suicidal behaviour can accompany many emotional disturbances, including depression, schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. In fact, more than 90 per cent of all suicides are related to emotional or psychiatric illnesses. Suicidal behaviour occurs as a response to a situation that the person views as overwhelming such as social isolation, death of a loved one, emotional trauma, serious physical illness, growing old, unemployment or financial problems, guilt feelings, drug and alcohol abuse.
Not surprisingly, every study on suicides is important because it offers valuable insight into the mind of the person and helps to plan suitable strategies towards prevention. But regardless of the prevalence rates and causes, evaluating suicide risk continues to be a clinically-difficult and scientifically-imperfect task. In an attempt to learn from the clinical experience of practising psychologists, researchers Nico Peruzzi of Hemisphere Healthcare and Bruce Bongar of the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology and Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, usa, surveyed 500 us psychiatrists. Participants were presented with 48 risk factors for suicides and were asked to rate the factors from low importance to critical or high importance.
The researchers have identified eight critical risk factors for suicide in patients with major depression. The most critical risk factors for suicide completion (in order of their seriousness) were: the medical seriousness of previous suicide attempts, history of suicide attempts, acute suicidal ideation, severe hopelessness, attraction to death, family history of suicide, acute overuse of alcohol, and loss/separations.
The remaining 40 risk factors all received ratings of "moderate risk". But no factor was considered to be of any less importance ( Professional Psychology: Research and Practice , Vol 30, No 6).
Respondents rated the medical seriousness of past attempts and a history of suicide attempts as the two most dangerous risk factors. Regarding family history of suicide attempts, the researchers suggest that it is important to determine how close the patient is to the relative who committed suicide -- both biologically and emotionally.
In the us , suicide accounts for about one per cent of all deaths every year. The highest rate is among the elderly, but over the years there has also been a steady increase in the rate among young people, particularly adolescents. Suicide is now the third-highest cause for deaths for those between the ages of 15-19 (after accidents and homicide). Among people in the age group of 15-44 years, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for women and the fourth-leading cause for men.
The incidence of reported suicides varies from country to country. In India, for example, it is quite common for adolescents to commit suicide if they fail or think they are going to fail in board examinations. Alarmed by the increasing number of suicides and attempted-suicides by schoolchildren, the government has proposed an amendment by which students will be graded, instead of the present marking system. The new system will remove the word 'fail' in the report cards. In communities such as the Sri Lanka Tamils, suicide for a cause, is considered heroic. Moreover, suicide attempts (where the person tries to harm himself/herself, but the attempt does not result in death) far outnumber actual suicides.
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