Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Every year according to WHO, close to 800,000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year- olds globally in 2016. Suicide does not just occur in high-income countries, but is a global phenomenon in all regions of the world. In fact, over 79% of global suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2016. WHO data shows Nigeria had an age-standardized suicide rate of 17.3 per 100,000 people in 2016, which placed it seventh on the continent. Suicide is one of the priority conditions in the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) launched in 2008, which provides evidence-based technical guidance to scale up service provision and care in countries for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
SUICIDE IN TEENS
Teenage suicide is a serious and growing problem. The teenage years can be emotionally turbulent and stressful as teenagers face pressures to succeed and fit in. They may struggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt, and feelings of alienation. For some, this leads to suicide. Depression is also a major risk factor for teen suicide.
Other risk factors for teenage suicide include:
- Childhood abuse
- Recent traumatic event
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Self-loathing or self-hatred
- Lack of a support network
- Availability of a gun
- Hostile social or school environment
- Exposure to other teen suicides
Warning Signs in Teens
Additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:
- Change in eating and sleeping habits
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
- Violent or rebellious behavior, bullying, running away
- Drug and alcohol use
- Unusual neglect of personal appearance
- Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
- Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, such as stomach pains, headaches, or tiredness.
- Rejecting praise or rewards
SUICIDE IN THE ELDERLY
The highest suicide rates of any age group occur among persons aged 65 years and older. One contributing factor is depression in the elderly that is undiagnosed and untreated.
Other risk factors for suicide in the elderly include:
- Recent death of a loved one, isolation and loneliness
- Physical illness, disability, or pain
- Major life changes, such as retirement or loss of independence
- Loss of sense of purpose
Warning Signs in Older adults
Additional warning signs that an elderly person may be contemplating suicide:
- Reading about death and suicide
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Increased consumption of alcohol or prescription drugs
- Self-neglect or failing to follow medical orders
- Stockpiling medications or taking a sudden interest in firearms
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and social activities, bidding elaborate farewells, or hurrying to revise a will
Many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.
SUICIDE PREVENTION AND CONTROL
Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. These include:
- reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
- reporting by media in a responsible way;
- school-based interventions;
- introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
- early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
- training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour;
- follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.