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Causes of the Increase in Suicide Rates

Info: 5279 words (21 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 11th Feb 2020

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Tagged: suicide


Suicide has been at an all-time high in recent years. It is reported that there is 1 billion successful suicides a year (Turecki & Brent, 2016). Per year there are 14.5 deaths for every 100,000 persons, that is equivalent to one death every 40 seconds due to suicide. Emile Durkheim demonstrated in his research that suicide has always been a constant throughout all these years. While society and its members are constantly changing so are their reasons as to why suicide is the only option to partake in. Suicide rates vary by country but regardless of the location, they keep rising (Nowotny, Peterson &Boardman, 2015). While suicide has been shown to be reducing amongst the elderly, it has been rapidly increasing amongst youth (Hawton & Heeringen van, 2009). Through past studies suicide has been shown to be spread socially but reasons as to why or how are too vast and still quite unknown. Factors such as gender, religion, technology, imitation and social economic status (SES) have been linked to dramatically affect suicidality rates. Suicidality is not to be confused with suicide. The term suicidality and suicide are two terms that are often interchanged but possess different definitions. Suicidality is the ideation and attempt to kill oneself without actually succeeding while suicide is the act of attempting to take one’s life and succeeding.

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The objective of this study is to further understand why suicidality rates have been increasing. It is important to recognize underlying factors which affect and are associated with high suicide rates. This is important to the construction of further research and for the opportunity to be able to properly treat and care for those who are being affected by these extraneous factors before suicidal ideation turns into suicide. Many people die every day in cause of suicide, it is time to take a stand and investigate why these individuals think this is the only way to cope with stress, pain or monetary problems.

Suicidality is of utter importance to medical sociology because medical sociology is a multidisciplinary field in which psychology, sociology and the medical field interact all together to make up the overall well-being of a person. Suicidality ties in together the psychological factors and social factors that contribute to the medical health of a person. In order for us to fully understand why suicide is the choice to some, various factors have to be examined thoroughly to establish the reason as to why suicide is so common amongst our youth today. It is not merely enough to study the psychological stress a person is going through to further understand their reasons for wanting to end their life. Social factors such as imitation and social learning andnd biological factors such as pathophysiology, contribute tremendously to self-harm and suicidal behavior tendencies. Too quite often these suicidal behaviors tend to lead to a succesful suicide.               

Definition of the literature

There are many definitions and different forms of suicidal behaviors. Suicide is when a person has suicidal ideations and acts upon them by attempting to kill themselves and succeeding. The difference between ideation and suicide is the fact that one has a life ending result. There are also many who engage in non-suicidal self-injuring, which is when a person self-harms themselves but lacks the motivation to end their life. Many of these behaviors are common amongst younger teenagers who want to relieve stress by feeling pain, as self-punishment or as an escape towards a difficult situation they are facing (Turecki & Brent, 2016). However, these behaviors do not usually lead to suicide attempts. Yet, some individuals start off by self-harming without suicidal ideations and end up either accidentally succeeding in their attempt or in further engagement of suicidal behaviors.

Connotation of “Suicide”

While it is fairly common for people to confuse the term suicide with suicidal ideation and self-harm, there is a fine line of distinction between them all. Suicide is when a person who has thoughts of ending their life acts upon those negative thoughts. In order for it to be considered a suicide a person needs to not only attempt but to be successful at ending their life. Being successful in a suicide attempt is what distinguishes between suicide and suicidal ideation. Ideation are the thoughts and ideas a person has before attempting to self -harm. Many times, self-harming will lead to suicidal events which is when a person attempts but does not succeed and actual suicide (Turecki & Brent, 2016).

Thinking of it and planning it

There are 2 types of suicidal ideation: active and passive. Active suicidal ideation is when a person has thoughts about ending their life and begins planning different methods to attain this desired effect. While passive suicidal ideation is when a person has thoughts about ending their life but does not necessarily have an intention of attempting to achieve it. There is a much greater risk for those with active suicidal ideation within a span of 12 months than those with passive suicidal ideation (Turecki & Brent, 2016). Passive suicidal ideation is most commonly found amongst early adolescences, who are experimenting with pain and self-harm.

