, Gloucester, MA


September 13, 2013

Profile of a possible suicide

Why would someone consider committing suicide?

To help understand the factors that can contribute to the risk of suicide, Dr. Seth Rosenwald, a Pennsylvania psychiatrist, points to the “model” that is used in psychiatry. The psychiatric model is an evaluation process that looks at the three major areas of influence that affect behavior, and may predispose a person to suicide.

“First, we look for biological illness,” Rosenwald says. “There is often a very high incidence of symptoms of clinical depression among people who attempt suicide: they can’t eat, they can’t sleep, they have frequent crying spells, low energy, and a basic loss of interest in things. Fifteen percent of people who are depressed eventually commit suicide. So, obviously, clinical depression is a major and important indicator.”

Note: The Mayo Clinic disagrees with Rosenwald in a study it completed in 2000, and which was published by the American Journal of Psychiatry. That study looked at the data for the previous 30 years from more than 100 suicide studies and concluded that while the standard rate of 15 percent had been espoused by the majority of psychiatric practitioners, “a more accurate suicide rate for patients with depression is 2 to 9 percent.” And, according to its study the highest rate of risk for suicide – 8.6 percent – was for patients recently hospitalized for a suicide attempt, while those who are being treated on an outpatient basis for depression have a 2 percent risk rate. The rate in the general population is 1 percent.

“The second influence,” Dr. Rosenwald says, “ is the psychological factor. What’s going on in the patient’s life? What are the issues? Has there been a severe loss (divorce, death, job, for example)? Is there a difficult family conflict? An internal conflict? Does the person feel isolated or disconnected from other people? What is making the person feel so distressed? Unresolved psychological issues can be overwhelming.

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