The need for suicide prevention should be quite obvious, because suicide is like a contagious disease in the United States. Suicide effects people of all different age groups, different ethnic and cultural groups. To the best of my knowledge it is difficult getting accurate data on the number of suicidal attempts and deaths, because many suicide attempts are not reported each year; also, perhaps the number of deaths by suicide are not reported as actual suicides but as accidental deaths. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (1998), more Americans take their own lives each year then are murdered by someone else and that, over the last five years, more people have died by suicide then AIDS. When I came across this statistic I for one was shocked that such a thing could be true, but it lead me to realize that the prevention of suicide in this country is even more important and should not be taken lightly.
Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death, and is responsible for more then 30,000 deaths in the United States each year. The rates of deaths by suicide vary somewhat for different age and ethnic groups. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (1998) showed that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and the third among 15-24 year olds. Some of the risk factors for adolescent suicide include psychiatric disorders (like depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and any previous suicidal attempts. The National Institute of Mental Health (1997) says, that major depression is a key factor for suicide among older adults, it is often an under recognized and under treated medical illness. In 1997, individuals who were 65 years of age and up accounted for about 19 percent of the suicidal deaths in the country.
The most recent data that I was able to find for the suicide rates of my home state New York, was according to the Morbidity and Mortality weekly report (1997); which, says that between the years of 1990-1994 there was 7,551 deaths by suicide in the state of New York. Unfortunately I was unable to find any suicidal rates for my home area in Brooklyn.
One major component of suicide prevention is being able to recognize the warning signs. Most research suggests that the majorities of people who attempt suicide usually give out some sort of a warning sign. These "warning signs", consist of personal behaviors, verbal and non-verbal communications; also, may or may not include the following:
a change in personality: withdrawn, sad, anxious, and tired
a change in behavior: lack of concentration in school, work, daily tasks
a change in there sleep pattern
a change in their eating habits
a loss of interest in friends, hobbies, sex, and previously enjoyed activities
giving away prized possessions
previous suicide attempts
Depression is a major factor among individuals who tend to be suicidal. According to the Samaritans of New York (a suicide prevention crisis center), the risk of suicide may be at its greatest if the depression begins to lift. Even though many different individuals get depressed from time to time and may or may not try to attempt suicide the warning signs are basically the same at any age. When dealing with children and adolescent's if they begin to socially isolate themselves this is a warning of depression that can lead to an attempted suicide.
There are many successful suicide prevention centers all over the United States such as the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, which educates professionals in the treatment of individuals who are at risk of suicide. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention also focuses on educating society on suicidal behavior and that if a person who is suicidal most likely they are suffering from a medical and/or psychiatric condition that must be treated. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, and the Samaritans of the United States prevention centers have been quite successful in preventing suicide for various age groups. I feel that any type of suicide prevention that educates not only professionals but also society about suicide and the warning signs of suicide are successful, because if more people are aware then more attempted suicides and death by suicide can be prevented.
The Samaritans of New York, which is located in Manhattan is one of the suicide prevention centers in my area. It is a local branch of the international humanitarian movement with more then 400 branches in 32 countries. The Samaritans helps those people who are in crisis and are feeling suicidal through a volunteer-run program; which, focuses on listening to the persons problems without expressing any personal judgment. This hot line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has over a 100 trained volunteers. There is also a Public Educational Program, which provides support to those that have been effected by suicide, or the Safe Place Suicide Survivor Groups. Also there is Contract Services and Consultations, which provides assistance to schools, agencies and corporations that require individually modified suicide prevention programs to meet the organization and staff needs including the NYPD Early Intervention, NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation.
Is there an age bias when it comes to suicide attempts and deaths by suicide? Before doing research for this paper I would have never believed that there could be an age bias in suicide, yet according to the National Institute of Mental Health (1997), suicide among the elderly tends to receive less attention in most scientific literature then suicide in adolescents and young adults. At this point in time research has shown that suicide is viewed as more acceptable for an older adult then it is for a younger adult. In recent polls an increasingly larger amount of the population has approved assisted suicide; which, is an issue that is more important to older adults then to younger adults, because of the likely hood of terminal and debilitating illnesses among the elderly. Suicidal behaviors among the elderly are more fatal then those of other age group's, because older adults are more prone to self-injuries that may result in death.
The usual risk patterns for suicide among people of different ethnic groups can vary from those who are accepted into the white majority population. According to the National Service Framework of the Department of Mental Health (1999), young-unmarried men make up a high-risk group for suicide. Although, research has shown evidence that suggests that among the south Asian people living in England and Wales, young, married women are also a high risk for suicide. People from different ethnic backgrounds may have different risk factors for suicide that should be taken into account, which suggests that:
Irish-born people living in the UK have a particular susceptibility to suicidal behavior.
For young south Asian people, cultural conflict can be a precipitating fact in suicide
Social risk factors may precipitate schizophrenia and possibly suicidal behavior in African and African-Caribbean people living in the UK.
The little research that I have found on suicide and the differences in ethnic groups had to more with statistical finding, as oppose to having different warning signs for suicide, between the different ethnic and cultural groups. Risk factors and warning signs among the different ethnic groups may not vary as much as they did in with the different age groups.
In conclusion, I feel that suicide is a very serious issue that has effected our entire country. Deaths by suicide in the United States is one the leading causes of death, in this country over 30,000 deaths caused by suicide that occur in the United States. This is why I feel that it is important to have suicide prevention centers and consultations available to the public community, so they can give people a better perspective on suicidal deaths and what can be done to help these suicides from occurring each year.