Monthly Archives: May 2012

Suicide Prevention

Quote: “And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” –Mishnan Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian, Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a



It is with a heavy heart that I write about suicide.  In a recent article from UCSD School of Medicine(Academic Med.2012;87:320-326) it reveals that suicide is the 10th leading overall cause of death in the United States. Women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men, but men successfully complete suicide at four times the rate of women and account for 79% of all U.S. suicides.  Of note, rates of suicide among physicians is, unfortunately, even higher.


Major depression seems to be the most significant antecedent risk factor for suicide.  Keith Hawthon, an editor of an important book on suicide, reminds us that suicide may not be easy to predict in men: Males are less likely than females to want to talk about their problems and relatively less verbal ability to describe what they are feeling.

In addition, there are a host of other factors that increase the risk of suicide including other mood disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, hopelessness and despair, adverse life events, personal history of physical or sexual abuse and family history of suicide.

Suicide and lethal risk taking are the leading causes of male mortality in the teens and twenties.   In the Vietnam War years four times as many Americans died of suicide as died in combat.

Ninety percent of suicides are associated with mental illness, most commonly depression.  There is a strong genetic component to risk for suicide; the risk is estimated to be 30-50 percent as a consequence of inheritance. Having a first degree relative who completed suicide increased the risk six fold (Why Men Die Young, Marianne J. Legato,2008).



Warning signs for suicide

The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change. A guy should seek help as soon as possible if they or someone they know exhibits any of the following signs:

Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself.

Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.

Talking about feeling hopelessness or having no reason to live.

Talking about feeling trapped or unbearable pain.

Talking about being a burden to others.

Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.

Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.

Sleeping too little or too much.

Withdrawing or feeling isolated.

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

Displaying extreme mood swing.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-Talk.