Suicide Risk Factors
Jessie Parker is a crisis worker at Page Hospital and Community Behavior Health Services
Question: Can you tell me who is at risk for suicide?
Answer: Current national statistics report that suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide rates are the highest among the elderly (ages 65+) and the third leading cause of death for ages 15-24, claiming more than 32,400 lives annually.
Somewhere in the United States someone dies by suicide every 16.1 minutes and Arizona ranks number eight out of all the states for suicide completions.
So, who is at risk for suicide? Successful people, young adults, middle age adults, the elderly, academically gifted high school students, regular students, struggling students and college students, outstanding athletes, talented and untalented musicians, paraprofessionals and many others.
Suicide occurs across all ethnic, economic, social and age boundaries. Nearly everyone, at some point in his or her life, thinks about suicide. People in the midst of the crisis often perceive their dilemma as inescapable. They feel an utter loss of control and the need to end the pain and suffering. Intervention, at this time, is imperative for the increased chances of survival. With intervention, most everyone decides to live because they come to realize that the crisis they are experiencing is temporary, while their death is permanent.
There are a number of risk factors that put a person at an increased risk to suicide and most suicidal people often give off warning signs that they are suffering. Some of those risk factors for all age groups are the increased use of alcohol, the use of illicit drugs and/or an increase in anger or violence. The risk for suicide is highest when these factors are present and there are firearms readily available.
Some obvious warning signs may be a feeling of no reason to live or no sense of purpose in life, a recent disappointment or rejection, sudden decline in academic performance, being expelled from school or fired from a job or family problems that include alienation from support. If you know a person who is suffering from untreated psychological pain, assist him/her in getting help. Remember, good friends don’t keep deadly secrets.
Lastly, untreated depression plays a significant role in suicide attempts and completions. The treatment for depression is effective and has been proven to reduce the rate of suicide completions. However, depression is often accompanied by a co-morbid (co-occurring) mental disorder such as alcohol or drug abuse and, if left untreated, can lead to higher rates of recurrent episodes of depression and higher rates of suicide.
To help save a life from a suicide, we must act boldly. We must use the power of our personal relationship and influence with the suicidal person. The goal is to get the person we care about to a professional for an evaluation and treatment as soon as possible. Whatever we do, we cannot afford to take the “wait and see” approach but must apply suicide intervention quickly. Remember, it is better to risk having someone angry with us for a few days than to lose them forever.