The attempting

Suicidal events are worsening suicidal behaviors in which a person actively tries to self-harm themselves to their lives but does not succeed. Self-injury is a behavior elicited by those who have suicidal ideations. Self-harm is a mixture of actual suicide attempts and of non-suicidal self-injuries (Turecki & Brent, 2016).

Age discrepancies for suicidal behavior

Age is an important distinction among those who commit suicide. While middle aged and elderly individuals have been known to be the highest number of cases dealing with suicide, teenagers have now climbed up the ladder. Youth and young adult suicides have increased dramatically over the past years and are now the second leading cause of death between the ages of 15-29 (Turecki & Brent, 2016). Suicidal ideation and attempted suicide could be more prevalent on young adults because they are more likely to be influenced by extraneous factors, such as social media and social pressure (Ramchand et al, 2015). During the young adult years, it is quite common that during this period, many are experiencing life changing events such as getting a job, going into university, some of them might even move out of town or out of their parent’s home. All of these events can cause tremendous amount of stress amongst youth which can negatively affect their psychological and psychosocial predisposition to depression. This depression can then ultimately lead to suicidal ideations because of increased levels of stress these big life changing events are producing (Dugas, et al, 2015). During adolescence and young adulthood high levels of stress may cause individuals to begin engaging in non-suicidal self- injuring. This is a type of self-harm in which teens engage as a way to escape or punish themselves. These types of behaviors can unfortunately increase the chances of suicidal ideation and ultimately suicide attempts (Heilbron & Prinstein, 2010).

Gender differences for suicide rates

Suicidal ideation is higher among females, but suicide is higher among men. Out of 100,000 people, there are 15 men who will commit suicide in comparison to 8 women who will successfully take their lives (Turecki & Brent, 2016). This may have something to do with the fact that women tend to overthink about problems and might contemplate to kill themselves but fall short of bravery because they often think first on their family, in specific kids, whom they need to tend for. Males tend to be more active in their ideations and succeed because they try methods of suicide which have higher success rates than women. In comparison to males, females are also more likely to visit a doctor to consult about their suicidal ideations whereas males keep emotions bottled up which result in successful suicides. in a study by Nowotny, Peterson & Boardman (2015), males show to have a higher suicidal ideation than females in only 2 out of 30 states studied. The suicidal ideation rates in males is 15.4% whereas females are 26.6%, that is a striking difference between the two. In addition to male and females, those who are a part of the LGBT community seem to experience the highest levels of suicidal ideation. This is quite common because they are usually judged by others, which results in high levels of stress in their lives. Suicide rates on a male to female ration are also higher amongst those who have a lower social economic status.

Social economic status

  People who have low economic status tend to report having higher rates of suicidal ideation, which is not at all surprising. Stress is commonly found more amongst people of the lower class than people in the high social class. People at the top of the social class have experienced greater positive life changes and seem to have acquired a greater sense of self-control over life situations than people who are in the lower classes. In return this lack of control, can ultimately lead those in the lower classes with greater amounts of stress and depression that ultimately causes them to have suicidal ideations. It has been reported that economic downturns which result in unemployment usually give a rise to not only suicidal ideation but to suicide itself. When personal income lowers, stress increases which causes people to have these negative thoughts about killing themselves in attempt to relieve their stress and their economic status. Suicide rates among the unemployed show that successful suicides are often higher amongst men, than women (Turecki & Brent, 2016). While suicidal ideation is higher amongst women when unemployed, suicide attempts are more prevalent on males.

