Suicide ranks as a leading cause of death but by knowing and understanding symptoms
and causes suicide can be prevented. Suicide is an intentional attempt to kill oneself whether it is
successful or unsuccessful. Suicide accounts for about one percent of all deaths in the United
States each year (Disease, Condition or General Health Topic). During the last two decades
suicide rates among teenagers has increased three hundred percent (Coleman 1). Suicide attempts
far outnumber actual suicides (Disease, Condition or General Health Topic).
Every ninety minutes a teenager in the United States commits suicide and every nine
minutes a teenager attempts suicide. About one hundred and twenty-five adolescents commit
suicide in one week and one thousand will try during that week (Coleman 1). More girls will
attempt suicide than boys, but more boys will commit suicide than girls (2). Every year 30,000
Americans will commit suicide (All About Suicide). Because they are likely to suffer from a
mental illness, particularly severe depression (Suicide).
Depression is one of the most treatable mental disorders, and one of the under diagnosed
and under recognized. This is a serious mood disorder that affects a person’s ability to function in
everyday activities. It affects how that person works, family life, and social life (All About
Suicide). Suicidal behaviors occur as a response to a situation that the person views as
overwhelming (Disease, Condition or General Health Topic). “Someone who is profoundly
depressed, the option of suicide becomes the only option, the only way to control life and end the
unremitting pain” (Leone 71).
One of the scariest experiences a person suffers from in their lifetime is the experience of
depression. More than one out of five Americans can expect to get some form of depression in
their lifetime and one out of twenty Americans have a depression disorder every year. Depression
is one of the most common and serious mental health problems facing individuals today (All
There are two main threads of suicide. The social or institutional suicide and individual or
personal suicide (Farberow 1). “Institutional suicide is self-destruction that society demands of the
individual as part of his identification with the group” (1). Personal suicide is an individual act of
protest or declaration against internal conflicts with himself or herself or transgressions against
“The motives were preservation of honor and dignity, expiation of pusillanimity or
cowardice, avoidance of pain and ignominy by old age and/or disease, preservation of chasity,
escape from personal disgrace by falling into the hands of the enemy, unwillingness to bear the
hurt of separation or loss of love and others” (Farberow 2).
Lack of social support appears to be something that provokes adolescents to feel
hopelessness, depressed, and unworthy (Borst 74). During high school one out of every ten
students experiences some form of serve depression. Recent surveys have shown that about sixty
percent of all high school students thought about killing themselves or about his or her own death
(Leone 71). “More than ninety percent of all suicides are related to an emotional or psychiatric
illness” (Disease, Condition or General Health Topic).
Certain aspects will increase the chance of that person attempting suicide. The best
predictor of suicidal intent is hopelessness. People with a sense of hopelessness perceive suicide as
the only alternative. Those diagnosed with mental illnesses makeup about ninety percent of all
suicides. Physical illness also increases an individual’s risk of suicide, especially when it is
accompanied by depression (Suicide). “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” (Suicide).
Suicidal behaviors imply that an individual wishes, intends or actually attempts suicide
(Disease, Condition or General Health Topic). Suicidal behavior is viewed as a form of
communication, also known as a cry for help (Results for suicide). Scientists agree that suicide is
a complex behavior that has psychological, biological, and social causes (Suicide).
Each risk factor biological, psychological, cognitive, and environmental of the suicide
trajectory contains elements that transcend all ages. The biological basis of depression is age-
irrelevant. It is associated with low levels of several neurotransmitters, serotonin metabolite and
dopamine metabolite. These influence suicidal behavior, also depression. Some people become
depressed with little or no environmental pressures. Another factor of suicide of all ages is
maleness, throughout history and cultures. Males are more aggressive than females from birth.
Also they are more likely to turn this aggression on themselves (Borst 11).
The psychological factors such as low self esteem and depression appear in every age
group. Individuals that are depressed talk more about their feelings therefore suicide risks are
more evident with hopelessness and helplessness (12).
