If you have strong suicidal thoughts at this time, you may wish to exit this site and get more specific advice on the free site www.suicideprevention.com.au.
Even psychiatrists find it extremely difficult to predict suicide in patients they know to be ill. I believe I was the first doctor to publish the idea that predicting suicide is equivalent to predicting the weather; whatever accuracy one may have for the next 24 hours, it gets progressively less the longer the gap is since the patient last saw the psychiatrist. The weather forecast model of suicide prevention has now been widely publicised by other psychiatrists.
Of people who commit suicide, over seventy per cent have depressive illness, with schizophrenia and alcoholism making up the majority of other cases of suicide.
In depressive illness cases, the only factor that has repeatedly been shown in research to be associated with suicide is a patient’s sense of hopelessness, ie a belief that they will never recover. Accordingly, reassuring a depressed person that they will in fact recover is a vital part of reducing the suicide risk.
Other factors in depressive illness that seem to be associated with an extreme risk of suicide are severe problems sleeping (there is perhaps nothing worse than lying awake in a state of great distress while everyone else sleeps), beingvery anxious and agitated, and being too unmotivated as a result of depression to care for one’s self properly. People who experience panic attacks, in which they become terrified they are going to die or some catastrophe is going to happen, have an increased risk of suicide.
For those having treatment for depressive illness, the early stages of recovery are in many ways the most dangerous! At this stage, the patient is still suffering considerably, but is now mentally more focussed, and therefore more able to organise his or her suicide. Although everyone is relieved when a depressed patient starts to show signs of recovery, great care is needed for the next few weeks, until the recovery is well established, and the emotional pain has subsided. Similarly, the first few weeks after discharge from hospital for treatment of depression is a period of increased risk of suicide, as the person is again confronted with the remaining symptoms of their illness and the pressures of their normal lives.
Drinking heavily or smoking a lot of marijuana while depressed increases the risk of an impulsive self- destructive act.
A previous suicide attempt is an extremely serious warning sign in people with depressive illness. While one in a thousand people will die from suicide, this risk is multiplied by ten in the first 12 months after an individual has carried out a self destructive act which did not end in death.
Emotional aloneness markedly increases the risk of suicide. Therefore, if you lose patience with a person who is very depressed, they may well feel the loss of your support is the final straw, which pushes them to attempt suicide.
Depressed people giving presents to others at an unexpected time, and especially young people parting with personally important possessions, are considered warning signs of impending suicide.
Finally, it must be kept in mind that depressive illness can be fatal if untreated, and a relatively minor problem if treated, but predicting who will attempt suicide, or who will be successful in committing suicide, is extremely difficult, even for professionals.
Important Disclaimer: This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.