Religion and levels of suicidality

 Religion like in many sociological theories plays a large role in suicidality. As we studied the literature it is clear that the higher their levels of commitment to a religion—which forbids suicide—the lower the suicide attempts (Gearing & Lizardi, 2009). A study conducted by Gearing & Lizardi in 2009 showed the differences on suicidal ideation and actual suicide amongst different religions. These two researched on Christianity, Hinduism, Islamic religions, and Judaism. Of all these religions Judaism showed to have the lowest rates of suicide in the world because of the negative effects a person goes through if they decide to end their life. Islamic religions showed similar signs as Judaism. Islamic religion places a strong emphasis on forbidding suicide. Engaging in suicide will result in the personal burning in hell. Suicide rates are low in predominant Islamic countries in comparison, yet they do have high suicidal ideation because of high psychological stress. However, in both Judaism and Islamic religions, suicide rates have increased. Hinduism shows higher rates of suicide amongst males with psychiatric problems than in women. Hinduism strongly believes in the philosophy of reincarnation, which means that for Hindus, life does not end at death. Hinduism is less strongly endorsed by moral objections towards suicide. Of the religions examined in this study, Christians have higher suicidality and suicide rates especially among men. In Christianity suicide is viewed as a sin, and upon the funeral service forgiveness in behalf of the victim is asked. However, Catholic and Baptist show lower rates than other denominations of Christianity because they have higher rates of integration and peer support. As we study these religions and their attitudes towards repercussions after suicide affect the rates of suicidality and effective suicides. The degree of religiosity that a person has can serve as a protective factor against suicidal behavior. Data also showed that people who go attend church more often exhibit lower suicide ideation and are 4 times less likely to commit suicide than those who do not attend church.

 Following the study on Christianity, Hinduism, Islamic religions and Judaism, Gearing & Lizardi (2010) meta-analyzed Buddhism, Native American religions, African religions and Atheism & Agnosticism. In Buddhism, killing oneself is considered harming and killing a living thing, which is frowned upon by the main Buddhist principle. Suicidality rates and behavior vary on the levels of commitment to this principle. In Native American religions suicide is the 6th leading cause of death. Similarly, to the rest, commitment to spirituality show a positive factor against suicidality. Native Americans across all tribes believe that life is a cycle. Therefore, suicide might be considered a positive action since death, can be also viewed as a beginning, as many of them believe in reincarnation. Suicidal ideation amongst African religions are subjectively low compared to Islamic religions, particularly in Nigeria. Nigerians show high negative attitudes towards suicide however, not much research has been done in these types of religions. Little research has been done on Atheism, Agnosticism and Suicide therefore, it is unclear if their beliefs affect them negatively. Agnosticism and Atheism are the smallest minority non-religious group, with less than 0.5% of the world’s population. 95% of them firmly believe in Physician-Assisted Suicide in comparison to religiously driven health practitioners. Although many of the religions talked about above have been limited to research studies, there is a positive association between levels of religiosity, suicidality and suicide behaviors. The higher the levels of religiosity one exerts, the lower the prevalence of suicidal ideation one has.

 Religion isn’t the only factor that plays in suicidality. Recent studies have shown that negative use of technology has increased suicidality and unfortunately suicide rates. 95% of all youth have access to the internet, and of those 75% have instant access on their cellphones (Nikolau, 2017). Cyberbullying has increased from 18.8% in 2007 to 34% in 2016. Cyberbullying not only affects suicidality rates, it also has negatively affected actual suicide fatalities. Of 25 suicide attempts one is successful. Not only does cyberbullying affect those who are bullied but those who bully others are also negatively affected (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). Many believe that only people who are bullied suffer emotionally but there are many underlying factors that bullies have that add up into them lashing out and projecting their hate and anger unto other people. Being cyberbullied is associated with high levels of depression, decreased self-worth, hopelessness and loneliness. All of these which are contributors to suicidal ideation and ultimately a fatality. A study was conducted by Hinduja & Patchin to further research the associations between bullying cyberbullying and suicide. A total of 1.963 students from grades ranging in 6 through 8, participated in the study. Traditional bullying victimization, traditional bullying offending, cyberbullying victimization and cyberbullying offending was measured. Results showed that 20% of participants were seriously thinking of committing suicide. Of the entire 1,963 students, 23.1% said they were most frequently victimized by someone posting an upsetting picture about them online. While, 18.3% said they had been cyberbullied by receiving negative texts from someone they know. While social media is supposed to aid in keeping a close relationship to those around you, it seems that it keeps pushing people to hurt each other and alienate one another. Can it be that the more social media one engages in the more you are susceptible to suicidal behaviors?

