Suicide is an easy way out
Depression is not a character weakness. It's not a whimsy either. It's a disease.
Klaas Heufer-Umlauf, presenter and actor
Photo: Tom Wagner
In Germany, almost 10,000 people die every year as a result of suicide. 520 of them are adolescents and young adults. That's more than traffic accidents, drugs and AIDS combined. Suicide (suicide) is the second leading cause of death in young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.
Nevertheless, suicide is a taboo subject, about which there is a lot of prejudice and about which little is spoken in public. On this page you can find out what is hidden behind the term, what hints there are and how you can help if your girlfriend, boyfriend or family member has thoughts of suicide.
Answers to your questions
The Term suicide comes from the Latin of “sui” (himself) and “caedere” (to kill) and means the deliberate end of one's own life. Suicide is the last but preventable act suicidal behavior. Harming yourself, talking about thoughts of suicide, or attempting suicide also counts.
Suicide can have various triggers, such as the death of a loved one. Anyone can get into such crises - most can deal with them by talking to friends, counseling centers or psychotherapists. Some find it very difficult to deal with negative emotions - they see no way out of such crises and become suicidal, so to speak, tired of life. They start thinking about ending their life.
What is suicidal behavior?
Suicidal behavior is talking about and taking actions that are related to ending one's life. This includes various phases and actions in which an affected person suffers more and more emotionally and puts himself in increasing mortal danger. Each phase represents a serious cry for help: Even if a person concerned does not express any thoughts of killing himself, self-harming behavior can be a sign that he or she does not see any other way to deal with his or her personal need and despair to draw attention. Studies show that 45% of people who commit suicide seek help from their health care provider less than a month in advance. It is all the more important to recognize the signs of suicidal behavior at an early stage in order to be able to help your boyfriend or girlfriend.
There are five types of suicidal behavior:
Non-suicidal self-harm: A person hurts himself with no intention of ending his life. Non-suicidal self-harm is a sign of great psychological distress and is common in adolescents and young adults. Self-harm is supposed to counteract the great emotional suffering. Even if the person does not think about killing himself, this form of self-harm can lead to further steps.
Passive suicidal ideation: These are thoughts about wanting to die with no intention of actively ending your life. These include, for example, the idea of simply not waking up, of being terminally ill or involved in a fatal accident. However, people with passive thoughts of suicide do not think about specific suicide methods. Nevertheless, these thoughts must be taken seriously as they can develop into active suicidal thoughts, for example.
Active suicidal ideation: Active thoughts of suicide are thoughts about direct and effective ways to end your life. In addition, if a person has a specific plan of when, where and how to attempt suicide, they are in great danger. It is important to seek professional help for your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you suspect someone is having active thoughts of suicide, ask them directly about them. Many think that talking about suicide is dangerous because it gives people the idea. Studies show the opposite, however: asking questions and actively seeking a conversation can help. Because this gives your boyfriend or girlfriend the opportunity to talk about feelings, thoughts and plans and has the experience of being seen and heard.
Parasuicidal gesture: Parasuicide is a suicide attempt that is not accompanied by the intention to die, but with the hope of salvation. This alarming cry for help occurs frequently among young people. Often this gesture is not taken seriously and interpreted as an attempt to get attention. However, it is precisely this that can lead to a successful suicide attempt.
Suicide attempt: Any act that someone takes with the intent to die is a suicide attempt. It makes no difference whether the person refrains from doing it himself or whether someone is holding him back from his plan. People who have tried in the past are at greater risk of trying again. Every suicide attempt must therefore be taken seriously. It is very important to seek and receive professional help, for example in the form of advice centers, psychologists, psychotherapists or doctors.
How can you recognize suicidality?
Impulsive suicide attempts are not planned in advance. A person who makes an impulsive attempt has no concrete plan of when, where, and how to attempt suicide, but rather will decide spontaneously. A typical trigger is an acute crisis or trauma. A planned suicide usually requires steps to be taken before attempting suicide, which can serve as warning signs and calls for help. An impulsive suicide attempt is therefore more difficult to prevent because there is less time to identify alarming signs. On the other hand, someone who plans to commit suicide is more likely to complete it.
There are a variety of Warning signalssuggesting someone is suicidal. Not every person who shows one or more signs is at risk of suicide. And not every person at risk of suicide shows the same signs. If you notice any of the following behaviors in your boyfriend or girlfriend, don't hesitate to ask him or her about it so that you can assess whether he or she is in danger.
Above all, there is a risk if:
- someone expresses suicidal thoughts
- someone has a plan of when, how and where he or she wants to commit suicide
- someone collects pills or gets a gun
- someone has already attempted suicide
- someone writes a suicide note or something like that
- a person who is depressed or at risk of suicide suddenly feels better
(Sometimes the decision to commit suicide leads to a mood high, as the person is relieved to be able to end a long, depressed and stressful period soon.)
