Suicide and Mental Health

Suicide is a major public health concern. Estimates indicate that around 38,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States. Knowing what the risk factors are can help reduce the suicide rate. A combination of individual, relational, community and societal factors influence and contribute to the problem of suicide.

A few common risk factors, according to data, include:

  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression;
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse;
  • Family history of suicide;
  • Loss (relationships, work, or financial);
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts.

The combination of risks compounds the possibility of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Those who abuse substances, are depressed, and have a history of suicidal ideation are more at risk of committing suicide than those who have only one risk factor, though those with one risk factor can commit suicide.

Research has shown that suicidal behavior is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which is also associated with depression. Lower levels of serotonin are found in the brains of people with a history of suicide attempts, than in the brains of those who do not attempt suicide.

The most recently gathered data shows that suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24, the third cause for children ages 10-14 and the tenth cause for all ages.

A serious but preventable public health problem, suicide attempts and completed suicides can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. Sadly, most people who attempt suicide do not seek medical or psychological treatment.

Never assume that someone talking about thoughts of suicide is attempting a harmless bid for attention. Suicidal ideation is not a normal response to stress, but a sign of extreme distress. Discuss mental health questions or any concerns with a professional as soon as possible. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, delay only adds to the potential that they may attempt and possibly complete suicide.



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