What are the risk factors for suicide?
Suicide is the leading cause of death in UK men under the age of 45 (BBC, 2018) and approximately four times as many men commit suicide compared to women. One of the theories behind this difference is how society accepts and expects women to talk about their feelings, while men are encouraged to ‘man up’. This highlights the importance of talking openly about emotions, mental health and suicide.
To help reduce suicide in the UK it would be helpful for everyone to be on the lookout for the following risk factors and open up the conversation about suicide. Risk factors for suicide include:
- Depression, either long-standing or recent
- Impulsivity including with substances which may result in accidental death
- Terminal or chronic health conditions
- Hopelessness – often cited as one of the strongest links with suicide attempts
- Self-harming behaviours such as cutting or burning
- A recent observable change in behaviours such as not enjoying activities, withdrawal from loved ones or an increase in substance use
- A change in sleeping or eating patterns
- An ‘external locus of control’ which means a perception that a person’s life is not within their ability to control or influence
- Threats to commit suicide – even if these threats seem unlikely, exaggerated or “attention seeking”
- Feeling trapped and defeated by life
- Feeling as though they are a burden to others
- Thoughts of the world being better off without them
- Previously having attempted suicide or having a family member who has attempted or completed suicide
Although these factors may increase people’s risk of attempting suicide, having one – or even all – of these risk factors does not necessarily mean someone will attempt to take their life. However, professional support would be helpful for anyone struggling with any of these problems.
Some of these risk factors can be observed by the person’s family or friends, however, many are internal processes and can only be known by others through conversation.
Talking about suicide
If you think you yourself, or a loved one is at risk of suicide you are likely to be experiencing a range of emotions including fear. If possible the person themselves should seek support and at Morency we can offer professional help. We can also offer support if you have experienced a bereavement after suicide.
It can also be helpful to open up the conversation about suicide within families and friendship. Try asking loved ones how they are feeling after a traumatic event or an episode of poor mental health and ensure that the conversation does not end with ‘I’m ok’. Listen attentively to their experiences and don’t dismiss their feelings. And always encourage people struggling with suicidal thoughts to access professional help.
For support relating to suicide and related mental health concerns, please contact Dr Julie Hannan now on 07530 854530. Dr Hannan also specialises in midlife issues and more information can be found at www.drjuliehannan.com.
BBC, (2018). Male suicide: ‘His death was the missing piece of the jigsaw’. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43572779