Is it safe to predict suicide?

Is it safe to predict suicide?

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Can it be predicted who will commit suicidal thoughts?

According to experts, up to ten percent of the population develop suicidal thoughts during their lifetime. But can it also be predicted which of them will act on these thoughts?

In Germany alone, 10,000 people commit suicide every year

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide occurs every 40 seconds worldwide. In Germany alone, around 10,000 people commit suicide every year. It is known that, among other things, older men are particularly at risk of suicide. In addition, a recent study showed that people with financial concerns have increased suicidal thoughts. But is it also possible to predict who really wants to commit suicide?

Assess the risk of suicidal behavior

According to a message from the University of Leipzig, about five to ten percent of the population develop suicidal thoughts during their lifetime.

However, according to current research, an accurate prediction of who follows these thoughts into action is not possible.

Nevertheless, doctors and therapists need clues to assess the risk of suicidal behavior.

Scientists from Leipzig University Medicine are studying a theory to predict suicidal thoughts and actions.

Experts have to assess the risk based on certain factors

When should a suicide-prone patient be admitted and cared for? Can a patient leave the clinic over the weekend or is the risk of suicide too high?

Doctors and therapists have to answer these questions regularly and assess the risk based on certain factors.

There are established risk factors for suicidal acts, such as male gender, drug addiction or an attempted suicide.

However, their practical importance is critical for the prediction of suicidal actions in individual cases.

"The study situation from the past decades is clear: We have so far not been able to predict suicide with certainty," says Prof. Dr. Heide Glaesmer, psychological psychotherapist and deputy head of the department for medical psychology and medical sociology.

"We want to improve the prediction of suicidal actions and are therefore investigating theories of suicidal behavior in empirical studies."

Theory of suicidal behavior tested empirically

In a current study, scientists examined the evidence on Thomas Joiner's interpersonal theory of suicidal behavior.

This states that three components cause a possible suicide: those affected perceive themselves as a burden for others and do not feel that they belong to any valued group in society.

The third aspect describes the “capability for suicide”, ie the ability to die through suicide. Because not everyone is able to inflict pain and injuries that can lead to death.

Those affected can acquire this property through traumatic experiences such as abuse or war, but also through attempts to commit suicide. So far, the theory has assumed that it is acquired and then remains rather stable over time.

Patients questioned about their health via smartphone

The study by the Leipzig scientists shows something different: The ability to inflict these injuries on yourself can vary from day to day.

Inpatients with depression and suicidal thoughts participated in the study.

For the examination, they were asked on six evenings in succession via smartphone to assess whether they could have endured great physical pain today and how fearless they were about death today.

“A certain percentage of the subjects always answered the same way. The majority, however, gave a slightly different answer every day, ”explains Dr. Lena Spangenberg, research assistant and head of the study.

"The ability to die from suicide does not only have to do with previous life events and experiences, but also with the current state of health," said the expert.

Another study is currently underway

Another study is currently being carried out together with colleagues from Aachen and Bochum.

It interviewed around 300 patients who were admitted to psychiatric clinics after attempting suicide or because of acute suicidality.

You will now be interviewed again after six, nine and twelve months.

The aim of this study is to take a closer look at the importance of the interpersonal theory of suicidal behavior in predicting suicidality in this high-risk group. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: What is depression? - Helen M. Farrell (June 2022).


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