Relationship between Mental Illness and Suicidal Behavior

In Crisis?

The risk of suicidal behavior can be precipitated by a number of factors one of which is mental disorders. Lots of researches have been done to analyze the relationship between mental illness and suicide. Most of these studies have reviewed positive correlations between the two variables hence the need to look at some of these mental disorders and how they enhance the risk of developing suicidal thoughts.

Suicide and Depression

According to the World Health Organization, there are currently over 121 million people who are suffering from various levels of depression. Research projections indicate that depression will take over as the second most cause of disability after cardiac illnesses by the year 2020. Compared to men, women are highly likely to be diagnosed with depression. Given the high prevalence of suicide cases and the high rates of depression among those who commit suicide, it becomes imperative for those who suffer depression to seek comprehensive treatment that addresses both suicidality and depression.

Suicide and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness which is second in ranking to unipolar depression as one of the major causes of worldwide disability. Men and women are affected equally and the suicide risks in bipolar disorder patients are 15 times that of the general public. Work, family, study, and emotional pressures are among the greatest contributors to suicide in bipolar disorder patients. However, the good news is, these patients can be treated and return to normal functioning.

Suicide and Schizophrenia

Over 24 million people globally are suffering from schizophrenia with the ratios between men and women being equal. People with schizophrenia have a 4 to 10% risk of committing suicide and a 40% risk of suicide attempts. According to a World Health Organization study, schizophrenia was found to be the most common cause of death. In order to prevent suicidal cases among schizophrenics, there needs to be dedicated training not only in risk assessment, but also in management of the problem. Societal support and care is important if this group of people is to recover and assume normal life.

Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa

Of all mental illnesses, eating disorders have been found to have the highest mortality rates. Suicide, deaths, as well as deaths resulting from eating disorder complications have been on the rise in this group of people. Inpatients are the most affected while outpatients still record low suicidal numbers. Bulimic individuals who also have co-morbid alcohol abuse tend to have the highest suicidal attempts rates. Studies have identified that patients who suffer from eating disorders usually have a host of other related problems including depression, anxiety, drug and substance abuse, as well as fearfulness. More intensive research is required as well as clinical best practice guidelines to help address eating disorders.

Suicide and Self-Mutilation

Particularly among young people, self-mutilation has emerged as an area of concern with at least one in a thousand people being vulnerable. Self-mutilation can take many different forms including biting oneself, burning one’s skin or scratching it hard, banging one’s head, pulling and cutting hair, as well as amputation. Inasmuch as self-mutilation and suicide are two different problems, research has pointed out that people with mental illnesses are more likely to undergo self-mutilation. Also, self-mutilation is a precursor to suicidal behavior. Close to 50% of those who kill themselves have a history of self-harm.

Substance Abuse and Suicide

Alcohol has been indicated by international health researchers as the most widely abused substances globally. In 2003, the World Health Organization gave an estimate of about 5 million people who illicitly inject drugs. Young adults were isolated as a susceptible group when it comes to the risk factors associated with substance abuse that lead to suicide. Depression and alcohol abuse are also co-existing factors that lead to suicidal behavior. Depression levels in people who abuse alcohol are high and this makes them to act on impulse.

Understanding the Warning Signs and Risk Factors for Suicide

 In Crisis?

Suicide can best be defined as a condition which occurs when the stressors exceed the ability of your system to cope. Mostly, suicide is closely associated with mental health conditions key among them depression. Conditions such as substance abuse problems, anxiety, and depression when left unaddressed for a lengthy period of time can increase the risk of suicide. It is also to be appreciated that people who manage their mental health conditions actively can lead good and fulfilling lives.

The Prevalence of Suicide

In 2009, suicide was found to be the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. In that year alone, there were close to 37,000 suicide cases as well as 1 million suicide attempts. This is according to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control. Men account for about 79% of all suicide cases in the United States which is 4 times the rate of women.

The Risk Factors for Suicide

Suicidal behavior is precipitated by a number of factors which tend to vary with ethnic group, gender, and age. Most of these risk factors occur in combinations and hardly can you find one in isolation. Alcohol and substance abuse, depression, as well as trauma are some of the leading factors that have been contributing heavily to suicidal behaviors and thoughts. The following is a categorization of the risk factors and warning signs for suicide.

Behavioral Factors

In this category, the affected people tend to exude the following behaviors:

Isolation from family and friends

Enhanced usage of alcohol and other drugs

Suicidal tendencies such as deliberate searches online for means and materials to assist in committing suicide

Withdrawal from the normal day to day activities

Too much sleeping or sleeping for very few hours

Calling people at random or even visiting them to bid them goodbye


Health Factors

These factors have to do with the wellness of the body and mind. Among the risk factors to watch out for in this category include:

Mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, antisocial personality disorders, and psychotic disorders

Disorders due to substance abuse

Chronic or serious health conditions

Environmental Factors

These are factors that originate from around us such as the people we interact with or the environment we operate in. The most common environmental risk factors include:

Stressful life events some of which may include divorce, death, or job loss

Prolonged stress factors such as harassment, relation problems, unemployment, and bullying

Access to dangerous and lethal means such as drugs and firearms

Exposure to sensationalized or graphic accounts of suicide of other people

In addition to the above risk factors, people who constantly talk of being a burden to other people or feeling trapped and experiencing unbearable pain may have a tendency towards killing themselves. Whenever a person starts displaying signs of suicide, you should pay close attention to them and even ask them of their plans, but do not argue with them or interrupt their suicidal thoughts. Let them know that you understand and care for them and you are there to listen and encourage them.

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