Understanding Why People Commit Suicide

Killing oneself is known as committing suicide. In the United States, over 31,000 people die each year by deliberately killing themselves. Each and every one of these deaths is a tragedy that causes emotional pain for the victim’s loved ones. Governments as well as both public and private institutions are working toward understanding and preventing what makes an individual want to commit such an unfortunate act.


Although it is widely believed that young, emotional adolescents are at the greatest risk of suicide, in reality the risk increases with age. Caucasian men over the age of 85 have a suicide rate that is six times the national average. A man is between 3.2 and 4 times more likely to commit suicide than a woman. In fact, it is so unfortunately common among men that it is the eighth leading cause of death for men in the United States. However, women report attempting suicide three times as often as men. Although the rate of death is different, it seems the rate of attempt is much more similar. This means that everyone, regardless of gender, is susceptible to the causes of suicide.

Risk Factors

So what exactly are the causes? Studies show that mental and emotional disorders, particularly depression and bi-polar disorder afflict a large number of people who attempt suicide. Depression is not caused by social or physiological factors. Neither race, nor age, nor economic class is a definitive cause, but it could affect how a depressed person will react psychologically. Intoxication from alcohol, which is classified as a depressant, can increase the likelihood of suicide as well, especially in an individual who is already depressed.

Suicide Prevention

Firearm deaths account for 60% of all suicide deaths. Removing guns from a home with a depressed person can help prevent death. Indeed, if a person truly wants to die, they can use other methods, but they may think twice as hanging and overdoses are slower and more painful. The fatality rate of the latter is also much lower. Of course, if there is no gun in the home, an individual could simply go out and buy one. That is one of the reasons why thirteen states have waiting periods on weapons. If a person intends to kill themselves as an act of passion, a few days might be enough time to cool off and curb the negative feelings.

Comprehensive Strategies

Suicides reached their peak in the early 1990s. In 1999, the Surgeon General enacted an official Call to Action against suicide. Two years later, the United States developed a national strategy for suicide prevention. The strategy is based on the one developed by the World Health Organization. The first step is to raise awareness. Countries should subsequently develop national policies for suicide prevention that account for treatment of at-risk individuals, reducing access to means of suicide, organizing support networks and training professional health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests researching how suicidal thoughts and behavior are developed and then interrupting the process. Adequately preparing a person for or consoling them during or after trauma may prevent eventual suicidal behavior. Additionally, college campuses, Native American tribes and organizations of U.S. veterans have developed their own practices to prevent suicide amongst their members.

Intervention Techniques

Intervention can be performed by anyone, though it is recommended that a suicidal individual, a family member or friend contact a professional. There are counselors who have studied suicide intervention strategies and know how to best handle the situation. The psychologists at a student’s school are one example, as are therapists and the counselors on suicide prevention hotlines. In intervention, a counselor must first engage the individual. The at-risk person must feel open about addressing the aspects of their life that are troubling. At this point, the counselor should tactfully ask if they are or have been contemplating suicide. If so, the counselor should inquire as to the specific reasons. Then address possible methods. Does the at-risk individual already have a plan in mind? Assessing the risk will lead the counselor to deciding what course of action should be taken.

Additional Resources