Every year around 800,000 desperate people around the world commit suicide, choosing a permanent solution to what may be a temporary problem (WHO, 2018e).
Factors that increase the risk of suicide:
Researchers compared different groups and categorized factors that increase the risk of suicide. Nation, race, gender, or age can affect suicide rates.
• Russia has twice the suicide rate of the United States.
• Within the US, Whites and Native Americans are about twice as likely to die by suicide as BPoC (Black People of Color), Latinx, and Native Asians (Curtin & Hedegaard, 2019).
• The risk of suicide is threefold in anxiety patients and fivefold in depressed patients (Bostwick & Pankratz, 2000; Kanwar et al., 2013).
• Women and girls are more likely than men to consider or attempt suicide. But globally, men are twice as likely to die by suicide.
• In late adulthood, rates are increasing worldwide, with the highest rates in those over 70 years of age.
• Individuals with OCD (Obsesive Compulsive Disorder) have a higher risk of depression, which increases their risk of suicide (de la Cruz et al., 2017).
• Suicidal ideation can also increase when people feel compelled to achieve a standard they feel is unattainable: such as becoming skinny, straight, or rich. (Chatard & Selimbegović, 2011; Smith, M. et al., 2018).
• Suicide rates are much higher among the wealthy, non-religious, and the unmarried (Norko et al., 2017; Okada & Samreth, 2013; VanderWeele et al., 2016, 2017).
• Transgender and gender-nonconforming youth exposed to an unsupportive environment are also at increased risk of attempting suicide.
• Social suggestion can also trigger suicidal thoughts and behavior. An analysis of data from 17 million Twitter users showed that sharing suicidal thoughts had a ripple effect, spreading suicidal thoughts across one's social network (Cero & Witte, 2019).
NSSI, as a risk factor for future suicide attempts:
Some people—primarily adolescents and women—can engage in nonsuicidal self-harm (NSSI). For example, they can cut or burn their skin, hit themselves, or insert objects under their nails. Those involved in NSSI have experienced bullying, harassment, or stress. Some are both self-critical and impulsive. Many find relief from intense negative thoughts through the distraction of pain, others attract attention and seek help, some can alleviate guilt by punishing themselves.
Those who engage in NSSI are typically not suicidal (Evans & Simms, 2019; Nock & Kessler, 2006). Nonetheless, NSSI is a risk factor for future suicide attempts.
The global suicide rate
The facts speak for themselves: according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global suicide rate in 2019 was 9.0 per 100,000 population. The US had the highest suicide rate among the G7 countries at 16.1 per 100,000, while Italy had the lowest at 6.7 per 100,000. Germany had a suicide rate of 12.3 per 100,000 inhabitants. Among the BRICS countries, the suicide rate ranged from 6.9 in Brazil to 25.1 in the Russian Federation.
In Switzerland, euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal
In 2014, a total of 752 assisted suicides were carried out (330 men, 422 women), compared to 1,029 unassisted suicides (754 men, 275 women). Most assisted suicides involved older people suffering from a terminal illness. Critics speak of "suicide tourism", as Swiss assisted suicide organisations are widely used by foreigners. In 2008, German citizens accounted for 60% of the total number of assisted suicides by the Dignitas organisation.
Effects of suicide and suicide attempts
Suicide and suicide attempts have serious emotional, physical and economic consequences. People who attempt suicide and survive can suffer serious injuries that can have long-term effects on their health. They may also experience depression and other mental health problems.
Suicide and suicide attempts affect the health and well-being of friends, family, work colleagues and the community. When people die by suicide, their surviving family members and friends may experience prolonged grief, shock, anger, guilt, symptoms of depression or anxiety and even thoughts of suicide themselves.
The financial toll that suicide has on society is also costly. In 2020, suicide and non-fatal self-injury cost the nation more than $500 billion in medical costs, lost work time costs, value of statistical life and quality of life costs.
Preventive measures against suicide
However, there are various ways to prevent suicides. One important measure is the promotion of mental health and the early detection and treatment of mental illness. In addition, reducing stigma, expanding support networks and promoting life skills can help reduce the risk of suicide.
Acute suicide crises: seek professional help
In acute suicide crises, it can be helpful to seek professional help. This includes telephone counselling centres, crisis services and psychiatric clinics. It is also important that people in the environment of people with suicidal thoughts pay attention to warning signals and take them seriously in order to seek support in time.
Suicide prevention: a task for society as a whole
It is important to emphasise that suicide prevention is a task for society as a whole and that everyone can contribute to preventing suicides. Talking openly about the topic, sharing personal experiences and disseminating information and offers of help can help raise awareness of suicide prevention and support people in crisis.
Psychology, David G. Myers, C. Nathan DeWall