Why do some young people die by suicide?
Everyone who is touched by a youth suicide, or is simply curious, asks this question. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, because each person who dies takes the reasons with them.
Suicide researchers have offered some general theories around the risk and protective factors related to suicide.
The risk factors affecting a person's life seem to fall into four areas:
- history of mental illness in family
- history of drug / acohol abuse in family
- physical appearance
- disability or illness
- sexual orientation
- drug / alcohol abuse
- no-one to talk to
- exposure to suicide
- relationship issues
- academic pressures
- living up to expectations
- access to the means of suicide
- peer pressure
- "I'm a burden to everyone"
- "Things would be better if I wasn't around"
- "I hate myself"
- "I am so stupid"
- "Everyone hates me"
- "Life is pointless"
- "Why should I bother?"
- "The world doesn't care"
- "Nothing will ever get better"
But there are also four areas of potentially protective factors as well:
- loving and encouraging parents
- family support
- someone who is always available
- brothers and sisters who show love and concern
- supportive grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins
- support from members of a team or group
- friends of the family who can be trusted
- living in a safe community
- supportive and interested neighbours
- strong community ties such as a church or political party
- friends you can talk to
- a teacher or other member of staff who notices you
- people who believe in you
- teachers who care
- a safe place to learn
- encouragement to learn
- zero tolerance of bullying
- acceptance of difference
- your own self-control
- good levels of self-esteem
- a sense of responsibility to self and family
- developed coping skills
- support of friends and peers
- ways to vent frustration and anger safely
- able to express your feelings and emotions
- fear of death or dying
Life can feel like a series of random factors that we cannot always control but it is actually a balance between the risk factors and the protective factors in our lives. If we have more risk factors than protective factors then our sense of balance and self-worth can be lost, and if we have risk factors in all four areas then the risk of suicide is increased further.
However Protective factors can bring things back into balance. Sometimes just one person showing that they care or asking the right question is enough to prevent a tragedy.
Please remember that Suicide Prevention Works!!
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