Imitation and social media coverage

 Negative behaviors elicited by technological use are not only derived from cyberbullying but by exposure of suicide on social media. It is quite common for people to have social media, especially the young. The media is constantly reporting suicide fatalities which have been positively associated with spikes in suicide rate. When media coverage extends to publicly announce about these tragedies, suicide rates have shown an increase especially within the first 30 days of the incident. High rates are also many times associated with the explicit and detailed coverage the media gives about these events. When a suicide is romanticized and when a celebrity is involved, young adults can be very vulnerable and prone to engage in suicidal behaviors (Turecki & Brent, 2016). In a study by Mueller (2017), examined a cluster of suicides in a community called Popular Grove. The media coverage in this area exposed the high suicidal ideation of students which was already present in the community; thus, resulting in the community’s solid view of suicide as an escape. It all started in the early 2000s when a cluster of people committed suicide. 2 females and a male committed suicide within a twelve-month period. The second cluster of suicides was 2 male graduates, followed by a female 6 months after. A third cluster in 2009 emerged four friends committed suicide within 9 weeks of each other. Ever since, at least one student or graduate from Popular Grove has successfully committed suicide. Studying the media, it was found that the framing of suicide motives and the presentation of the information had massive associations between the preceding suicides. Media coverage following all suicides, resulted in exposure to the motives for suicide. One of the reasons was teasing and pression. The local media made young viewers associate teasing and pressure with suicide. Constant bombardment of headlines, and front- page details of the fatalities also aided in the increase of suicides. For weeks following the suicides, headlines and front-pages of newspapers were used to continue marketing these suicides. These 2 factors showed to create a negative effect on the youth by encouraging them to commit suicide rather than help reduce the suicide rates in the community. Suicide contemplation can be spread through social relationships via suggestion (Abrutyn & Mueller, 2014). In this case, the more the media exposed the youth to the suicide victims, the more the viewers became socialized with them thus resulting in the suggestion of suicide to solve their problems. Suicides via suggestion are more common amongst females (Abrutyn & Mueller, 2014). High suicide rates can be reduced through various factors. As previously seen, negative exposure from the media can unfortunately cause negative effects on suicidality and suicide fatalities. Raising awareness of suicidal ideation amongst our youth should be done. However, the way in which we do it is important. Constantly bombarding through social media about suicides has caused negative effects. Suicidal imitation is brought upon the rapid medial exposure of celebrity suicides. As celebrity suicides are publicly announced in excruciating detail, young adults who are facing similar trials are given the idea to take this route as well. Not only is the idea inserted in their heads by social media bombarding them with the reoccurrence of the events, but it also provides with details in the method used to commit suicide that it is so easy to follow in their footsteps. Therefore, instead of speaking out about fatalities, the media should promote self-care and ways to identify those at high risk of committing suicide (Turecki & Brent, 2016).

Biophysiology of Suicidal ideation

 As opposed to imitation, suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior can be genetically transmitted. Studies focused on family configurations have shown that there is a higher risk of suicidal behavior in people who have a relative who committed suicide than those who do not. While this can be mistaken for imitation, adoptions studies show that there is an association between high suicide attempts between biological off-springs of those who committed suicide and not in adoptive relatives. Studies have shown that suicidality is estimated to be 17.4% hereditary transmittable from parent to offspring and suicidal ideation can be up to 36% transmitted. Genetically induced suicidal behavior is most common amongst females (Hawton & Heeringen van, 2009).

