Many people posses fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to attempt a suicide [the act of intentionally causing one’s own death]. Your risk of suicide is increased if you think about death and killing yourself often.
Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels helpless is immobilised and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.
According to the 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) data, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, this is one person every 40 seconds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.
Suicide has now been defined as a global phenomenon. WHO further suggests that 78 per cent of suicidal cases occur in the low and middle-Income countries. There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.
Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself, feeling hopeless or having no purpose, feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious, agitated or reckless, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or feeling isolated, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge, displaying extreme mood swings and looking for a way to kill oneself.
Causes for increased suicide risk
Many factors increase the risk for suicide. These factors are separated into three categories:
• Bio psychosocial factors
Bio psychosocial causes account for most suicides and attempted suicides. These causes include mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and personality disorders.
Additional bio psychosocial causes include, substance abuse, childhood abuse or trauma, family history of suicide, previous suicide attempts, having a chronic disease.
• Environmental factors
Environmental factors that increase the risk for suicide often occur due to a stressful life event. This may include the loss of a person, pet, or job. Other causes include, social loss, such as the loss of a significant relationship, access to lethal means, including firearms and drugs being exposed to suicide, being a victim of harassment, bullying, or physical abuse
• Sociocultural factors
One of the main sociocultural causes of suicide is the feeling of being isolated or of not being accepted by others. Feelings of isolation can be caused by sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and gender identity.
Other possible suicide catalysts in this category include, difficulty seeking help or support, lack of access to mental health or substance abuse treatment, following belief systems that accept suicide as a solution to personal problem exposure to suicidal behavior
Protective factors that help reduce suicidal behaviour
Strong, positive relationships with parents and guardians – feeling secure and supported, connections to other non-parental adults, closeness to caring friends, academic achievement, school safety, feeling a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves – community, culture, religion, sports team, neighbourhood safety, awareness of and access to local health services.
The author is based at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University.