The Rippling Effects of Suicide

By Pahl, Jorg J. | USA TODAY, September 1996 | Go to article overview

The Rippling Effects of Suicide


Pahl, Jorg J., USA TODAY


VERY FEW ACTIONS generate as much emotion in family members and friends as suicidal behavior. Only the person engaging in suicide suffers greater emotional turbulence. What often is perceived as being the severest form of auto-aggression--death by suicide--is in reality an attempt to escape psychic pain. Suicide appears to be the only option left for people who, after trying to solve life's crises, find themselves in an untenable situation.

Anyone can become suicidal when the situation producing the emotional pain is believed to be inescapable, never ending, and unbearable. Individuals respond to such situations with behaviors that can vary from suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts), a common occurrence affecting 20% of Americans in their lifetimes, to completed suicide, a rare event affecting approximately 12.5 per 100,000 annually.

Psychiatrists are in the uneviable professional and legal position of having to determine who will go beyond purely suicidal ideation to attempting or ultimately completing the suicidal act. The current understanding of the nature of suicide contains elements of ambiguity. Psychiatrists' ability to predict and prevent this tragic event is limited. The future appears bright, however. Recent advances in brain chemistry have brought with them new hope that many of these deaths can be prevented. In the meantime, psychiatrists and other health care professionals continue to treat these emotionally distraught patients based mainly on information gathered during the clinical interview.

When examining the issue if suicidal tendencies, it is important to define what constitutes suicidal behavior, determine its prevalence, and identify psychological and biological factors that predispose one to suicide and precipitate the actual attempt. Only through use of rigorous scientific methods can it be possible to improve the ability to predict such behavior and protect the 30,000 who die annually by their own hands.

Suicidal behaviors are much more complex and common than the general public would think. They cover a spectrum of thoughts, communications, and acts, ranging from the least common, completed suicide; to the more frequently occurring, attempted suicide and suicidal communications; to the most common, suicidal ideation and verbalizations.

Research indicates that thinking about suicide occurs at least once in the lifetimes of 40% of Americans. General population surveys have found that 20% of Americans have experienced an episode of moderately severe suicidal ideation (defined as lasting at least two weeks, forming a plan, and identifying two weeks, forming a plan,l and identifying the means) at some point in their lives. Another 20% report at least one episode of suicidal ideation that did not involve formation of a plan. In contrast, completed suicide occurs in less than 0.1% of the population. These demographic data are important. They show that thinking about suicide rarely results in a completed act. Such data carry with them obvious treatment implications.

It is important to articulate the psychological and biological factors that predispose one to suicide and precipitate the actual attempt. It is extremely discouraging to note at the outset that current suicide prediction and prevention practices are an inexact science at best. While there are many individuals who would be considered at high risk for suicide, few of them actually end up as completed suicides. If society took the approach of hospitalizing every one of these potential suicide victims, there would not be enough hospital beds left to care for the nation's sick. Psychiatrists are confronted with the daunting task of trying to predict which high-risk individuals are at imminent risk for attempting suicide. Most patients are actively suicidal for only 24 or 48 hours at most, even if they fit a high-risk profile. Psychological risk factors that have been evaluated in the past for their association with suicide include age, sex, race, religion, occupation, marital status, a past suicide history, and physical and mental health. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Rippling Effects of Suicide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.