Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Coping with suicidal tendencies

Published:Saturday | July 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Dr. Douglas Street, Contributor

Suicide is one of the most devastating incidents that can affect a family. Not only is there a death in the family, but also shame is involved when a person dies in this manner.

This has long-term negative effects on the surviving family members. There have been three suicides involving high school girls in the western region over the past month, so it is prudent to learn when to institute preventative interventions.

First, most persons who commit suicide have threatened, or even attempted, to do it before.

Anyone who threatens or attempts suicide needs to be seen by a doctor!

Often, the threats are not taken seriously and the person may get the opportunity to carry out the threat with devastating consequences.

The doctor will need to assess the situation and determine whether the person needs to be kept in a secure environment for assessment and stabilisation until the situation settles down.

Statistics show that males commit suicide more often than females, but females attempt it more often. This is because males tend to use more violent means, such as hanging and guns; while women are more likely to have drug overdose and slash their wrists, which may allow time for intervention. The elderly male is also at particularly high risk due to social isolation and illness.

Mental illness is also commonly associated with suicide. Persons suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorder, and drug dependence are at increased risk. A depressed or drug-dependent individual may see his life as meaningless and may think suicide is a way to escape. Even persons coming out of deep depression (due to treatment, etc) may commit suicide.

Highly stressed members of the security forces are also high at risk with long work hours, access to and familiarity with guns, exposure to violence, and breakdown in families thereby encouraging suicidal thoughts.

If a person knows someone who has committed suicide, this increases the risk. The closer the person is the higher the risk. Persons who have recently experienced a significant loss (job, partner, house, etc), 'bullyism', or a traumatic life event (e.g. rape) are also at high risk.

Significant health problems may also encourage suicidal thoughts.

Persons with suicidal intentions may start engaging in risky behaviour, drinking heavily; show uncharacteristic calmness or start preparing for death (making a will, giving away belongings, etc).