According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst people between the ages of 15 and twenty-four worldwide and India claims one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Pressure to perform at a certain academic or professional level, intense stress to assimilate and straddle two different cultures and stigma against mental health preventing access to appropriate treatment are three of the most common reasons for South Asians to contemplate, plan and commit suicide.
Murder-suicide tragedies and countless stories of teenagers attempting or succeeding to take their lives are becoming more and more common amongst the South Asian population, indicating an importance to better recognize warning signs that a child, teen or adult may be suicidal.
Although no specific characteristics are associated with suicide, there are numerous identifiable personality, lifestyle, relational, medical, community, financial, and societal factors that can increase the risk of suicide. These risk factors may include:
- Persistent feelings of hopelessness
- History of mental health illness (especially if two or more are present at one time, such as anxiety and depression)
- Conduct disorder
- Prior suicide attempt(s)
- Poor quality of relationships and/or isolation
- Poor interpersonal problem solving (e.g. communication difficulties with friends or family members)
- Family history of suicide
- Hostile or chaotic family situation
- Prior or current abuse
- Low parental monitoring
- High stress (e.g. from family, marriage, friends, work, school, etc.)
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Prior or current alcohol or substance abuse
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Physical illness
- Experience of loss
- Barriers to mental health treatment (e.g. due to stigma or financial burden)
The more risk factors that are present in an individual, the more likely it is that they will contemplate suicide. Eighty percent of people who commit suicide reach out to someone to inform them of their intent.
If you know someone who has numerous risk factors and is exhibiting warning signs (/suicide), reach out express your concern, encourage professional help and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety. Do not hesitate to call 911, drive them to the nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for additional assistance.
For referrals to South Asian mental health professionals, please don’t hesitate to contact MySahana.