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In previous studies and research on those who completed suicide, a number of items that have shown to be correlated with suicide risk.  Suicide risk has been associated with alcohol and/or substance abuse, criminal behavior and/or record, interpersonal conflict(s), social isolation, strained family relations and/or disruptions, previous suicide attempts and younger age.  Suicide risk also has been shown to increase for those people who with access to a gun, who have experienced an economic deprivation, longer history of unemployment, and who have had service in the military.

The purpose of the current General Social Survey research study reported here was to compare the responses of those who ended up committing suicide, which numbered 141, with those who died from other causes, a total of 9,115.  Those who died by suicide died on average 2 years earlier than all the others who had died. Compared to those who died by “other” causes, those at greater suicide risk were found to have:

  • Exhibited a greater acceptance of the idea of suicide for coping with various adverse situations in life
  • Had higher likelihood of being the one to own a gun in their home
  • Lived in areas where owning a gun was more common
  • Didn’t endorse strong beliefs in religion
  • Less likely to believe in an afterlife

This study found that those who committed suicide, and hence those at greater suicide risk, believed that suicide was an acceptable option under adverse circumstances in life.  Additionally, there was typically a long time between the person revealing their attitude of accepting suicide as a viable option and the time in which they committed suicide.   Of the 141 individuals in the study who committed suicide, there was an average of 9.4 years between when they first revealed their attitude and taking their life and communicated their suicide risk.  In fact, 76% revealed their suicide risk to others four or more years prior to actually committing suicide.  The suggestion can be drawn from this study that suicide risk has a considerably long duration.

One of the most surprising findings in this study was there seemed to be little or no association between suicide risk and strained family relations and/or disruptions, social isolation and interpersonal conflict(s).  Furthermore, those who had died by suicide were very similar to the other participants who had died from other causes.  For example, both those who committed suicide and those who died from other causes were reared in intact or one-parent homes, had mothers were stay-at-home moms or had jobs, had close relationships with siblings and parents, and viewed their family relationships in a positive light.

Those who were at suicide risk appeared to have few differences in these aspects when compared with participants who were still alive. The conclusion that can be drawn is that in many cases of suicide, no long-term history of family problems or discord existed before the person committed suicide.

The results of this study seems to agree with the view that acting on the suicide risk is often the culmination of “a perfect storm”, the result of a convergence of immediate factors that lead the troubled person to take an extreme action as a response to their thoughts and perceptions that they are in the midst of a completely unresolvable, hopeless circumstances.  Hence, the suicide risk might be increased when faced with stressors such as job or financial loss, feelings of being a burden on others, personal betrayal, relentless physical and/or psychic pain, romantic rejection or estrangement, social humiliation and/or degradation.  In fact, any experience that increases ones sense of hopeless and helplessness may further increase suicide risk.

Because our treatment for depression relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods for individuals at increased suicide risk.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders associated with suicide risk.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, including warning signs of suicide risk, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.