OPERATION Life OnlineRisk factors for suicideThere is no typical profile for a person who mightconsider suicide. Most suicidal thoughts and behavioursoccur as a result of a build up of a complex web ofcircumstances.However, there are a number of key factors we can beaware of and try to manage to reduce the risk of suicide.Suicide risk factors fall into two groups, causal factorsand circumstantial factors.
OPERATION Life OnlineCausal risk factorsCausal factors for suicide include different mental illnesses orsymptoms of being mentally unwell.While not all people who suicide have a mental illness, there is avery strong relationship between mental health problems andsuicide. Some studies have shown that as many as 70% of peoplewho think about suicide and act on it have a mental healthproblem.Therefore, mental health is one of the most important riskfactors to consider and deal with … that is to manage the risk.
OPERATION Life OnlineWhat is mental illness?There are a range of mental health problems somebody could beexperiencing:DepressionBipolar DisorderPost Traumatic Stress DisorderAnxietyPsychosisOften symptoms of these illnesses overlap so professional help isimportant from an early stage to help with identifying the rightmanagement plan.
OPERATION Life OnlineDepressionDepression is one of the most common factors insuicidal thoughts. Not everyone with depressionwill think about suicide, but statistically as agroup, they are at higher risk for suicide.However, depression is a treatable condition thatmost people can recover from or find ways tomanage.
OPERATION Life OnlineDepressionSomeone who is experiencing depression is likely tohave a persistent low mood, they may feeloverwhelmed, have trouble sleeping or feel tired.Many people have experienced low points or feelingsof sadness, but when these feelings become severe andongoing, it is important to seek professional help andsupport.
OPERATION Life OnlineBipolar disorderBipolar disorder is characterised by feelings of extreme highs orlows, or ‘mood swings’.Everybody experiences a range of moods depending on theircircumstances, but a person with bipolar disorder will experienceextreme moods – being very high and over-excited to feelinglow, depressed and helpless. Some people experience mostly thehighs, some experience mostly the lows and others experience both.When someone is experiencing the extreme lows of a depressedepisode, this becomes a risk factor for suicide.
OPERATION Life OnlineHopelessness and helplessnessFeelings of hopelessness happen when pressures build up to the pointwhere there don’t seem to be any answers. This state of mind canlead to suicide being considered as a way out.People with depression or bipolar disorder often experience a sense ofhopelessness where everything feels overwhelming and difficult. Theymay also feel unmotivated or experience little joy when doing thingsthey once enjoyed.It is important to understand that there are many other solutions andthat positive outcomes are possible.
OPERATION Life OnlineAnxietyAnxiety can take on many forms but is characterised by excessive worrying thatcan become debilitating and can have an impact on a person’s day to day life.There are a number of anxiety disorders that include:• Post traumatic stress disorder• Generalised Anxiety Disorder• Social Anxiety Disorder• Obsessive Compulsive Disorder• PhobiasIt is important to address anxiety with professional support to instigate a senseof hope and relief from the symptoms.
OPERATION Life OnlinePsychosisWhen somebody experiences psychosis there is a loss ofcontact with reality. A person may experience unusualthoughts and feelings, they may be confused or they mayhave delusional thoughts. No experience is the same.It can be brought on by a stressful event and most peoplemake a full recovery, but it does become a risk factor forsuicide if symptoms continue.
OPERATION Life OnlineTrauma and its effectsTrauma is any impact or damage to the neurological, physical,psychological and social aspects of a whole person.Traumatic experiences can include anything from a personwitnessing a violent event or accident, being directly involved inan accident or being harmed by something or someone.Trauma from such events can then be a precursor to someonedeveloping a mental illness, such as Post Traumatic StressDisorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterised as someone re-living atraumatic experience and the feelings from that experience. Thiscan be triggered by smells, sounds, feelings or visual cues.
OPERATION Life OnlineTrauma and its effectsNot all individuals exposed to a traumatic event will develop amental illness or need professional help, many people recoverwith the help and support of their family and friends. But forsome it can have a profound and long-lasting impact, and thiscan become a risk factor for suicide.It is important for ex-service personnel to be aware of thepossible effect of trauma on their lives and on the lives of thosearound them. PTSD is treatable and most people do recover, butearly intervention is vital. Professional support is the first steptowards sustained recovery.
