Research has uncovered several risk factors and warning signs for suicide. Recently, research has uncovered a new risk factor practitioners should consider when assessing an individual’s short-term and long-term risk of a future suicide attempt – method of a previous suicide attempt.
Professor Bo Runeson, who is with the Department of Clinical Neuroscience located at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and his colleagues examined the reports of 48,649 individuals who attempted suicide between 1973-1982 in Sweden to determine if method of suicide attempt would predict future suicide attempts. Every suicide attempt and successful suicide must be reported by law in Sweden. The researchers followed the reports through 2003 in order to evaluate whether another suicide was attempted, and if so, whether the attempt was successful as well as which method was utilized.
The researchers discovered that 12% of all of the individuals who had attempted suicide successfully committed suicide at a later time. Most of the individuals who attempted suicide did so with poisoning. In fact, 84% of individuals who attempted suicide did so with poisoning. However, poisoning led to a second suicide attempt in the least number of cases.
Individuals who had attempted suicide by hanging themselves were six times more likely to commit suicide. In fact, 87% of individuals who had attempted suicide by hanging went on to successfully commit suicide within one year of their first attempt. Additionally, those who had attempted suicide by drowning themselves were four times as likely to attempt committing suicide again than those who had attempted suicide by poisoning. Other high-risk methods included jumping from a great height, utilizing explosives, gassing, and firearms.
Given that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young individuals aged 15-24 and the second leading cause of death among college students and individuals aged 25-34, according to Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support, it is important for practitioners, families, and friends to be able to recognize the warning signs of suicide. In addition to the method used in a first suicide attempt, there are several other warning signs of suicide you may recognize in a family member, friend, or client who may attempt suicide or attempt suicide for a second time.
Warning signs of suicide include: depression, experiencing intense anger, poor performance in school or at work, talking or writing about death, reckless behavior, giving away important possessions, alcohol and/or drug abuse, isolating oneself from family and friends, feeling trapped in a situation, personality and mood changes, writing a will, and acting impulsively. In fact, according to Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support, untreated depression is the number one warning sign for suicide attempts. Symptoms of depression include changes in eating habits, changes in sleeping patterns, loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from family and friends, suicidal thoughts or thoughts about death, an inability to concentrate, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
If you think you may be suffering from depression or if you have suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help from a mental health practitioner. If you are having suicidal thoughts and you are not in immediate danger, you may call a national suicide hotline to talk to someone about your experiences. National suicide hotlines within the United States include: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If you are having suicidal thoughts and are in immediate danger, please call 911.
If you know someone who is suicidal, you can encourage him or her to seek professional help. You may also call one of the national hotlines in order to receive advice on how to help someone you love.
Suicide is a very serious problem. However, family, friends, and mental health professionals can help an individual experiencing suicidal ideation by recognizing the warning signs of suicide and getting him or her the help he or she needs.
Psych Central: Suicide Method Influences Prognosis:
Suicide: Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: Suicide Statistics:
Suicide: Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: Suicide Warning Signs:
Suicide: Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: If You Are Suicidal: