Archive for June, 2013

Researchers Focus on Identifying Suicide Risk Factors

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, more than one million people each year die by suicide. Unfortunately, while there are certain recognized factors that can make it more likely someone will act on suicidal tendencies, our Dallas, TX suicide lawyers know that it can be difficult to predict with any accuracy when someone will try to take his or her own life.

Recently, however, researchers have been working to better understand what suicide risk factors are the best predictor of who will attempt to die by suicide. The findings of the study were published in the journal Psychological Medicine and reported on by The Atlantic.

Which Risk Factors Predict Suicide Deaths

To better understand how risk factors affect deaths from suicide, researchers at Land University in Sweden and at Stanford University in the United States worked together to conduct a population-wide study. Census data, Sweden’s national death registry and both inpatient and outpatient registries were used to obtain information on more than seven million Swedish adults. Based on this information, researchers attempted to determine both the suicide rates and the risk factors leading up to the suicide deaths.

According to the results, there were more than 8,721 members who died by suicide from the years 2001 to 2008. Researchers studied the deaths and determined that:

  • Depression was the risk factor with the highest overall link to suicides. Depression created a 32-fold increased risk of suicide and suicide deaths were most common within 13 weeks of an initial diagnosis of depression.
  • The chances of death due to suicide were highest for individuals with any type of psychiatric diagnosis.
  • A poor social network caused an increase in the suicide risk but only by a small margin. Both divorce and being unmarried were considered indicators of a poorer social network.
  • Men were approximately three times as likely as women to die by suicide.
  • Men who were young, single and had a low level of education had a higher suicide risk than women.
  • Mental illness was a stronger risk factor for suicide for women than for men.
  • Among the social risk factors for suicide, women were most affected by unemployment and men were most affected by being single.
  • Patients with physical ailments were also more likely to die by suicide. Those with cancer, spine disorders, obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, or stroke history were between 1.4 and 2.1 times as likely to die by suicide as people without these medical problems.

This study was one of the largest population-wide studies to consider a variety of different risk factors and their implications on suicide deaths.  The study also revealed that around 57 percent of women and 45 percent of men visited a doctor within three months of the death by suicide, and that 29.5 percent of women and 21.7 percent of men had seen a doctor as recently as two-weeks prior.

There are clearly lots of missed opportunities for doctors to identify suicide risks and to take action, and healthcare professionals need to get better at understanding the predictors of suicide so they can provide help to those who reach out.

If you lost a loved  one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.

Race and Class Differences Affect Suicide Risks

According to a recent survey of 2,345 U.S. adults conducted online in April 2013, only around 33 percent of Americans reported that they were very happy. The Huffington Post reports that this indicates a decline in happiness that has continued over the last two years.  The survey also revealed something even more disturbing than the fact that most Americans aren’t that happy: it revealed that happiness varies by race.

Our Dallas suicide lawyers know that there are a lot of risk factors that can contribute to making someone more likely to die by suicide. Recent evidence suggests that race and class may be among those factors, especially as income inequality grows in the United States and as we struggle with ongoing economic challenges and an increasingly low-wage job market.

Minority Status Can Affect Suicide Risk

The Huffington Post indicated that African-Americans and whites are at roughly the same levels of happiness, although reports of satisfaction have declined among African-Americans in recent years. Around 34 percent of whites indicated that they were happy, while an estimated 36 percent of American-Americans said that they are happy (down from 44 percent in 2011).

Hispanics, however, had the lowest rates of people reporting that they were very happy. Only 28 percent of Hispanic – fewer than three out of every 10- said that they were very happy. This is both a significant decline from 2011 when 35 percent said they were happy and a significantly lower percentage than among either African Americans or Caucasians.

Although researchers were cautious to indicate that a clear cause of unhappiness cannot be determined from the research, factors such as college degree status and work situation may be affecting the happiness of respondents and especially of Hispanics.

Unfortunately, when people are less happy, they are more likely to suffer from depression and are more likely to have suicidal tendencies. Of course, merely not being happy is not generally enough to lead someone to attempt suicide. However, race and class differences likely do have an impact on suicidal tendencies. In fact, in one area in the Hamptons, a local high school is seeing the consequences of changing racial demographics as three students out of 900 committed suicide, all of whom were Hispanic.

According to the New York Times, East Hampton High faced an “uncomfortable ethnic integration problem,” that had been festering in the background for a long time. East Hampton is traditionally a very wealthy area, but in recent years there have been many poorer Hispanic residents and children who moved to East Hampton years after their parents had arrived and who were struggling to readjust to their parents, learn a new language, and enter a new school that is “rarefied even by the standards of the average American student.”

Three of the students who entered into this environment committed suicide in just three years, which is far above the regional average. One, a 16-year-old junior from Ecuador, hung himself just days after homecoming. The suicide was the second in three years and was followed by another suicide death two months later. The suicides were described as bringing to the surface concerns about the racial and economic divisions among students.

While this school is a microcosm, situations like this may arise more and more throughout the United States, especially as demographics shift and especially if divisions in happiness levels continue to grow. Understanding the impact of race and class on suicide rates may thus become a very important issue in upcoming years.

If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call 214-618-8222.