What is Suicide?

What is suicide?

Suicide death occurs when a person intentionally ends their own life. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans and is the 9th leading cause of death among Tennesseans. For young Tennessee residents aged 10 to 24 years of age, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death and it is the 2nd leading cause of death for adults aged 25-64. However, suicide deaths are only part of the problem. More people survive suicide attempts than die. They are often seriously injured and need medical care.

Suicide is a serious public health issue and an immeasurable tragedy for the surviving families, friends, and communities. Suicide is often related to mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders; particularly if undiagnosed or untreated. A mental health condition alone; however, is not necessarily an indicator of suicidal behavior. There are many other risk factors for suicide in addition to mental health conditions, including: 

·         Family history of suicide

·         Family history of child maltreatment

·         Previous suicide attempt(s)

·         History of alcohol and substance abuse

·         Feelings of hopelessness

·         Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

·         Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)

·         Local epidemics of suicide

·         Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people

·         Barriers to accessing mental health treatment

·         Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)

·         Physical illness

·         Easy access to lethal methods

·         Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts

Despite the overwhelming numbers of those who attempt or die by suicide each year, the tragedy and impact of suicide is often hidden by stigma, misinformation, and shame. Additionally, many people have the mistaken notion that talking about suicide may cause a suicide attempt or suicide death to occur, but research shows that suicide is a preventable type of death and the more that we can do to help to reduce the shame and stigma surrounding suicide as a community, the more likely people are to reach out for help rather than end their own life.