Causes: There is no single cause of suicide. In most cases suicide is the result of a combination of different risk factors (e.g., mental illness, substance abuse, painful losses, family stressors, access to means of self-harm) in conjunction with one or more precipitating life events. These “triggers,” such as a break-up or being bullied are rarely the only “cause” of suicide, but rather the “last straw” that pushes an already at-risk individual over the edge. An important statistic shows that 90% of people across all ages who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder at the time of their death. This is why identifying and treating mental illnesses is crucial in working to prevent suicide.
Risk Factors: Suicide is a complex behavior that is usually caused by a combination of risk factors in the presence of negative life events. The first step in preventing suicide is to identify and understand the risk factors. A risk factor is anything that increases the likelihood that a person will harm himself or herself. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur. –Adapted from the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
Most Significant Risk Factors: Depression, Substance Abuse, Previous Suicide Attempt
Other Important Risk Factors: History of mental disorders (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression)
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Family history of suicide and/or child abuse
- Loss (death of a loved one, divorce, etc.)
- Physical illness
- Easy access to firearms
- Being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Questioning
Myths and Facts About Depression and Suicide
MYTH: It’s normal for teenagers to be moody; teens don’t suffer from “real” depression.
FACT: Depression can affect people at any age or of any race, ethnicity, or economic group.
MYTH: Teens who claim to be depressed are weak and just need to pull themselves together. There’s nothing anyone else can do to help.
FACT: Depression is not a weakness, it is a serious health disorder. Both young people and adults who are depressed need professional treatment. For many people, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is beneficial.
MYTH: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
FACT: Almost everyone who dies by suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” or “I can’t see any way out”-no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
MYTH: If a person is determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them.
FACT: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop.
MYTH: People who complete suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
FACT: Studies of completed suicides have shown that more than half had sought medical help within six months before their deaths.
MYTH: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
FACT: You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true. Bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.