Factors Causing Suicide

You may be able to identify that someone has suicidal thoughts and feelings. There are ways to help them.

  • Talk to them with a realistic attitude and compassion.
  • Make affirming statements.
  • Help them unlock the doors of their problems.
  • The three crucial elements in helping a suicidal person are Activity, Authority and Involvement.
  • There are places to go for help.
  • Counsellor Margaret Mourant suggests being tactful but definite and to show an interest.
Everyone is different and their unique set of circumstances, abilities and experiences, cause them to behave differently. But there are some generalisations that we can make about causes of suicide. Below is a list of some of the causes.
  • Emotional pain
  • Loss of a spouse or partner
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling trapped
  • Seeing no purpose for life
  • Need to escape from something
  • Sickness
  • Depression
  • Mental Illness
  • "P"
  • Any drugs or substance abuse which alters reality
  • Abuse of alcohol

Married People Least Likely to Suicide
One's marital status also seems to play an important role in the issue of suicide. Emile Durkheim, in his classic work, Suicide, concluded after studying a number of countries that "non-marriage increases the tendency to suicide" (p173).

In France and Italy, for example, he says that "marriage may be said to reduce the danger of suicide by about half." He indicates that marriage is the best defence against unrestrained self-indulgence which is an important contributing factor in suicidal behaviour.

James Lynch notes that "suicide increases fivefold in the widowed white male and fourfold in the widowed nonwhite male and white female" (p45).

Figures from a 1950-1964 study by the National Centre for Health Statistics in the U.S. show that the suicide rate per 100,000 married men is 18. But for men who never married, the rate is 33.2 and for men who are divorced or seperated, it leaps to 69.4 (Cited in De Marco, p3).

More recently, a multiple regression analysis of data from the 50 American states showed that "divorce, the indicator of the breaking down of ties to the family, is significantly related to suicide even after we control for the influence of [other] variables" (Stack, p89). The study demonstrated that with each 1 per cent increase in the divorce rate there is a .54 per cent in the suicide rate.

In Australia, a recent study found that "never-married men had [suicide] mortality levels 89-90 oer cent higher than the standard rates and married men 43-25 percent below the standard rates, while divorced and widowed man also had elevated [suicide] mortality levels. Similar trends were found among women as well (Burnley)."

Other research has found that suicide rates among unmarried men and women in Australia were three times higher than among married people (cited in Health). Figures from the ABS have shown that divorced males aged between 35 and 44 are the most likely to take their own life in Australia, while married people are the least likely to suicide (Adelaide Advertiser).

(Taken from a paper on Youth Suicide by Bill Muehlenberg, published in Cutting Edge No.50, Dec 2000/Jan 2001. Reproduced with permission.)