Suicide; Everything You Wanted To Know

Updated: Aug 23

Suicide is a serious public health problem. The effects of suicide go beyond the person who acts to take his or her life. It can have a lasting effect on family, friends, and communities. However, suicides are preventable with timely, and often low-cost interventions. And this is this article is so important for you to read.

The WHO statistics around suicide are shocking:

  1. Approximately 1.5% of population globally dies by suicide

  2. In absolute numbers, there are almost a million suicides in the world each year. Rates of suicide have increased by 60% from the 1960s to the present

  3. For every suicide that results in death there are between 10 and 40 attempted suicides.

  4. Males are twice as likely as females to commit suicide.

  5. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally

  6. Suicide does not just occur in high-income countries. In fact, over 75% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.

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Who Is At Risk Of Suicide?

Suicide does not discriminate. It can touch anyone, anywhere, at any time. Suicidal thinking results from an interplay of behavioural, socio economic and psychological factors, which can contribute to the risk of suicide:

  • Having attempted suicide before; single most important factor

  • Depression and other mental health disorders

  • Alcohol or drug use disorder

  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

  • Medical illness, including chronic pain

  • Family history of a mental health disorder

  • Family history of an alcohol or drug use disorder

  • Family history of suicide

  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse

  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs

  • Being in or having recently gotten out of prison

  • Being exposed to others' suicidal behaviour, such as a family member, peer, or celebrity

  • Stressful life event, such as a job loss, financial problems, loss of a loved one, or a breakup of a relationship

Neurobiology Of Suicide

Low levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are both directly associated with suicide and indirectly associated through its role in major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive–compulsive disorder. Post-mortem studies have found reduced levels of BDNF in specific parts of the brain, namely the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, in those with and without psychiatric conditions.

Serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, is believed to be low in those who die by suicide. Other evidence includes reduced levels of a breakdown product of serotonin, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, in the cerebral spinal fluid.

Types Of Suicide

There are broadly four different types of suicide, which are egoistic suicide, altruistic suicide, anomic suicide and fatalistic suicide.

Egoistic suicide stems from the absence of social integration. It is committed by individuals who see themselves as being alone or outsiders. These individuals are unable to find their place in society and have problems adjusting to groups. Suicide for them is a solution to free themselves from loneliness.

Altruistic suicide occurs when social group involvement is too high. Individuals are so well integrated into the group that they are willing to sacrifice their own lives for the collective benefit of the group or for the cause that the group believes in. An example is the hijackers that crashed the airplanes into the World Trade Centre in 2001. Suicide bombers around the world are willing to give up their lives in order to make a political or religious statement because they firmly believe in their group’s cause.