Suicide : Who’s Particularly At Risk?

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We have already seen that those who have suffered severe and chronic childhood trauma are at an increased risk of ending their lives by than the average. Indeed, an astonishing ten per cent of those suffering from borderline personality disorder, or BPD (a severe mental illness linked to childhood trauma) die by their own hand.

I myself made a suicide attempt, at the peak (or should that be trough?) of my illness which left me in a coma in intensive care for five days.

So, apart from those suffering from BPD, which other groups of individuals are at a heightened risk of commiting suicide?

At greatest risk, as one would imagine, are individuals who are mentally ill – nine out to ten people who die by suicide are suffering from a diagnosable mental illness.

Of the mentally ill, those suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are especially at risk (like those suffering from BPD, one in ten with either of these mental health conditions eventually commits suicide).

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Hopelessness:

Of course, whilst about ten per cent of those suffering severe mental illnesses such as BPD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia end their lives by suicide, we need not be mathematical geniuses to deduce from this that 90℅ do not. So what tips people in these groups over the edge?

Research suggests that the main predictor of an individual with severe mental illness commiting suicide is if they also experience a profound sense of hopelessness. Like me, when I made the suicide attempt I referred to above, they feel that their intolerable mental pain will never end, that everyday will be a day of intense psychological suffering and turmoil, and that there is absolutely no way out whatsoever.

An aspect of the tragedy is, of course, that a person’s state of mind can make the individual believe 100℅ that things can never get better when, objectively, this is not the case. There are many who can vouch for this, happily, from their own former bitter experiences.

Rejection:

Feeling rejected by family, friends and society in general is another important predictor of suicide.

Impulsivity:

Whilst some suicide attempts are methodically planned (as my own was), others are made on impulse. It follows, of course, that those who have an impulsive type personality (impulsivity is often a feature of BPD) are also at higher risk.

Being Male:

About twice as many men die by suicide than women.

However, unsuccessful suicide attempts are approximately twice as likely to be made by females than by males.

The Paradox Of Getting ‘Better’:

Those suffering from severe depression, at their illest, may be so lacking in motivation, and so close to being in a catatonic state, that they wish to die but cannot muster the mental energy required to end their lives (they may, too, in such a state of illness, lack the requisite planning and decision making abilities necessary). Paradoxically, it is sometimes only when such depressive symptoms start to lift slightly that they find themselves able to make a suicide attempt.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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