The following points can also indicate that a person is suicidal:
- with general hopelessness and self-loathing
- when someone suddenly doesn't care about things they love anymore
- if there are major changes in eating and sleeping habits
- when someone isolates himself from his friends
- when someone falls into deep, never-ending sadness and / or depression after breaking up with a loved one
- if there is a sudden deterioration in school grades or work performance
- with constant restlessness and overactivity
- when there is evidence that someone is harming themselves
- when someone says they want to hurt themselves
- in the case of drug and alcohol abuse
It is wrong to believe that people who speak of suicide will not. But it is also wrong to believe that a person who is determined to take his own life can no longer be dissuaded from his intentions. Most are torn between wanting to live and wanting to die.
What are the risk factors?
Warning signals are symptoms that you see, hear and feel and by which you can recognize suicidality. Risk factors however, there are different traits, circumstances and character traits that increase the likelihood that a person is suicidal. This means: Risk factors do not cause the suicidal behavior, but can be indications that these circumstances make it more difficult for a person to deal with crises.
If your girlfriend or boyfriend is abandoned, he or she will be very sad. This does not mean that she or he inevitably has suicidal thoughts. However, if the sadness drags on for a long time, or he or she talks about a feeling of emptiness and expresses suicidal thoughts, the breakup can become a risk factor. The following risk factors are not a checklist for suicidal behavior, but can provide an indication of the circumstances and characteristics that can make it more difficult to cope with a crisis.
These risk factors are particularly common in adolescents:
- recent or very traumatic loss of a loved one
- Dealing with sexual orientation or identity
- low social support
- Bullying experiences at home or at school
- Victim of violence
Other factors that can increase the likelihood of suicide:
- mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder
- Alcohol, drug, and drug abuse or addiction
- lack of conflict resolution strategies
- perceived hopelessness
- severe physical (chronic) illnesses
- Impulsiveness and / or a tendency to aggression
- an experienced trauma or abuse (especially in early childhood)
- a previous suicide attempt
- the lack of social support and feelings of loneliness
- Suicide within the family
- Job loss and financial difficulties
- Loss of relationship
- easy access to lethal resources
- Inhibitions about asking for help
- low cognitive skills
- low socio-economic status
What are the misconceptions?
Often facts are confused with falsehoods. It is important to deal with the existing myths and misconceptions about suicide and the signs that could indicate an impending suicide. For this we have included a small quiz with seven questions. How many of them can you answer correctly? Find out here.
Are we saying suicide or suicide?
Friends for life have a lively discussion internally about the use of the terms suicide or suicide. We have agreed to use the term “suicide” more frequently in our educational work, but not to forego “suicide”: To promote understanding, to reduce distance and for reasons of repetition.
We are aware that the word “suicide” is often perceived as hurtful by those affected, relatives, friends and loved ones. Suicides are not murderers in the sense of the law, but people in great emotional distress. However, suicide is the common term in German for killing oneself. Everyone knows what is meant. It is important to us that young people in particular understand what our educational work is about. The term suicide expresses a violent homicide, which of course is not criminally relevant. The term is not wrong, as the “murder” here does not stand for a crime, but describes the act - sometimes brutal, violent, senseless, but always fatal.
Everyone has their own opinion and can find certain terms hurtful or wrong. But please ask yourself: Who am I talking to about the subject of “suicide”? Who can I hurt? What do I want to achieve with my conversation and my chosen term?
Friends for life are an awareness campaign: Our aim is to establish the term “suicide”. On the way there we use both terms - because friends for life want to be understood and reduce the emotional distance and stigmata in order to stimulate a conversation about psychological crises and suicide.
Almost all young people have already thought about what if they were no longer alive, if they killed themselves, if they committed suicide.
So you are not alone with such thoughts, and certainly not crazy about them. Such suicidal thoughts might be more in line with your current attitude towards life: Sometimes you feel safe with what you can and want and how you feel. Sometimes, however, you may feel very small and incapable or insecure.
This can relate to your relationship with everyone close to you. Perhaps there have been arguments with your parents for a long time and you find that they do not understand you or that they are limiting you too much and are still treating you like a toddler. Or you are very offended because your love is not returned, maybe you think you are not lovable. Or you have stress in school, in the class community, with teachers, with the performance requirements.
It could also be that you do not find yourself attractive enough that you are dissatisfied with your body. Maybe you have the urge to hurt yourself - or you are already? Are you looking for a meaning in life, do you find that the world as it is has terrible sides? But you also don't know what or how you can change something? Taken together, you may sometimes feel that you don't know what to do next. It's like being trapped in a tunnel.
We would like to encourage you to start a conversation with a youth counseling center. You can make a personal appointment, preferably by phone. Because conversations can take the strain off you. You can experience that there is always a way out of the tunnel. You can take action to prevent the problems from building up and blocking your view.
You can find help here.
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