The risk factors, drivers, and warning signs of suicide are complicated topics. Case in point: a person doesn’t usually take their life due to a single reason; there is likely a combination of factors for a suicide attempt.
Moreover, some suicide acts lack red flags which often leave loved ones wondering if they have missed any clues that could have saved their family or friend.
What Drives a Person to Take Their Life?
People who carry unbearable burdens attempt or commit suicide because they want to break free or escape from their suffering. But, where does this unbearable burden come from?
Depression, a form of mental illness, is the most common reason why a person attempts or commits suicide. Someone who’s depressed often fall prey to warped thoughts like, “Everything will be alright once I am gone,” and “Taking my life is the only way to escape.”
Besides depression, other forms of mental illness can also “force” someone to take their life. People with schizophrenia, for instance, openly talk about hearing malevolent voices that command them to self-harm or kill themselves.
Traumatic stress is also another risk factor, especially if the patient experiences depression due to their trauma.
Some cases of suicide are driven by impulsivity related to drug or alcohol use. Once the patient calms down, they often feel remorse about what they did.
However, it’s still difficult to predict if they will attempt to take their life again.
Hopelessness and Pain
We cannot talk about the risk factors, drivers, and warning signs of suicide without discussing hopelessness and pain.
When many devastating things befall a patient all at once, they might feel hopeless and see suicide as the only acceptable solution.
On the other hand, patients who suffer from a terminal illness and excruciating pain may have depressive episodes, which increases suicide risk.
Of course, the exact cause of suicide is hard to determine. Other factors may come into play, such as the fear of loss or belief that they are a burden to those around them.
Finally, an attempt to take one’s life can be a cry for attention. It can be the patient’s way of telling their loved ones that they need help.
The Warning Signs of Suicide
After discussing the risk factors and drivers of suicide, let’s enumerate the warning signs that someone may be planning to take their life.
Before we proceed, it’s important to emphasize that the warning signs vary from person to person. Some people exhibit these symptoms, while others’ behavior may not provide any hints.
Still, keeping a close watch on these red flags might help save lives:
They talk about dying
Patients who plan on committing suicide sometimes talk about dying or killing themselves. They also give hints by talking about:
- Having no reason to leave
- Feeling empty
- Guilt and shame
- There’s no solution to their problem
- Being a burden to others
They exhibit changes in their behavior
A person who has the risk factors or drivers for suicide may also show warning signs through their behavior. The patient may:
- Abuse substances such as alcohol or drugs
- Act agitated or anxious
- Change their sleeping or eating habits
- Exhibit rage
- Take risks that seem to “invite” death, like driving recklessly
- Isolate themselves or withdraw from family and friends
- Display mood swings
- Perform poorly at school or work
They put their affairs in order
When they have risk factors and drivers of suicide, warning signs may include putting their affairs in order. Patients may:
- Make plans to kill themselves or search for ways to die
- Give away prized possessions
- Say goodbye to friends and family
- Write a will
How Can Loved Ones Intervene?
Let’s say you spotted some red flags; what should be your next steps?
According to the American Psychiatric Association and the National Institute of Mental Health, there are 5 crucial steps to take:
Directly ask the patient if they have plans to take their life. It’s a difficult question to ask, but studies show that it does not increase suicidal risk.
Asking helps you assess if the risk is high. Besides assessing their suicidal tendencies, ask them if they:
- Possess what they need to carry out their plan
- Already know when they’re going to do it
- Intend to carry out their plan
If you believe that the suicide risk is imminent, do not leave the patient alone.
Keep them safe
Once you determine that the patient has risk factors, drivers, and warning signs of suicide, keep them safe by searching for and removing lethal objects like knife, gun, rope, or poison.
Be there for them
Allow the patient to talk about their feelings and listen to what they say. Research shows that acknowledging and talking about suicide plans reduces suicidal thoughts or ideation.
Help them connect
Help the patient connect with a trusted friend, family member, healthcare practitioner, or organization. This will help them get the support they need.
After helping them connect with trusted individuals or organizations, follow up on them.
Studies show that staying in touch with a suicidal patient reduces the number of suicide deaths.
The risk factors, drivers, and warning signs of suicide are complicated topics, but discussing them is essential to save someone who may be planning to take their life.
Seek professional help if you or anyone you know are exhibiting any of the aforementioned warning signs of suicide.
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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.