Understanding risk factors for suicide is essential to preventing death by suicide. Updated research suggests that one potential risk factor frequently overlooked is a tendency toward perfectionism. Individuals, families of perfectionists and mental health professionals need to be aware that an overwhelming drive to be the best at everything can be a potential mental health issue that increases the risk of death by suicide. A suicide attorney should be consulted if mental health experts miss the signs and a person attempts to die by suicide.
Perfectionism is a Risk Factor for Death by Suicide
Perfectionism is generally defined as a need to either be perfect or to appear perfect. Unfortunately, as a new article in the Science of Us indicates, “the average person has very little understanding or awareness of how destructive perfectionism can be.”
Perfectionists frequently feel as though they are impostors putting on a mask of having it altogether. When this facade collapses, it can be devastating. For example, in a 2007 study, researchers interviewed friends and family members of people who had recently died by suicide. With no prompting, more than half of the people who had lost their lives were described by their family members as “perfectionists.”
A British study had similar results. Researchers looked at 20 students who had died by suicide. A total of 11 out of the 20 were described by people who knew them as being afraid to fail.
Yet another study of 33 boys and young men who had taken their lives were also described by their parents as having placed “exceedingly high” demands and expectations on themselves.
Unfortunately, there are high rates of death by suicide among people who are perfectionists because many people set impossibly high standards for themselves that they cannot possibly meet. They may then feel let down or disappointed when they are unable to meet the expectations that they have set.
The link between suicide and perfectionism have been largely misunderstood and overlooked, in large part because perfectionists don’t want people to know they are suffering. A person who is a perfectionist will try to paint a facade of keeping everything together, and admitting to thoughts of suicide will not typically fit in with the image that they are trying to present. Family members and loved ones may not even be aware of the fact that the perfectionist is experiencing any type of depression, as “perfectionism might not only be driving suicidal impulses, it could also be simultaneously masking them.”
Perfectionists are advised to aim the trait outside of themselves whenever possible to avoid some of the downsides of perfectionism. Volunteering and doing things for others could help to alleviate some of the pressures that are associated with perfectionism. For parents whose kids are perfectionists, sharing stories of setbacks and failures could also help to make a big difference.
Recognizing the potential for suicide associated with perfectionism is an important first step in being able to recognize signs of a problem and prevent a death from occurring.
A suicide attorney at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help. Call (214) 618-8222 or visit http://www.skipsimpson.com to schedule a free case consultation.