives beyond a limited range. The person is also likely to hold certain core beliefs involving their lack of competence, lack of value and of being unloved and helpless. The future is regarded as hopeless, complex, and one in which their inability to meet the qualities they believe are admired by others, can never be met.
Suicidal individuals often experience a range of emotions from sadness to anger. Sometimes high levels of physical and emotional arousal are coupled with ideas of revenge.
Those who attempt suicide are likely to benefit from therapy that directly addresses the reasons for their attempt. Psychological therapy will provide alternative coping strategies as will couples therapy or, in some cases, family therapy. It has been demonstrated that even a very few sessions involving problem-focused and cognitive behavioral interventions can have a good effect. Over a five session period with patients, the psychologist and professor Paul Salkovskis (1990) found in the six months following intervention 25 percent attempted at least once compared with 50 percent who received no intervention.
Published On: September 16, 2008