If you’re in treatment for depression and have ever mentioned a desire to die, you’ve probably heard these questions:
- How would you commit suicide?
- Have you make a plan to commit suicide?
So a commenter recently mentioned that this is just a way of “covering their backs,” and “. . . if I were serious about killing myself and had made a plan, why on earth would I tell them?”
This is a logical question, but an uninformed one. In studies, we know that people who attempt suicide do reach out for help and do not really want to die.
Suicide is a Serious Problem
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the US and is the 3rd leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults. Suicide is not to be taken lightly and doctors are trained (rightfully) not to take it lightly.
95% of people who commit suicide have a mental illness. (Depression is the leading mental illness indicator of suicide, but depression combined with other conditions like anxiety or an eating disorder is more dangerous than depression alone. Anorexia has the greatest rate of suicide with more than 1-in-5 anorexics dying of suicide.)
Lifestyle Suicide Predictors
Suicide has been studied extensively by the mental health community and in addition to mental illness predictors we know many other predictors of suicide:
- Demographics (such as age, sex, ethnic background and religion)
- Substance abuse
- Gun availability
- Media / internet content
- Life experiences (recent and past)
- Prior attempts
And many others.
Mindset Suicide Predictors
Most people who commit suicide are under the care of a doctor or see a doctor within three weeks of committing suicide. These people want help but they commonly don’t ask for it directly. Many people come to doctors for complaints not related to suicide so the doctor must ask questions to determine if suicide is actually the underlying concern.
So, understanding that we know many of the predictors of suicide and understanding that most people do, in fact, want help, the questions doctors ask try to determine if that is what the patient is really saying. While it is logical to think people who want to commit suicide would lie, this isn’t actually the case.
We know the mindsets to investigate are:
- Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others? (For some, suicidal feelings can become homicidal.)
- Do you have a plan to commit suicide? (The more specific the plan, the more likely suicide is.)
- What do you think your suicide would achieve? (People who feel other would be better off without them are more likely to attempt suicide.)
- Do you have hope for the future? (Hopelessness is a major factor in suicide attempts.)
Suicide Questions Do Prevent Suicide
Suicide likelihood is a hard thing to assess and in many cases the doctors seeing the patients do not have a well-developed relationship with them and so it is hard to gauge the patient’s true crisis. These questions are a way of doctors trying to assess clear indicators to prevent a person’s death.
While, absolutely, a patient can lie to a doctor about their intentions, the fact of the matter is, the patient is in front of a doctor proving that, on some level, they do want help. People do not really want to die. People want to escape their pain. People need help to do that.
If you’re considering suicide, call a helpline right now. There are caring people sitting on the other end of the line and they want to help you. Reach out to them.
Read fellow HealthyPlace blogger Amy Kiel’s recent accounting of her suicide attempt: Never Going Back: Memories of A Suicide Attempt
Information in this article was mostly found here. Only a tiny portion of suicide predictors are mentioned above so I recommend looking at the article for all the details.