Suicide is a serious public health problem and devastating for families and loved ones. Affecting in high numbers children and adolescents. It demands the attention of all, and in particular health workers for prevention, control and early detection. Reducing the loss of life due to suicide has become a critical international mental health goal
Every year, more than 1,800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt. Behind these statistics are the individual stories of those who have, for many different reasons, decided that their own live is not valuble for anyone.
Suicide results from a complex interaction of genetical, biological, pysicological, sociological, cultural and environmental factors.
The critical challenge of prevention is to identify people who are at-risk and vulnerable to understand the circumstances that influence their self-destructive behavior.
The prevention of suicide, while feasible, involves interdisciplinary work and a variety of broad activities including assessment of child well-being, family awareness, education and counselling, treatment of mental disorders as well as environmental control of risk factors.
Guidelines for professionals are important in order to identify risk factors/situations and protective factors.
Protective factors mean that the environment where the person live can make a positive impact to disregard suicidal ideas. Some of the protective factors are: support from family and friends, social integration, religious, cultural and ethic beliefs, access to mental health care and services.
Risk and situation factors means that the person will mostly execute his/her thoughts. Among those risks: low social economic status, social stress, problems with family functioning, trauma such as physical and psychological abuse, personal losses, mental disorders, poor copying skills.
It is an estimate that as many as 90% of individuals who have ended their lives by committing suicide had a mental disorder, 60% were depressed at this time. Depression, one of the mental health disorders, and its symptoms (e.g sadness, lethargy, anxiety, irritability, sleep and eating disorders) should alert counselors for the potential risk of suicide. Elevate risk of suicide has also been associated with schizophrenia, substance abuse, personality disorders, anxiety, and PTSD.
In 90% of child and adolescent deaths by suicide, some form of mental disorder has been identified as a root cause with the most common diagnosis being: mood disorders, anxiety disorder, substance abuse and disruptive behavior disorder.
Previous suicidal attempts heighten the risk of suicide as well as persistent thoughts about harming oneself and resolved plans and preparations to carry out suicide.
Although there is no factual style of communicating the intentions, warning signs for suicidal behaviors includes; lack of concern about personal welfare, changes in social patterns, decline in work productivity, alterations in sleep and eating patterns, attempts to put personal matters in order, atypical interest on how others are feeling, preoccupations on themes about death and violence, sudden improvement of mood after a period of depression.
In children and adolescents, a counselor can play a vital role in preventing suicide. When a child or adolescent becomes suicidal, the youth is communicating difficulty to solve problems, coping with stress, expressing emotions and feelings.
In children and adolescents, a negative peer pressure might be behind self-destructive behaviors. Other suicidal factors include the loss of a romantic relationship, inability to cope with academic challenges and other life stressors.
Regardless of the circumstances, the community where they live have an important role to play in supporting those who are vulnerable.
As members of a community, it will be our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling, check in with them, listen with no judgement, offer kind words of support and encourage them to tell their story in their own way. We don’t need to have all the answers. The evidence suggests being caring and listening with a non-judgemental ear are far more likely to reduce distress than exacerbate it.
NPHI Medical Services
WHO Preventing Suicide – Department of Mental health 2006
International Association for suicide prevention (IASP) 2017