Severe forms of mental illness could make people have suicidal thoughts.
The impaired judgment that accompanies psychotic states could make individuals have illogical thoughts that motivate them to kill themselves. The intense distress that is associated with severe mental illness could also make people want to end it all by killing themselves. Some psychotic persons experience external forces controlling their actions while hearing surreal voices from unseen sources commanding them to do things they would otherwise not have done. Risk of suicide is very high in such persons.
Asides hopelessness, another factor found across individuals who have obvious mental illness and those who don’t is psychoactive substance use. Psychoactive substances include alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, morphine, hallucinogens (LSD and the likes). Intoxication from any psychoactive substance could impair someone’s judgment enough to cause the individual to act upon a suicidal intent.
With regards to suicide among persons who are not “obviously” mentally ill; a French sociologist Emile Durkheim described four types of suicides: altruistic, anomic, egoistic and fatalistic suicides.
- Altruistic suicide is the suicide carried out by persons who believe they have cause to die for. These include culturally sanctioned suicide of the Japanese (Hara-kiri) and self-immolation as a social protest.
- Anomic suicide is carried out by individuals who have lost their place in society or lack any sense of solidarity in society. These will include those who have lost their jobs or have experienced economic downturns.
- Egoistic type of suicide is as a result of separation or alienation from a social group. This is the type of suicide that occurs in the elderly who are isolated from their family.
- Fatalistic suicide is seen as a reaction to society’s oppression. The individual feels strongly oppressed to the extent of seeing death as being preferable to living under the prevailing government.
A special subtype of suicide is that which is executed by terrorists.
These include suicide bombers and others whose intention is to die and also kill others while they are at it. This appears to be different from the typical murder-suicide that is commonly related to mental illness (mainly depressive disorder).
The general opinion had been that suicide bombers are psychologically normal. However, Adam Lankford in his book “The Myth of Martyrdom” presented evidence that survivors of suicide missions have been found to be struggling with lots of psychosocial challenges which include social isolation, depression, guilt, shame, hopelessness, and rage.
My candid opinion is those suicide bombers and others who have the intent to die and kill others are into two categories; the mentally ill and the ones who have been brainwashed. Some suicide bombers are groomed from childhood to carry out suicide missions. They are indoctrinated early in life into that culture and know nothing else. They might not fit categorically into any of the types described by Emile Durkheim.
How do we know people at risk of suicide?
That an individual has a risk of suicide doesn’t mean that he “will” kill himself/herself. It only means that the likelihood of completed suicide is higher in him/her than others (theoretically speaking). It is common to see the profile of someone who has committed suicide to include being male, unemployed, isolated, and mentally ill (which could include being an alcoholic or drug addict) and have previously attempted suicide. Others include individuals who have a family history of suicide, have impulsive behaviors, chronic physical illness and have easy access to lethal methods.
Every suicidal act is preceded by thoughts of suicide. Hence individuals who complete suicide would have thought about it or even expressed it either verbally to others or in writing. It’s best to look out for individuals who have any of the preceding factors and pay attention to their conversations for statements suggestive of unusual farewells, imminent disconnect from everyone, wishing to sleep and never wake up, longing to go on a long journey never to return etc. In these days of social media use, several suicidal individuals have used facebook, twitter, and other platforms to express their suicidal intent before carrying out such acts. The challenge is that most of the time, people don’t take them seriously until after they have completed the fatal act (successfully or unsuccessfully).
Kindly stay connected to this blog for the concluding part of this article which will be addressing the issues of protective factors and how we can identify and intervene when someone around us seems suicidal.
Stay Safe and Sane and help others do the same by sharing this!!