Hidden battles

The factors that may contribute to suicidal thoughts.

Suicide is not an unavoidable outcome; rather, it is often preventable. Crucially, tackling stigma and delving into the intricate web of factors that contribute to this risk are essential steps in implementing effective measures and protective strategies. Research indicates that understanding and addressing the complexities of individual circumstances is key to identifying and supporting those at risk.

Statistics

Statistics reveal a sombre reality: in the United Kingdom, the loss of 115 lives to suicide every week is a stark reminder of the magnitude of this issue. Shockingly, one out of every five individuals in the UK grapples with suicidal thoughts. Even more alarming is the fact that approximately one in every 20 individuals will take the drastic step of attempting suicide. Adding to this grim picture, on a global scale, a person succumbs to suicide every 40 seconds, highlighting the urgency of addressing this widespread concern. Astonishingly, this frequency equates to the annual toll of deaths from war or homicide, underscoring the profound impact of suicide on societies worldwide.

What leads to this phenomenon?

It’s a troubling reality that one in every five individuals contends with or contemplates suicide. Yet, research underscores the possibility of prevention. The setting in which these thoughts emerge, whether it be the home, workplace, or community, is pivotal. When negative experiences, emotions, and circumstances pervade within the familial, professional, or societal spheres, coupled with feelings of isolation, the notion that death is the sole remedy to alleviate suffering and negativity becomes deeply entrenched in the individual’s psyche. Despite this, it’s essential not to conjecture about the emotional state of others facing similar challenges or to downplay the circumstances that could lead to such struggles. Undoubtedly, each of us knows someone, whether directly or through a friend or family member, who has endured such distressing experiences. It’s crucial not to pass judgment on the individual or their family.

We must avoid the error of prejudging individuals solely based on factors like lack of education, financial hardship, or living alone. It’s crucial to recognise that individuals facing these circumstances may indeed be more vulnerable to such temptations. While these factors do play a significant role, research underscores that the absence of supportive social connections, stable employment, or a supportive network increases the likelihood of reaching this point. However, it’s important to acknowledge that anyone, regardless of their background, can experience conditions like depression or anxiety. These struggles are not exclusive to any particular group, and no one should bear the burden alone.

Anticipated risks

Just as with everything else, not every experience is impacted in the same manner when encountering specific situations. Individual reactions vary significantly in different circumstances. These situations encompass personal, social, community, and relational aspects. What are these diverse risks that we frequently identify before they escalate too far?

Personal risks

Navigating life’s challenges can be especially taxing for individuals facing a multitude of personal risks. These include:

• Previous suicide attempts

• History of depression or mental illness

• Chronic illness or health problems

• Legal or criminal issues

• Financial or employment problems

• Unstable housing

• Substance abuse or alcohol misuse

• Past experiences of negative childhood events

• Victimisation and exposure to violence

• Loss of hope for the future

Social risks

Stigma associated with seeking mental health care

• Easy access to means to commit suicide

• Poor media reporting on suicide or its absence

 Community risks

• Lack of access to education and support

• Community violence

• Historical trauma in the community

• Discrimination

• Cultural maladjustment failure

• Exclusion

Risks in relationships

• Bullying

• Abuse of intimate family members such as parents or children

• Breakdown in marital relationships

• Relationship violence

• Social or familial isolation

• Experience of suicidal thoughts within the family

• Breakdown in communication rapport with children, parents, or other loved ones

Perceptions

Misconceptions can be highly misleading, often rooted in a form of ignorance about the subject. These misperceptions usually arise from individuals who genuinely lack a deeper understanding.

Consider the common belief that asking someone if they are feeling suicidal might implant the idea of suicide in their minds. This notion, however, is far from accurate. In reality, approaching someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts with sensitivity and concern can be profoundly helpful. It communicates to them that there is someone who genuinely cares about their well-being. It’s not about suggesting the idea of suicide but rather about opening up a dialogue and offering support. This approach can play a crucial role in fostering understanding and potentially saving lives.

Another common perception is that, when an individual speaks about attempting suicide, they are simply seeking attention. Alternatively, there’s the belief that, if someone is seriously contemplating suicide, there’s little that can be done because the decision has already been made. You might occasionally hear people argue that it’s impossible to dissuade someone from sending certain signals indicating their intent to commit suicide. Perhaps you’ve also encountered the idea that those who take their own lives are selfish, solely concerned with themselves and oblivious to the aftermath they leave behind. Additionally, some may believe that, once someone considers ending their life, they will persist in that mindset indefinitely, without hope for recovery.

This is an absolute misconception. Discussing suicide does not imply encouragement for those contemplating it or experiencing distress. On the contrary, the more openly we address the topic, the more we work to dismantle the stigma surrounding seeking help. Asking direct questions is far simpler than assuming everything is fine because we assume a particular individual would never consider such thoughts. When someone in this vulnerable state encounters someone willing to engage in conversation and inquire about their well-being, they may initially feel helpless. However, this interaction can demonstrate that there are people who genuinely care about them. This realisation increases the likelihood that they will recognise the availability of help and understand that support is easily accessible and readily obtainable.

Signs of distress

Each and every one of us is obligated to pay attention and offer assistance, or refer individuals who may find themselves in such situations. Individuals experiencing these thoughts often, more often than not, will exhibit signs of being isolated and excluded, even from casual discussions. In some instances, the intent may be premeditated, and this could also be done to make the victim’s close contacts aware that there has been a change in the individual’s attitude or behaviors.

The significance of every spoken word often surpasses our awareness, as we cannot always discern the depth of stress or anxiety another person may be experiencing. Hence, it becomes imperative for us to exercise caution in our choice of words, the tone we employ, and the approach we adopt. It’s more than merely displaying empathy; it’s about understanding that, by sharing our experiences and what our close ones are enduring, we enhance our ability to recognise early signs of distress.

Taking occasional pauses amidst the whirlwind of life could prove invaluable. These moments allow us to delve deeper into our interactions, to listen more intently to each other, and to genuinely inquire about someone’s well-being without making assumptions. Because, when we make time for one another and for the lives we lead, it undoubtedly enriches us all.

Photo: MART PRODUCTION

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