Did you know that psychological research shows that being attentively and actively listened to can actually change brain chemistry in a positive way. This is so important for parents to remember, in their efforts, to stay connected with their children in a digital world. I know this is hard to do at times. I sometimes face this challenge with my children.
But I am very keenly aware of the importance of this as a psychologist who does inpatient work as well as out of the hospital counseling with adolescents and adults in emotional crisis.
Suicide has been on the rise since 1999 and lack of connectedness is identified as one of the risk factors for suicide. Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death in the 15-34-year-old age group.
I have dealt with many suicidal individuals in my over 30 years of practice. In general, we view suicide as dysfunctional but at that moment the suicidal individual sees it as a logical solution to their overwhelming problem. In their narrow focus when suicidal they see it as their only option at that given moment to escape from psychological pain.
There is no absolute definitive reason why people attempt and complete suicide. However, there are some well-known clinicians who have developed theories as to why people do suicide. I will highlight four that are well known:
According to Edward Scheidman, in almost every case, suicide is caused by pain, a certain kind of pain-psychological pain. believes this type of emotional and psychological pain reaches intolerable intensity and suicide is seen as a solution to this pain.
Klonksy, Qiu, and Saffer’s theory is that suicidal thinking occurs, when an individual, experiences feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness and loneliness and disconnection from others.
Tom Joiner’s theory states that two key factors are required for serious suicidal behavior: feeling that that an individual doesn’t belong and perceived burdensomeness to others.
Jack Klott, a well-known suicide specialist, believes that suicide rarely ever occurs outside the context of a major social stressor.
Risk factors of Suicide
- Family History of Suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- Previous Suicide Attempt
- History of Mental Disorders, particularly clinical depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Unwillingness to seek help, social stigma
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, feeling cut off from people
- Loss, social relational, financial
- Physical illness
- Easy access to lethal methods
Here are some well-known -Warning Signs for Suicide. It is based on IS PATH WARM
I-Ideation: talking or writing about death, dying or suicide. Threatening
T-Trapped feeling trapped like there is no way out
Watch and listen foe metaphors your child may be demonstrating. For example, the emotional theme of suicide is hopelessness and helplessness. Is your child or loved one expressing feelings of hopelessness as they interact with others.
Are they verbally expressing specific self- deprecating statements of ineffectiveness that has recently increased? Are they demonstrating depressive symptoms in action and behavior?
Does their mood seem to have suddenly improved for no apparent reason? Ex. Smiling a lot, especially if not before.
Have they recently been giving things of value away to others?
Are they listening to music and drawing things that are dark and related to death?
What to ask when you think the individual may be suicidal.
Identification of suicidal ideation (Are you currently having thoughts of harming yourself in some way.)
Elicitation of a plan (Do you have a specific plan or method you think about)
Determination of the severity of intent (How severe is the intent for the individual to harm themselves)
Evaluation of the availability of means (How available are the means to carry out the suicidal thoughts they are having)
Assist the individual in identifying the sources of their pain and provide them with alternatives to suicide.
Many people who die by suicide have given definite warnings of their intentions. Always take any commit about suicide seriously!! Most people give many clues and warning signs regarding their suicide intentions. However, some commit suicide with no warning (Impulsive Suicide).Impulsive suicide is seldom accompanied by the classic warning signs, such as prior suicide attempts, diagnosed mental illness, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse. However, drugs and alcohol are typically involved when suicide is impulsive as these substances are known to lower inhibition, increase impulsivity and compromise rational thinking and decision– making ability.
The act in impulsive suicide is sudden and unrehearsed, and is thus especially more common among adolescents and young adults, who are already primed to be more impulsive.
We cannot predict suicide, but a solid suicide risk assessment tries to determine what risk factors are in play and how to best address those factors.
Resources for Suicide Support
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-talk
- Georgia Crisis and Access Line 1-800-715-4225
- The Link Counseling Center 404-256-9797
- NAMI Georgia 770-234-0855
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 770-843-3836