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Suicide: Part 1

Part 1: Suicide and The FactsSuicide

The suicide rate from 1950 to 2000 has doubled in males and increased to almost double the amount in females (WHO, 2002).  That is a staggering number.  According to the CDC (2006), that rate has continued at a steady incline. They also inform us that more people die each year by suicide, than by homicide. Suicide is a serious public health problem. Suicide may be from preplanned means or by impulsive and easily obtainable means.  Although there may be some warning signs available, others hide their thoughts and actions well from those around them.

Even though many people choose suicide for any number of reasons, there are some patterns and life cycles we can see which may shed some light on those who may be at higher risk.  Here are some of the patterns which have been identified over time.

Long-Term Risk:

  • Major loss, especially in relationships
  • Recent incarceration
  • No work
  • Unmarried (more likely than those who are married)
  • Absent, distant, or family unavailable
  • Lives alone, little social contact
  • No church membership
  • Family members who have completed suicide
  • Method of suicide easily obtainable
  • Increased age (suicide rates are higher for males, regardless of age)
  • Severe and Persistent mental disorders
  • Personality Disorder (Borderline Personality Disorder being the highest)

Imminent Risk:

  • Suicidal thoughts, threats, plans and/or preparation
  • Intentional Self-Injury in the last year
  • Recent disruption or negative changes in the past month
  • Alienation from therapy and/or medication non-compliance
  • Acute hopelessness, anger, agitation
  • Recent medical care

No one measure alone can be an indicator, and at the same time, only one warning sign can be enough.  It is important to pay attention to people’s behavior over time.  Has it changed recently? Are they more withdrawn OR do they seem more relieved and outgoing than normal for seemingly no reason?  Either change in someone’s behavior can signal the formulation of a plan, and therefore relief, or someone who may be contemplating extreme measures in the absence of other options.

The important part is to stay in contact, check in as you can, and to be available to listen and support.  No matter what, someone who is talking about taking their own life should be taken seriously, even if you believe they are exaggerating or would never do it.  Desperate people make desperate decisions.  The more out of control a person feels, the more likely they will make a desperate decision. As their environment, we can support them and help…

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