With over 700,000 people committing suicide every year, there’s no gainsaying suicide is fast becoming a scourge that directly or indirectly affects everyone.
In light of the above, September 10 is globally recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day. This day was introduced by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness and advocacy for suicide prevention.
So, in this article, we will take a deep dive into the meaning, warning signs, and risk factors associated with suicide, as well as how telemedicine helps in suicide prevention.
What is Suicide?
Suicide is defined as intentionally taking one’s own life. It tends to carry different traits depending on the culture. Historically, and still today in some regions, suicide or its attempt is seen as a criminal offense, a religious taboo, and, in some cases, an act of honour (suicide bombings).
Attempted suicide is an attempt to take one’s life that ends in self-injury rather than death.
Assisted suicide is considered as an individual helping another individual in bringing about their own death by providing them with the means of carrying out the act or by providing advice on how to do it.
Suicide Risk Factors
The risk factors that may contribute to someone having suicidal thoughts, attempting or committing suicide include:
1. Mental Disorders
To begin with, mental disorders play a huge role in the increased risk of suicide—with studies suggesting over that 90% of people who take their own life battle with some type of psychiatric disorder.
However, the risk of suicide for people suffering from mental disorders drops drastically once admitted to treatment. Bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are some of the most common mental disorders that go with suicide.
2. Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is another high-risk factor for suicide. Studies show that those with substance abuse disorders are six times more likely to complete suicide than those without.
Also, the rate of completed suicide among men with alcohol/drug abuse problems is 2-3 times higher than among those without a problem.
Women who abuse substances are at 6-9 times higher risk of suicide in comparison to women who do not. What’s more, heroin and cocaine are the most common drugs suicide victims use.
3. Family History
Coming from a family with a history of mental disorders, substance abuse, violence, as well as physical and sexual abuse is also a risk factor for suicide.
4. Socio-economic Conditions
Unemployment, homelessness, poverty, childhood sexual abuse, social isolation, loss of a loved one, and other life stresses can all increase the likelihood of suicide.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Any one of the following signs does not necessarily mean someone is considering suicide, but several of these symptoms may signal a need for help:
- Suicidal ideation: thinking, talking, or writing about suicide, planning for suicide
- Increased use of drugs and alcohol
- Feelings of purposelessness, uselessness, and hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Excessive sleep or having difficulty falling asleep
- Repeated reckless or impulsive actions such as over speeding for no obvious reason
- Mood changes including depression
It is worthy of note that people who talk about suicide, threaten suicide, or call suicide crisis centres are about 30 times more likely than average to kill themselves.
Ways of Preventing Suicide
You can prevent suicide through the following ways:
- Counselling and psychotherapy
- Access to suicide prevention hotlines and emergency rooms
- Motivating self-care activities such as exercises and meditative relaxation
- Hospitalization for those with low adherence to collaboration for help and those who require monitoring and secondary symptom treatment
- Registering with support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, and Suicide Bereavement Support Group
How Telemedicine Helps to Prevent Suicide
With telemedicine, you can get timely and low-cost suicide interventions. Here’s how telemedicine helps in suicide prevention:
1. Ease of Access
If you are having suicidal warning signs, you can speak to a psychologist from the comfort of your home. This mental health professional will help you see things from a clearer perspective through counselling and therapy, and develop a recovery strategy for you.
In many parts of the world, especially in Africa, suicide and mental health issues are met with a great deal of stigma.
However, instead of ignoring the warning signs or bottling up your thoughts due to fear of stigmatization, you can consult with a psychologist from the privacy of your home. The mental health professional will develop a treatment regimen for you without judging.
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