OPERATION Life OnlineWhen a child’s parent has PTSDPTSD can also have damaging effects on the family and friends of a personwith PTSD as a parent with PTSD has to contend with a range of symptomsthat are both frightening and exhausting.Children may not understand what is happening or why, and they may start toworry about their parents well-being or that their parent cannot properlycare for them.This can then impact their own emotional wellbeing, their behaviour andincrease the likelihood for developing a mental illness, which is a risk factorfor suicide.It is important for ex-service personnel to be aware of the impact of theirPTSD on their family and friends and the increased risks not just tothemselves but to others they care for and love. Seeking professional help isthe first step to recovery.
OPERATION Life OnlineCircumstantial risk factorsOn their own circumstantial factors may not often be a significant riskfactor, but when combined with causal factors they increase the potential riskof suicide - that is they promote a ‘compounding’ effect and need to bemanaged.Every person’s life is different and their circumstances are always changingand can be changed but there are some key circumstantial factors, whencoupled with causal factors, that can significantly increase the risk of suicide.These are:• Transition from military service• Injury and disability• Isolation• Excessive alcohol use• Loss of someone close• Heightened arousal• Risk taking• Sudden changes
OPERATION Life OnlineTransition from military serviceTransition from military service is sometimes difficult.Changes have taken place, both at home and away, andreturning is always a time of re-learning and requirespatience.Ex-service personnel need to understand that a return tocivilian life has similar characteristics and time is needed tobecome attuned to a new way of life and new expectations.
OPERATION Life OnlineInjury and disabilityInjuries and disabilities are a distressingconsequence of war and peacekeeping deployment.Coping with injury or disability in civilian life is morecomplex and sometimes results in feeling forgottenor marginalised.It is important for ex-service personnel to accessinformation and support.
OPERATION Life OnlineAlcoholUse of alcohol is a part of the Australian culture and often an acceptedpart of a social occasion. It becomes a problem and a risk for suicidewhen it is used at risky levels, or as self-medication.Under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, individuals experienceimpaired judgement which affects decision making ― many individualswho attempt or complete suicide often have high levels of alcohol orother drugs in their systems.Ex-service personnel and their families need to be aware of the risks tothemselves and others associated with the misuse of alcohol.
OPERATION Life OnlineIsolationIsolation can be physical (living in a remote area) or emotional(withdrawing from friends and family), either way it reduces thesupport around you and increases the risk of suicide. This isparticularly important if you are experiencing depression,anxiety or bipolar disorder.For a healthier lifestyle, it is important to acknowledge the levelof isolation in your life and explore ways of increasing socialinteraction.
OPERATION Life OnlineLoss of someone closeThe death of someone close is a significant loss and grieving isdifficult. People may experience a range of emotions which canoften include feelings of shock, confusion, anger, guilt andexhaustion.The death of someone close, especially if they have suicided, canbe a risk factor of suicide for grieving family and friends, so it isvery important to have an understanding of the grieving processand to have access to professional emotional support.
OPERATION Life OnlineHeightened arousalHeightened arousal or, hyper-vigilance, is a state of beingconstantly alert due to higher levels of adrenalin and cortisol inthe body. It often follows an experience of trauma.Heightened arousal can be linked with Post Traumatic StressDisorder (PTSD) and is also associated with increased risk takingand increased risk of suicide.
OPERATION Life OnlineRisk takingRisk taking should always be considered within the context inwhich it occurs. It is important to understand the changesinvolved in the move from military to civilian life and what risksare reasonable within your new context.Risk taking can be a positive aspect of life, but it becomes aproblem when risk taking begins to have a negative impact onhealth and wellbeing and can be life-threatening. Taking risks isoften associated with heightened arousal and increases thechances of suicide.
OPERATION Life OnlineNext stepsThe causal and circumstantial risk factors of suicide areserious, but they are not permanent.Support and professional help are available for anybodyexperiencing mental health problems and it is possible torecover.At times many of our circumstances may seem overwhelmingand intractable, but life is not static and it is possible for ourcircumstances to change for the better.click here for information about protective factors against suicide