Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in Australia, with approximately seven Australians dying from suicide each day. More people aged 15 to 44 die from suicide than any other cause. PsychMed is committed to providing individual evidence-based therapy for people experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings. We are committed to reduce stigma and shame associated with suicidal thoughts, feelings actions with the aim of creating a community where at-risk individuals can speak about their challenges more openly.

The Commonwealth Government (through the APHN) has designated PsychMed as a key SA provider of suicide prevention services and supported the establishment of an Australian-first Suicide Intervention Program for Suicide-Attempters and those experiencing suicidal crisis.

A suicidal crisis is a situation in which someone is planning to take their own life, or very seriously contemplating doing so. Everyone’s suicidal crisis is individual. However, we know that there are a number of common warning signs, triggers and precipitating factors. Warning signs include recurrent thoughts of death and dying, thinking about how one might end one’s own life, feeling hopeless or like things won’t change, feeling like a burden to others and having access to means. If you’re experiencing a suicidal crisis, it’s important to get help; if someone you know is in danger of experiencing a suicidal crisis, there are things that you can do to help them stay safe.

The reasons that people attempt suicide are complex. At PsychMed, we acknowledge that everyone who attempts suicide has their own, individual story about the events leading up to their crisis. Research has identified a number of factors that are common among people who have attempted to take their own life.

Psychological

Most people who attempt suicide are experiencing extreme psychological pain, which has also been called ‘psych-ache’. This pain can be so intense it feels worse than physical pain. At the time, it can also feel as though it won’t end. Suicide can be an attempt by people to try and escape their strong feelings of distress.

Suicidal people may also feel that they don’t belong or are not understood. They may even feel like a burden to others. It’s important to realise that, no matter how hard things are right now, there are lots of other people with struggles similar to your own. Although every person’s story is unique, the feelings of pain, isolation, and burdensomeness are something many other people can relate to.

Mental Health

Though not everyone who attempts suicide has a diagnosable mental illness, approximately 70% of people who attempt suicide have an affective disorder, such as major depression. People with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder also have rates of suicide attempts much higher than the general population. Effective treatments are available for all of these conditions, so it is vitally important that people receive the help they need for their mental health, in order to reduce the chance that they will take their own life.

Environmental Trauma & Stress

Experiences from people’s past can increase their chances of attending suicide later in life. These include childhood abuse or neglect, or experiencing a trauma. Having someone, such as a friend or family member, attempt suicide early in one’s life also increases one’s own risk.

Many people also experience suicidal thoughts in relation to stressful events occurring in their lives. These may include losing a job, experiencing a relationship breakdown, or losing someone close to them, as well as other major life transitions or stressors.

Biological

There is evidence to suggest that some people who attempt suicide may possess physiological and neurological differences. For example, suicidal behaviour is related to serotonin abnormalities in the brain; serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the primitive part of the brain, which processes emotions, and feelings, which that is targeted by many common antidepressants.

Some researchers have suggested that once people have attempted suicide, that psychological-emotional state may be ‘stored in the brain’. This condition is called the ‘suicide mode’. This idea may explain why prior suicide attempts are the biggest risk factor for future attempts. This is, in part, why the SIPS program (hyperlink) aims to work with people who have had a suicide attempt or crisis, in order to assist to increase their level of safety.

Even though there may be biological factors that may influence someone’s suicide risk, there is also evidence showing that treatments exist (including psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy) that can reduce someone’s chances of attempting suicide.

Demographic

Particular demographic characteristics are associated with increased suicide risk. For example, rural and remote populations, people in minority groups and people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent are at higher risk of suicide than non-indigenous people. However, suicidal thoughts may occur to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or sexual orientation.

If you’re feeling suicidal at the moment, it is vital that you reach out for help and support. You can also talk to someone in your life that you trust, such as a friend, family member or colleague. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or a personal crisis, you could also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the suicide call back service 1300 659 467. However, you feel that you are at imminent risk of harming yourself it is important that you seek professional support immediately, you can call Mental Health Triage (in SA) on 13 14 65 or emergency services on 000.

At times, people can be scared of talking about their suicidal thoughts and feelings. It’s important to remember that mental health staff are trained and familiar with working with people having such experiences.

Many people who attempt suicide are struggling with a diagnosable mental health condition. Evidence-based treatments for mental health difficulties exist. A good place to start is to seek help is to speak to your Local GP; you may also wish to ask about getting a referral to speak to a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health clinician.

It is also important that you can speak to a mental health clinician about your suicidal thoughts and feelings. Research suggests that working through suicidal thoughts and feelings can be an important part of treatment, in addition to getting help for other psychiatric symptoms.

If you have had a suicide attempt or crisis in the past year, you may also wish to inquire about PsychMed’s Suicide Intervention Program for Suicide-Attempters (SIPS), which can assist you in developing personalised safety plan and strategies for keep yourself safe.

If you’re concerned that someone may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings, you can ask them directly: “Are you having thoughts of self harm or suicide?” This demonstrates that you care about their safety and well-being and it gives them an opportunity to talk about it.

If someone says that they are feeling suicidal, spend time with them and listen to them. People who are having suicidal thoughts may be experiencing feelings of shame, self-blame or stigma. It’s often hard for people to talk about those experiences and opening up about them may be accompanied by anxiety or worry. As such, it’s important to try and talk to them in an open, supportive and non-judgmental way.

Once you’ve heard that someone is suicidal, you can encourage them to reach out and seek help and support. You might suggest that they tell their local GP about their suicidal feelings and then ask for a referral. If they want to speak to someone immediately, they may wish to call Lifeline on 13 11 14. or the suicide call back service 1300 659 467 If they are concerned they aren’t able to keep themselves safe from immediate harm, it’s important that they get support as soon as possible. This may involve calling Mental Health Triage (in SA 13 14 65), going to the emergency department of the nearest hospital or calling emergency services 000. If the person is unable or unwilling to call for help, you are able to call on their behalf if there is an imminent danger.

lifeline
suicide-call-back
suicide-prevention-australia