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Suicide Facts and Risk Factors

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Young adults and males are at higher risk for suicide

Suicide in ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia

One study examining suicide rates  in chronic fatigue syndrome found they did not differ from normal populations. .Suicide rates in Fibromyalgia have been better studied with two studies showing from 9 -20 fold increased rates of suicide.

People with ME/CFS have featured prominently in right to suicide discussions. Dr. Kervorkian assisted one person with ME/CFS. A suicide in the UK gathered significant media coverage.The life of one person on the Phoenix Rising Forums was saved when an alert Forum member from the US (ecoclimber) alerted Australian authorities in the middle of the night that she had posted a suicide message. She did attempt to kill herself and was rescued after police found her and took her to the hospital.

No single factor can identify who is at risk for committing suicide. The above person had shown signs of depression/desperation as her health worsened but the majority of her posts were clear, well organized and well thought out. She did not, judging from those posts appear to be a candidate for suicide. Her posts directly preceding her suicide attempt had become more and more alarming, however.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the US with 30,000 deaths a year. There are twice as many deaths due to suicide than to HIV/AIDS.

Mood disorders

At least 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illnesses — such as major depression, bipolar depression, or some other depressive illness. The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression (see the depression checklist).

Depression is a significant risk factor. While 80% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully, 15% of those who are clinically depressed die by suicide. Nearly half of those who commit suicide have been admitted to a psychiatric facility at some point. The most dangerous time for them is just before and after discharge

Between 20 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide.

Men and suicide

Young adults and males overall are at particular risk. Between 1952 and 1995, suicide in young adults nearly tripled. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15-24. Over half of all suicides occur in adult men, ages 25-65. The highest suicide rate is found in men over 85 years old. Suicide rates among the elderly are highest for those who are divorced or widowed. Four times as many men try to commit suicide as women.

Suicide rates in the United States are highest in the spring. It is estimated that there are at least 4.5 million survivors in this country

A suicide crisis is usually a time-limited event which a person can be rescued from they get appropriate care. The signs that someone may be in a suicide crisis are:

  • Precipitating Event – A recent event that is particularly distressing such as loss of loved one or career failure. Sometimes the individuals own behavior precipitates the event: for example, a man’s abusive behavior while drinking causes his wife to leave him.
  • Intense Emotional State– Desperation (anguish plus urgency regarding need for relief), rage, psychic pain or inner tension, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, acute sense of abandonment.
  • Speech suggesting the individual is close to suicide. Such speech may be indirect. Be alert to such statements as, “My family would be better off without me.” Sometimes those contemplating suicide talk as if they are saying goodbye or going away.
  • Actions ranging from buying a gun to suddenly putting one’s affairs in order.
  • Deterioration in functioning at work or socially, increasing use of alcohol, other self-destructive behavior, loss of control, rage explosions.

Other Warning Signs can include

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities – seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the timeExperiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

Risk Factors for Suicide denote broad groups of people who might, at some point, be at risk of suicide. Note how several of these are almost endemic to having ME/CFSmajor physical illness, financial loss, social loss, barriers to accessing health care. One study in 80 suicide cases in the state of Washington suggested that physical illness, including cancer, heart disease and arthritis, contributed to half of those suicides.

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Some major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Relational or social loss
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Barriers to accessing health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Certain cultural and religious beliefs (for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma)

Factors That Protect Against Suicide note how important community support can be

  • Effective care for mental, physical and substance use disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for
  • helpseeking
  • Strong connections to family and community support
  • Support through ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution and nonviolent handling of
  • disputes
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