Short answer: The factors that can influence a person’s decision to take their own life are many, varied and complex, but commonly relate to mental health issues and/or difficult life circumstances.
We are living in challenging times, exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic. According to Suicide Prevention Australia, distress in communities across the country is mounting, with one in four Australians reporting to know someone who died by or attempted suicide in the past 12 months. Suicide Prevention Australia reports that the biggest risk to suicide rates over the next 12 months are:
· Social isolation and loneliness
· Unemployment and job security
· Family and relationship breakdowns
· Cost of living and personal debt
· Drugs and alcohol
It can be difficult to imagine what would lead a friend, family member, or celebrity to suicide. There may have been no clear warning signs and you may wonder what clues you might have missed. There is no simple answer as each individual’s response to circumstances is personal and complex.
Commonly reported life circumstances which can lead to suicidal thinking are:
· Breakup or loss of a significant other
· Loss of a child or close friend
· Persistent feelings of failure or shame
· A serious medical condition or terminal illness
· Legal trouble, such as being convicted of a crime
· Adverse childhood experiences, like trauma, abuse or bullying
· Discrimination, racism or other challenges related to being an immigrant or minor
· Having a gender identity or sexual orientation that isn’t supported by family or friends
The most widely recognised suicide risk factors are mental health issues such as:
· Depression – a mood disorder which may be described as feelings of sadness, loss or anger that interfere with a person’s everyday activities
· Psychosis – characterised by an impaired relationship with reality
· Substance use disorders – affect a person’s brain and behaviour, and lead to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication
· Bipolar disorder – a mental illness marked by a cycle of extreme changes in mood from highs (mania) to lows (depression)
· Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a set of reactions that can develop in people who have been through a traumatic event which threatened their life or safety, or that of others around them
It is important to note that while mental health challenges are high risk factors for suicide, people do not need to be experiencing these to be suicidal and, given the widespread stigma attached to suicide, people who are having suicidal thoughts may not know how to talk about it or who to talk with. If you sense someone you know may need help, a simple ‘Are you ok?’, may start a life-saving conversation. Remember, you don’t need to be a clinician, GP or a nurse to check-in with someone you are worried about.
Here at WLC Medical we are all good listeners. For your mental health support we have registered psychologist Dave Simich, as well as Keystone Counselling and Belmont Counselling who consult within our clinic. Julie from Perth Paediatric and Family Clinic is also available to offer consultations, prescriptions and referrals.
If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, phone 000 for emergency services
To get help 24/7, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467