The natural end of every human life is death. Some people, for reasons that have never been fully understood, choose to end their own lives. This is called suicide, which means literally “self-killing. ” According to Dryden-Edwards (2013), Suicide is the process of purposely ending one’s own life. The way societies view suicide varies widely according to culture and religion. For example, many Western cultures, as well as mainstream Judaism, Islam, and Christianity tend to view killing oneself as quite negative. One myth about suicide that may be the result of this view is considering suicide to always be the result of a mental illness.
Some societies also treat a suicide attempt as if it were a crime. However, suicides are sometimes seen as understandable or even honorable in certain circumstances, such as in protest to persecution (for example, hunger strike), as part of battle or resistance (for example, suicide pilots of World War II; suicide bombers) or as a way of preserving the honor of a dishonored person (for example, killing oneself to preserve the honor or safety of family members). Microsoft Encarta 2009 stipulates that; Suicide is intentional, self-inflicted death. It is a uniquely human act.
Suicide occurs in all cultures. People who attempt or complete suicide, usually suffer from extreme emotional pain and distress and feel unable to cope with their problems. They are likely to suffer from mental illnesses, particularly severe depression, and to feel hopeless about the future. People who exhibit suicidal behaviors nearly always have a serious psychiatric disorder. Statistics show that nine out of ten people who commit or attempt suicide have at least one major psychiatric illness and in half of these cases two or more such illnesses are present.
Most common of these psychiatric conditions are mood disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, and behavior disorders. In the United States, suicide ranks in the top ten causes of death, accounting for about 1. 5 percent of all deaths. The annual number of suicides has averaged about 30,000 since the late 1980s and has consistently exceeded the annual number of homicides. The suicide rate (number of suicide deaths per 100,000 people) in the United States has remained relatively stable since the 1950s, ranging between 10 and 13 per 100,000 each year.
Suicide rates also vary between men and women and between ethnic groups. Men complete about 80 percent of all suicides, at a rate four times as high as women. However, women attempt suicide three times as frequently as men. Among men, whites have the highest suicide rate, followed by Native Americans. White men and women account for about 90 percent of all suicides. Risk Factors Certain aspects of a person’s life increase the likelihood that the person will attempt or complete suicide. Studies have shown that one of the best predictors of suicidal intent is hopelessness.
People with a sense of hopelessness may come to perceive suicide as the only alternative to a pained existence. People with mental illnesses, substance-abuse disorders such as alcoholism or drug dependence, and behavioral disorders also have a higher risk of suicide. In fact, people suffering from diagnosable mental illnesses complete about 90 percent of all suicides. Physical illness also increases a person’s risk of suicide, especially when the illness is accompanied by depression. About one-third of adult suicide victims suffered from a physical illness at the time of their death.
Other risk factors include previous suicide attempts, a history of suicide among family members, and social isolation. People who live alone or lack close friends may not receive emotional support that would otherwise protect them from despair and irrational thinking during difficult periods of life. Because depression precedes most suicides, early recognition of depression and treatment through medication and psychotherapy are important ways of preventing suicide. In general, suicide prevention efforts aim to identify people with the highest risk of suicide and to intervene before these individuals become suicidal.
Donovan Thomas in his book Confronting Suicide: Helping Teens at Risk is a fruit of his investigation made into confronting suicide. He believes that teenagers within some family usually do not get a chance to process unresolved issues within the family context. The emotional support necessary in order to take on the challenge of survival in a multifaceted world is absent, hence the prevalence of suicide among teenagers. Signs of suicidal Intent About 80 percent of people who complete suicide give warning signs, although the warnings may not be overt or obvious.
These usually take the form of alking about suicide or a wish to die; statements about hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness; preoccupation with death; and references to suicide in drawings, school essays, poems, or notes. Other danger signs include sudden, dramatic, and unexplained changes in behavior and what are called “termination behaviors. ” These behaviors include an interest in putting personal affairs in order and giving away prized possessions, often accompanied by statements of sadness or despair. A person who observes these signs should ask the person in question whether he or she is thinking of suicide.
If so, the observer should refer the person to a trained mental health professional to reduce the immediate risk of suicide and to treat the problems that led the person to consider suicide. Most suicides can be prevented because the suicidal state of mind is usually temporary. Impact on Others Suicide has a devastating emotional impact on surviving family members and friends. The intentional, sudden, and violent nature of the person’s death often makes others feel abandoned, helpless, and rejected. A family member or friend may have the added burden of discovering the body of the suicide victim.
Parents often suffer exaggerated feelings of shame and guilt. Because of the social stigma, or shame, surrounding suicide, survivors may avoid talking to others about the person who died, and others may avoid the survivors. Despite these extra problems, research has shown that suicide survivors go through the same grieving process as other bereaved people and eventually recover from grief. Support groups may be particularly helpful for grieving suicide survivors. Causes Suicidal behavior has numerous and complex causes. The biology of the brain, genetics, psychological traits, and social forces all can contribute to suicide.
Although people commonly attribute suicide to external circumstances—such as divorce, loss of a job, or failure in school—most experts believe these events are triggers rather than causes in themselves The majority of people who kill themselves suffer from depression that is often undiagnosed and untreated. Because depression so often underlies suicide, studying the causes of depression can help scientists understand the causes of suicide. Other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders may also contribute to suicidal behavior.
Ethical Issues For counselors confidentiality is a fundamental ethical standard, their ethical duty is to fulfill the promise that client information receive during therapy will not be disclosed without authorization (Gladdings 2004). There is however an exception to the rule, confidentiality does not apply when there is clear and eminent danger to the client. This exception was written with the suicidal client in mind, clarifying that counselors have a duty to protect client from harm and that this supersedes the harm that may happen due to a breach of confidentiality.
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