We’ve approached the subject of suicide elsewhere on this site. We’ve talked about dumb ways to die, where people inadvertently commit suicide. These people did stupid things like light fireworks atop their heads, which ultimately (instantly) led to their demise.
Then there’s the suicide forest in Japan. For some reason, this dark forest calls to people – whether they suffer depression, are contemplating suicide, or simply want to go camping.
We’ve talked about suicide rates and celebrity suicides. We’ve even talked about suicides dating back to biblical times.
What we never do is make light of the topic. Suicide is a serious matter, and we take it seriously. If you’ve reached this page because you’re contemplating ending your own life, please call the suicide hotline in your area.
In the United States, please call 1-800-273-8255.
In the United Kingdom, call 999, or contact Samaritans at 116 123
What Causes Suicide?
As you know, suicide is what it’s called when someone takes his or her own life. There are often signs of suicidal tendencies, but very frequently the victim’s loved ones have no idea of his intent.
Suicide methods vary immensely. While some choose to overdose on painkillers, others may choose to hang themselves. Some choose more gruesome methods, opting to shoot themselves or jump from a height.
Suicide is one of the scariest ways to die. Not necessarily for those who choose to end their lives, but for those who love the victim. Family members are left behind, wondering what they could have done differently. Loved ones know that there was another, better alternative for the victim, and they deeply wish that the victim had asked for help.
So what causes suicide? Well, often it’s mental illness. In fact, approximately 90% of all suicide victims have suffered a mental illness at the time of death. Most likely, they suffer depression. But sometimes the victims can suffer schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Of course, other factors may contribute. Substance abuse can play a large role in a suicide. High levels of stress and anxiety may also contribute. A history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse can also influence a victim’s decision to commit suicide.
There’s no real cause of suicide. The desire to die can never fully be explained by those who haven’t felt it. The feeling is best described as hopeless, overwhelmed and, if you can imagine it, “futureless.”
Who Commits Suicide?
Suicide is most prevalent in Eastern Europe and in Asia. Of the countries for which we have statistics, Lithuania has the highest suicide rate for the population: 28.6 deaths are suicides out of every 100,000.
China also has a high rate of suicide. There are 22.2 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, followed closely by India with a suicide rate of 22 per 100,000. Rather than tossing statistics at you, it might be helpful if we broke down suicide statistics by geographical region.
Suicide in the United States
In the United States, men are almost four times as likely to commit suicide as women. The majority of these victims are middle aged, and over half opt to shoot themselves.
There are about 123 suicides every day in the United States, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the States. Almost 45,000 men and women choose to end their lives each year in the United States. And for every “successful” suicide, there are 25 more which are attempted.
Suicide in the United Kingdom
Each year in the United Kingdom, around 6,200 people commit suicide. There are around 11 suicides per 100,000 deaths in the UK.
More men than women commit suicide. However, the suicide rate among men is decreasing, while suicides by women are actually increasing. The reason for this is unknown.
As in the United States, the majority of suicide victims are men in their middle aged years.
Suicide in Japan
We chose to profile Japan for two reasons. First, the country has a reputation for having a high suicide rate. Secondly, throughout Japanese history, suicide has carried a nobility in Japan.
Honor suicide is one example of this. Many examples of honor suicide can be found in recent Japanese history, particularly during the Second World War. Honor suicide was a way to escape the shame of defeat in battle.
Honor suicide is also offered as an option to those who have committed crimes, like adultery. It was also used by the Samurai – these soldiers would ritualistically commit suicide by disembowelment rather than fall into the hands of an enemy.
Today, suicide in Japan is frequently akin to these honor suicides. Men, in particular, leave their families when they’re faced with stress, financial hardship or other difficulties. They then quietly take their own lives. Around 32,000 Japanese commit suicide each year. Rather than accept the label of “weak,” these Japanese choose instead to jump in front of trains or hang themselves.
Suicide Around the World
If we listed suicide stats for every country in the world, we’d lose your interest very quickly. Instead, here’s a bit of a worldwide picture:
- Almost 2% of deaths in the world are attributed to suicide.
- Over the past 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60%.
- Every 40 seconds, someone in the world commits suicide.
- Kids aren’t immune. 9.1% of deaths of kids between 15-19 years old are suicides.
Symptoms of Suicidal Risk
As mentioned, it can be very difficult to determine whether a person is at risk for suicide. Families are often shocked when a loved one commits suicide, and are left retroactively searching for clues.
While it’s very hard to predict, there are signs to look out for. Of course, if someone you love has been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder or another imbalance, that person is at a higher risk for suicide.
You can also keep an eye out for these symptoms:
- Giving away prized possessions. If your sister just handed you the wedding ring she received from her deceased husband, you may consider talking to her a little more in depth.
- Increasing drug and alcohol use. While this isn’t a sure sign of a suicidal risk, increasing risky behaviors can be indicative of suicidal thoughts.
- An increase in the frequency of “morbid” topics of conversation. This can include an increased preoccupation with death, or topics related to death.
- Severe mood swings or sudden changes in personality can be concerning. If your friend displays these, try to seek help.
- Getting affairs in order or saying goodbye to loved ones. This is perhaps the most obvious sign that your friend may be in trouble. If this happens, please get help immediately.
Help for Those with Suicidal Thoughts
Not every suicide is premeditated. Some suicides are “impulse” decisions, brought on by excess stress, an unexpected tragedy or even substance abuse.
But for some, suicide is a carefully thought out and studied process. If you recognize the symptoms of suicide risk in someone you love, it’s important to seek help immediately.
First, consider calling a suicide hotline. Suicide hotlines will be able to direct you to resources which are local to you. Those resources may prove to be the difference between life and death to your friend.
You can’t necessarily prevent your friend from committing suicide. However, it’s important to remember that your friend may have conflicting feelings about death. He or she may desire to die out of a sense of hopelessness, yet there’s still a chance that, with proper professional help, he could change his mind.
After contacting the suicide hotline you should have a general idea of resources available in your area. Encourage your friend to take advantage of those services. Whether they be inpatient or outpatient facilities, the professional help can go a long way to help save a life.
Suicide in the Media
Unfortunately, suicide is often romanticized in the media. From Romeo and Juliet to Kurt Cobain and The Heathers, suicide has become a glorified form of death, particularly in Western cultures.
We joke, even inadvertently, about suicide. “Ugh, I’m so bored I just want to kill myself.”
Even celebrity deaths can affect suicide. Consider this quote from the Centre for Suicide Research:
The impact of the media on suicidal behaviour seems to be most likely when a method of suicide is specified—especially when presented in detail—when the story is reported or portrayed dramatically and prominently—for example with photographs of the deceased or large headlines—and when suicides of celebrities are reported.
Suicide is nothing to joke about, and nothing to romanticize. It’s become an epidemic, with suicide rates increasing globally. However, the best way to prevent suicide is through an understanding of it. If you know someone who is showing the signs of suicidal tendencies, understand that though they haven’t asked for help, there’s still time to assist. Call for professional assistance, and do everything in your power to help keep your friend from becoming another suicide statistic.