The cognitive factors show individuals that think of suicide as the best and only answer to
their problems. These people do not have positive feelings or positive attitudes. If they fail at
something once they may feel that in the future they will fail at it again in a different situation
The environment factor shows negative family experiences increase suicidal risk. Abuse of
all types, death, and divorce are examples of these factors. A negative life including loss, increase
probability of suicidal response (13).
There are warning signs such as verbal threats and previous suicidal behavior. Finally,
unexpected triggering events can tip the balance between life and death. The differences that are
related to age and development levels are factors to examine (14).
Impulsivity is the biological risk factor for children. They are more impulsive and violent in
their suicidal behavior and this is why they are more likely to commit a spontaneous act (Borst
12). There are two major psychological factors that increase children’s risk of suicide. The first
one is a sense of inferiority. Children need to develop feelings of confidence and positive self-
regard. Those children who fail to develop these feelings may experience strong feelings of
inferiority and develop poor self-concepts and low self-esteem (14).
“The second psychological risk factor specific to childhood is the expandable child
syndrome, which involves very low self-esteem in addition to other significant problems” (15).
Parents communicate very low regard for the children, hostility toward them, and even hatred of
them on a daily bases. This makes the child believe that they are unworthy and expendable and
their death will not matter to anyone. The expendable child syndrome may activate a wish to die.
Children often use suicide to stop being a burden on the parent (15).
Evidence also shows that most suicidal children are often victims of child abuse or neglect
(Coleman 15). Those children who do not suffer from abuse and neglect, their family
environments are less healthy than those of other children (Borst 15). Families with suicidal
children tend to be inflexible and resistant to change (Coleman 15).
Children may demonstrate depression differently from adults (Borst 16). “Depressed
children may manifest increased anxiety, sleep disturbance, aggressive behavior, low frustration
tolerance, and poor impulse control” (16). Triggering events for child suicide are seemingly minor
life events (16).
The suicide rate for fifteen to twenty-four year-old exceeds the overall suicide rate for the
total population (Borst 8). The onsets of puberty and hormones that bring out sexual maturation
are the most prevalent biological risk factors in adolescent. The sense of identity is a major
development task of adolescence. “Teenagers who develop some consistent understanding of
whom whey are and whom they are becoming will have foundation of competence in coping with
the stresses of this period. In contrast, adolescents who struggle with their identities are less likely
to develop the coping skills needed to deal effectively with these challenges” (16). Fluctuating
mood states are psychological risk that all adolescents experience (16).
Many suicidal adolescents come from highly conflicted homes that are unresponsive to the
teenager’s needs. Suicidal adolescents are often socially isolated and alienated individuals. They
are likely to have poor peer relationships and are generally unpopular at school. Also, drug and
alcohol abuse is common with adolescent suicidal behavior (17). Most troubled adolescents,
including those who are suicidal, tend to perform poorly in school and to be skipping frequently
Triggering events often seem trivial to adults. This age group often exaggerates the
importance of minor events such as failure experiences of problems with peers, parents, siblings,
or the opposite sex (Borst 17).
Studies have shown that eighty percent of all suicide victims give some kind of coded
message that they are planning or thinking seriously about killing himself or herself (Coleman
127). “A series of these signs should be taken as a cry for help: acts of aggression/violent
behavior, passive behavior, running away, alcohol and/or drug abuse, changes in eating habits,
changes in sleeping behavior/insomnia, frequent crying, sudden changes in personality, sudden
mood swings, impulsivity, lack of interest in school work/decline in grades, difficulty
concentrating, loss or lack of friends, preoccupation with death, decline in personal appearance”
The early signs are depression, statements or expressions of guilt feelings, tension or
anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, loss of appetite, loss of weight, and impulsiveness. The critical
signs include sudden change in behavior (especially calmness after a period of anxiety). When they
give away belongings, the person attempts to “get one’s affairs in order.” Also direct or indirect
threats to commit suicide or direct attempts to commit suicide are critical signs of suicidal
behavior (Disease, Condition or General Health Topic).
