According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone dies from taking their own life every 40 seconds globally -- which is 1.6 percent of all deaths worldwide. The WHO also believes that for every person who dies through suicide, a further 20 attempt it. Although there are many reasons people commit suicide, in the vast majority of cases, the individual was suffering from an untreated psychiatric disorder. Here are the primary risk factors to look out for.
Previous suicide attempt
Overall, people who have previously attempted suicide are 38.4 times more likely to commit suicide than people who have never attempted suicide. One study suggested that as many as 80 percent of people who attempt suicide will do so again within a year. However, the risk can be higher or lower depending on the potential lethality of the previous attempt, and how many previous attempts there have been.
People with eating disorders oftentimes have suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts. Eating disorders are characterized by distorted thinking, and striving for an unattainable ideal. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness -- two things that are common among people who attempt suicide. There are differences between eating disorders, too -- people with anorexia tend to have more planned suicide attempts, while people with bulimia tend to make more impulsive suicide attempts.
Suicide occurs 20.4 times more commonly in people who suffer from depression than in people who don’t. In most cases, suicides are triggered by a flood of difficult, painful emotions from which people see no escape. Some compare the experience to that of people who jump from burning buildings -- in both cases the fear of falling, pain, and death is real -- but the jumpers anticipate more pain on one side of the window than the other. There is an escape from depression, however, and most people see improvements within weeks of starting their treatment.
Substance Abuse Disorder
People with drug abuse disorders are 19.2 times more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t -- although with alcohol abuse it’s a little lower at 6 times more likely. As with depression (the two often go hand-in-hand), substance abuse impairs rational thinking and stops people from seeing and seeking solutions to their problems. These solutions exist, however, and substance abuse can be effectively managed through methods such as therapy and inpatient treatment centers. Many insurance plans cover counseling, and some may cover inpatient treatment as well. Seniors who have a Medicare Advantage plan from companies like United Healthcare may also have access to counseling for alcohol-related issues.
Those who suffer from bipolar disorder are 15 times more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t. With bipolar disorder, people experience periods of both depression and elevated mood, and a key risk factor is when the two states occur at the same time. Like depression, bipolar disorder can cause heart-wrenching emotional pain, and can stop people from thinking clearly. But if this occurs at the same time as a manic state, this gives people the energy to do something about it, which might lead to a suicide attempt.
However, treatment for bipolar disorder is effective, particularly in terms of reducing suicide attempts. Lithium, a drug rarely given for major depression disorder, can dramatically reduce suicide attempts and completions in people with bipolar disorder, as can certain stress-reduction therapies.
As you can see, the risk of suicide is much higher in people who have other mental issues -- often, people possess several risk factors. Although these problems have known treatments with good success rates, as many as 80 percent of people who attempted suicide were not being treated for their additional mental disorder. If you yourself have had thoughts about suicide, call a suicide hotline or speak to your doctor about it -- there are people out there who can help and who want to listen to you.
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