Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Increased Suicide Risk

When an individual goes through traumatic events such as assault, combat or disaster,
chances of them developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are higher. Research studies indicate the existence of a correlation between suicidal behaviors and some types of trauma. For instance, evidence exists, that traumatic events like childhood abuse and military sexual trauma can enhance the risk for suicide and self-harm. With this in mind, it is important to screen for suicide risk.

PTSD and Suicide

There is considerable debate on the issue of heightened risk of suicide in trauma survivors. Some studies suggest suicide risk is higher in people who experience trauma due to PTSD symptoms while othePTSDrs indicate that suicide risk is higher in PTSD individuals due to related psychiatric conditions. Data analyzed by the National Comorbidity Survey showed that singlehandedly, PTSD can significantly influence suicidal attempts or ideation.

Another data analytical study using information gathered by the Canadian Community Health Survey also found that respondents with PTSD displayed a higher risk for suicidal attempts even after mental disorders and physical illness were put under control.

Anger, impulsivity, and intrusive memories are among the behaviors that predict suicide risk. Also, cognitive styles of coping like the use of suppression to deal with stress can additionally be predictive of suicidal risk especially in individuals suffering from PTSD.

PTSD Treatment

As pointed above, the risk of suicide for a person who has gone through trauma is very high. In order to ensure such past traumatic events do not precipitate suicidal attempts, it is important that the individuals concerned are identified in time for treatment. Therapy is the best treatment approach for those suffering from PTSD. In particular, cognitive behavioral treatments can significantly reduce both PTSD symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

Research has established that cognitive behavioral treatments tend to have an effect that lasts anything between 5 and 10 years after the treatment is completed. Having a good relationship with mental health providers is therefore a commendable approach if you are to make the best out of your treatment decisions.

Due to the link between suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and PTSD, there needs to be regular assessments during the mental health treatment exercise. Where the provider has a reason to believe that the immediate risk for suicide is high in his or her patient based on his assessment, he can then make appropriate treatment decisions to ensure that the patient is safe. In the event the immediate suicide risk is not as high, the patient can be managed on an outpatient basis.

What to Do if you or Someone You Know is Suicidal

From time to time, each one of us feels down. However, if you find yourself having thoughts of hurting yourself, consider seeking professional help. Many people with suicidal thoughts also tend to struggle with drinking, drug, or depression problems. Therefore, watch out for these.

In the event you come in contact with a friend, family member or coworker contemplating suicide, start by calming them and advising them on mentor health options available in your area. Connecting with such a person with a mental health provider is often the best approach because these professionals are in a much better position to decide the extent of danger there is.

Someone You Know Has Died Through Suicide

It can be very upsetting when a person you are related or you know very well dies by suicide. Depending on how close you are to them, feelings of shock and distress can engulf you particularly if you saw them committing the act. If you find it hard to cope with the incident even after months have elapsed, contacting a mental health provider can help you overcome the traumatic grief.

The Middle-Aged Men as a High Risk Suicide Group

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 33,000 people commit suicide in the United States every year. Also, an estimated 25 attempted suicides occur for each successful suicide death. Those who survive attempted suicides live to nurse serious physical injuries in addition to mental problems including depression. Suicide is by far one of the major preventable health problems that has widespread impact in medical and labor costs to a tune of $30 billion per year. This is figure does not take into account the emotional toll on friends and families which is certainly enormous.

While more women attempt suicide than men, men are much more likely to actually commit suicide.

The Hidden Epidemic

Suicide cases among the middle-aged men are considered a hidden epidemic. Previously, younger men were the ones who were at a higher risk compared to older ones, but this is changing fast with men in the prime life being the biggest area of concern as in suicide prevention and management. According to research, the particular category of middle-aged men prone to suicide is that comprising people in the lower socio-economic strata. This is probably due to feelings of underachievement and worthlessness. The middle-aged men have for long been excluded in the suicide public awareness campaigns and screening programs and as such have grown to be vulnerable.

Midlife Introspection and Assessment

Image of depressed man listening his therapist advice

Most middle-aged men are keen in assessing their own achievements, position, and general life welfare relative to their career, social relationships and family. This heightened awareness of self-progression has been linked with lots of problems including depression, mental health problems, alcoholism, and suicide. This is particularly the case where such assessments are subjectively found to be negative.


Masculinity is a social construct that tends to impede mental and physical health growth for men particularly those in the middle age. Although masculinity has a cultural, historical, and gender connotation, it is continuously being constructed and deconstructed relative to life events, ethnicity, social context, class, and age. One form of masculinity known as hegemonic masculinity carries the aspiration of men against which they measure themselves in relation to other masculine and feminine characteristics. People subscribing to this kind of masculinity strive for power, are aggressive, dominant, independent, and competitive. A higher engagement in risk behavior and decreased help-seeking are the two crucial health damaging manifestations that are likely to propel men towards suicidal behavior.

Another type of masculinity which has also been associated with a fair share of suicidal behaviors is marginalized masculinity. This type of masculinity is linked with gender relations experienced by middle-aged men in the lower socio-economic strata.

Masculinity endorses and fosters power and emotional control. Depression on the other hand is closely associated with a sense of powerlessness and lack of emotional control. Because men are reluctant in expressing their emotions, they may deny or conceal distress thereby not seeking and getting the help they need. Most of the middle-aged men conceptualize suicide as a pathway to regaining control when confronted with a sense of powerlessness.

Identity and Coping Skills

Most middle-aged men are constantly bombarded by cultural changes, societal transformations, and socio-economic factors that largely influence and shape their experiences, identities, emotions, relationships. These transformations have been seen to contribute significantly to the context of suicidal behavior seen in middle-aged men.

The society seems to have moved on as far as the traditional masculinity role is concerned but the middle-aged men are not as prepared to deal with the changes happening to their roles in society. They are literally part of a buffer generation which is caught in between two generations; the post-war generation (me) and the pre-war (silent) generation. As a result of this, they feel trapped and the best way to reclaim their own masculinity is by committing suicide.

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