“Many unsuccessful suicide attempts are carried out in a manner of setting that makes
rescue possible; the must be viewed as a cry for help” (Disease, Condition or General Health
Topic). There are relatively nonviolent methods and there are violent methods. The relatively
nonviolent methods include poisoning, overdose, or inhaling car exhaust. The violent methods
include shooting, cutting, and hanging oneself. Violent methods are more likely to be chosen by
males. It is a fact that suicide attempts made by males are more likely to be successful (Disease,
Condition or General Health Topic).
Hanging is the leading method of suicide worldwide. Sixty percent of all suicides in the
United States are committed with firearms. Poisoning, such as an overdose of medication,
accounts for about eighteen percent of United States suicides. Research shows that a small
proportion of fatal single-occupant automobile accidents are actually suicides (Suicide).
Suicide is committed frequently because most of these individuals feel isolated, neglected,
and unheard by others in society (Coleman 3). Most suicides can be prevented because the
suicidal state of mind is usually temporary (Suicide). “The most common element involved in
suicide seems to be the perception that life is so painful that only death can provide relief”
Most people who attempt suicide talk about it before making the actual attempt (Disease,
Condition or General Health Topic). Suicidal individuals communicate their intentions by indirect
methods. These indirect methods are used to determine if anyone will take them seriously, if
anyone really cares, and if they will take some action (Leone 129). The ability to talk to a
sympathetic, nonjudgmental listener is enough to prevent the person from attempting suicide
(Disease, Condition or General Health Topic).
“Following a suicidal threat, the family and friends should remove any obvious tools that
may be used in a suicide attempt, and the person should be watched closely” (Disease, Condition
or General Health Topic). Mental health professionals should be consulted immediately. During
periods of critical suicidal behavior hospitalization may be necessary (Disease, Condition or
General Health Topic). “NEVER IGNORE A SUICIDE THREAT OR ATTEMPTED
SUICIDE!” (Disease, Condition or General Health Topic).
Suicide is often the deadly end point of depression, substance abuse, and delinquency.
When a pattern is seen that often ends in suicide, immediate attention must be directed to the
individuals safety. Hospitalization of the suicidal individual is not optional; it can not be
postponed until the following day. The person must be safe and if the family can not trust them
over the course of the day and night, then twenty-four-hour hospital care is mandatory. If
outpatient care is acceptable the home must be made suicide-proof. This can never be completely
accomplished; all firearms need to be removed, dispose of all unused medicines, lock up keys to
any automobiles, and remove all ropes and cords that could be used for hanging (Leone 76).
“Making the method for self-destruction less accessible gives the teen more time to consider
options other than suicide” (Leone 76).
The first major suicide-prevention telephone hotline was established by mental health
professionals in the United Sates during the 1950s. Around the clock staffs of counselors and
trained volunteers provide a listening ear to those in despair. They can also tell the callers where
the best place they can receive professional help. To those people in a crisis the hotlines provide a
valuable service but research has shown that hotlines only help those who call (Suicide).
“The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) holds biannual congresses in
various parts of the world where information about activities in suicide and its prevention is
exchanged” (Farberow xiii).
Suicide has a devastating emotional impact on the family members and friends that are left
behind (Suicide). When a person commits suicide in his or her own home one-half of the time, the
victim is discovered by a relative (Farberow 118). A family member or a friend may obtain
additional burdens if they find the body of the suicide victim (Suicide). “The intentional, sudden,
and violent nature of the person’s death often makes others feel abandoned, helpless, and
rejected” (Suicide). Many times parents suffer from exaggerated feelings of shame and guilt.
Support groups may be especially helpful for grieving suicide survivors (Suicide).
Surviving is full of confused feelings. Guilt, grief, anger, and despair increase their own
risk of self-inflicted death (Leone 171). “Each day they may play the game of if’s: “What if I said
of did that?” “What if I didn’t?” Survivor groups help those left behind to learn what feelings to
expect, and to learn the course of grief” (Leone 171).