Talk about death and other red flags to detect an imminent suicide case | Society


Suicidal behavior constitutes a serious social and public health problem throughout the world. Every year more than 700,000 people die from suicide worldwide and the number of non-fatal cases is about 20 times higher. Along with the loss of human life, suicides have an enormous impact on other people in the family, social, work or academic environment of the victims, as well as on society as a whole.

The suicide mortality rate in Spain is somewhat lower than that of most European countries. In southern Europe there are fewer deaths from this cause. Furthermore, the collection of data on deaths from external causes is still subject to improvement and uneven across countries.

According to the most recent information published by the National Institute of Statistics, in 2020 suicide remained the leading cause of external death, with 3,941 deaths, 7.4% more than in 2019, a cold statistical data that hides dramas that they affect people just like our sons and daughters, partners, mothers and fathers or other loved ones.

Suicides are not the result of fate or bad luck but, like many other public health problems, are due to a set of determinants that we know in part. Mortality from suicide is much higher in Spain among men compared to women and increases with age, so that older men suffer a higher mortality from suicide. In contrast, non-fatal cases treated by emergency services or hospital admissions include a higher proportion of women, probably because men who commit suicide tend to use more violent and lethal methods.

There is no single cause

Suicide is not due to a single cause, but to a combination of individual, interpersonal, community and sociocultural determinants. In addition to age and gender, individual risk factors for suicide are depression and other mental disorders, the use of alcohol and other drugs, chronic diseases, having suffered some form of violence in the past or having exercised it on other people , and having previously carried out suicidal behavior.

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Interpersonal factors include violent or conflictive relationships with other people, isolation and lack of social support, suicide among family members and close friends, and economic and work difficulties.

Finally, the community and social factors associated with suicide include difficulty in receiving adequate health care, easy access to the means to commit suicide – such as firearms, drugs and other toxic products, or places from which it is easy to rush empty or passing vehicles – and the stigmatization associated with mental disorders and mental health services.

Suicides can and should be prevented, and for this it is necessary to adopt a set of measures that affect the whole of society and not just the people affected or the health services.

Strengthen detection

First, it is necessary to continue developing support structures that ensure that all people can meet their basic economic and housing needs, especially in crisis contexts.

It is also very important to strengthen the detection and adequate treatment of people suffering from mental disorders, avoiding the stigma that still accompanies them and ensuring quality care without gender biases or barriers for those who suffer from social difficulties.

It is also necessary to create a protective environment with policies to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and measures that limit access to the means used for suicide, such as the protection of places from which it is possible to access railways or jump into the void.

Other essential strategies include the detection and care support of people at risk of suicide in which the mental health services, primary care and other health, education and social welfare services participate.

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Fortunately, thanks to the contribution of suicide survivors’ organizations and numerous experts, we are overcoming the belief that it is better not to talk about suicide in the media for fear of spreading it. Today we know that it is not possible to adopt suicide prevention strategies if we do not talk about it first to know it.

Recommendations have also been published so that the treatment of suicide in the media avoids sensationalism and helps prevention, which information professionals are learning about and disseminating.

Identify the red flags

At the individual level we can also help prevent suicide by learning to identify the warning signs that indicate that a person in our environment may be at risk:

  • Talk about committing suicide.

  • Has trouble feeding or sleeping.

  • Has shown drastic changes in behavior.

  • He has been isolating himself from friends or social activities.

  • You have lost interest in school, work, or hobbies.

  • You prepare to die by writing a will or dispose of your possessions.

  • You have suffered severe losses recently.

  • Shows concern for death.

  • You have lost interest in your personal appearance.

  • Your use of alcohol or other drugs has increased.

In the face of any of these warning signs, it is advisable to show our support and listen to the affected person without judging them and asking them frankly if they are thinking about the possibility of suicide. The fact that a person explains that they are thinking of suicide should never be underestimated.

If this is the case, it is convenient to contact the health care telephone services, remove any object that could be used to carry out suicidal behavior and stay with the affected person in a quiet and safe place.

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Josep M. Suelves Joanxich, Collaborating Professor and Tutor of the UOC Degree in Psychology – Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, UOC – Open University of Catalonia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.

The Conversation




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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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