Suicide is the act of purposely ending one's own life. How societies view suicide varies by culture, religion, ethnic norms, and the circumstances under which it occurs.
More than 800,000 people worldwide commit suicide each year -- more than 39,000 each year in the United States.
Self-mutilation is the act of deliberately hurting oneself without meaning to cause one's own death.
Physician-assisted suicide refers to a doctor ending the life of a person who is incurably ill in a way that is either painless or minimally painful for the purpose of ending the suffering of the individual.
The effects of suicide on the loved ones of the deceased can be devastating, resulting in suicide survivors experiencing a variety of conflicting, painful emotions.
Life circumstances that may immediately precede a suicide include recent discharge from a psychiatric hospital, a sudden change in how the person appears to feel, or a real or imagined loss.
Firearms are the most common means by which people take their lives. Other common methods include overdose of medication, asphyxiation, and hanging.
There are gender, age, ethnic, and geographical risk factors for suicide, as well as those based on family history, life stresses, and medical and mental-health status.
In children and teens, bullying and being bullied seem to be associated with committing suicide, and being bullied is apparently a risk for committing murder-suicide.
Warning signs that an individual is imminently planning to kill him- or herself may include the making of a will, getting his/her affairs in order, suddenly visiting or writing letters to loved ones, buying instruments of suicide, experiencing a sudden change in mood, or writing a suicide note.
Many people who complete suicide do not tell any health professional of their intent in the months before they do so. If they communicate a plan to anyone, it is more likely to be a friend or family member.
The assessment of suicide risk often involves an evaluation of the presence, severity, and duration of suicidal thoughts as part of a mental-health evaluation.
Treatment of suicidal thinking or a suicide attempt involves adapting immediate treatment to the sufferer's individual needs. Those with a strong social support system, who have a history of being hopeful, and have a desire to resolve conflicts may need only a brief crisis-oriented intervention. Those with more severe symptoms or less social support may need hospitalization and long-term outpatient mental-health services.
Treatment of any underlying emotional problem using a combination of psychotherapy, safety planning, medication, lifestyle improvement, and increasing social support remains the mainstay of suicide prevention.
People who are contemplating suicide are encouraged to talk to a doctor or other health professional, spiritual advisor, or immediately go to the closest emergency room or mental-health crisis center for help. Those who have experienced suicidal thinking (ideation) are commonly directed to keep a list of people to call in the event that those thoughts return. In addition to mental-health treatment, other strategies include having someone else hold all medications to prevent overdose, removing any weapons from the home, scheduling frequent stress-relieving activities, getting together with others, writing down feelings, and avoiding the use of alcohol or other drugs.
Techniques for coping with the suicide of a loved one include nutritious eating, getting extra rest, writing about their emotions, talking to others about the experience, thinking of ways to handle painful memories, understanding their state of mind will vary, resisting pressure to grieve by anyone else's time table, and survivors doing what is right for them.
To help children and adolescents cope with the suicide of a loved one, it is important to ensure they receive consistent caretaking, frequent interaction with supportive peers and adults, and an understanding of their feelings as they relate to their age.