There are other biological factors that play a part in suicidal ideation. In postmortem studies, there has also been scientific proof that there are different neurotransmission functions that differ from those who die from suicide than those who die of natural causes. There seems to be a difference in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which seems to be associated with people who suffer from depression. This might be a way to detect those who are susceptible to suicidal behaviors and enable us to help these individuals overcome these negative thoughts (Hawton & Heeringen van, 2009).


While many factors can impact suicidal behaviors, there are three which are heavily associated with suicidal ideation. As we studied the different studies on suicide rates, we can see that suicidality is at an all-time high. Suicidality differs by gender, age, socioeconomic status, and biophysiology. All of these factors ultimately affect our behaviors and beliefs. Levels of religiosity can be affected by gender, age, and socioeconomic status. In turn religiosity impacts the likelihood of developing suicidal behavior. Religiosity is more prevalent amongst middle-aged adults and elderly, which can be a reason as to why suicide rates have dramatically decreased for their age groups. While suicide rates have increased for young adults and adolescence, their levels of religiosity have decreased. It is not as common to see young people passionate for their religion, many of them partake on religious customs because they are forcibly made to by their parents. However, their levels of conviction are low, which ultimately affects suicidal ideation. The higher the levels of conviction in a certain high entity you have, the lower the chances are that a person would engage in suicidal behaviors because of the reprimands one would suffer.

 While suicidal behavior can be affected by the use of social media. The negative use of technology has increased levels in suicidal ideation and in suicide rates. Social media and technology play a vital part in suicidal ideation because, in this century, everything is linked to the internet. Almost everyone knows how to use a computer, or at least a phone. Electronics have become so easy to use that people start using them at a younger age than before. It is fairly easy for someone to go online and search methods on to take their own life. Everything is written in detail, and anyone can get a hold of it. Most of the time, one does not even have to search for it, it is given to us by the media. Nowadays, it seems that celebrity suicide is more and more common. The media wants to work all angles to ensure that they are getting exclusive details out to the public. What they do not understand is that there are negative consequences when people are exposed to these types of details. With doing this, they are increasing the chances of a person who is actively following the coverage to have the desire to engage in the same behavior by imitation. In every form of media outlet all we see is the different reasons and ways people commit suicide, it only pushes young adults who are passing through these same life situations to think that suicide is the only way out.

Technology has not only affected us by the media coverage, it affects everyone because it is so easy to hurt others behind a computer screen. When online, people can post the most hurtful comments on a picture they posted and can ultimately lead a person to a depressive state which will then result in them having suicidal ideations. If these types of hurtful comments keep surfacing in this person’s life, feelings of unworthiness will surface and lead to a suicide attempt. There have been many suicides that have been because of cyberbullying. While technology keeps advancing, suicide rates are increasing.

If only teenagers would exert higher levels of religiosity, neither social media nor technology would not measure up to the barrier that it has against suicidality. While the separation of the church and state seemed to be the right answer back in 1971. Nowadays, it seems that if only we had instilled religiosity amongst our youth, they would not only love one another more as the Bible says, but those negative thoughts and suicidal ideologies would not partake in their lives. it is saddening to see young people who have a whole life ahead of them take their lives for something that could be solved by communication. It is important to understand that when you believe in something, something bigger than you, then you have a higher rate of pushing out these negative thoughts and feelings out of your mind and pushing through and making it in life.

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it is important to continue researching different factors which contribute to the dramatic increase of suicide rates. It is also important to continuously keep pushing the efforts to educate others about why people participate in suicidal ideations and suicide. Many are oblivious to the fact that these negative thoughts can be a part of anyone’s life. Teaching the younger generations about using technology to encourage one another and about our religions can ultimately reduce the suicide rates among our youth. Religiosity must be instilled amongst the new generations, for it will ultimately be their choice if they want to believe and follow it or not. You are not only giving them a chance to believe, but a better chance at survival.






















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Suicide has been at an all-time high in recent years. It is reported that there is 1 billion successful suicides a year. Per year there are 14.5 deaths for every 100,000 persons, that is equivalent to one death every 40 seconds due to suicide.

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