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Depression, suicide and self harm


by Una Donnelly, self harm nurse, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin

Research shows that depression is twice as common in women than in men. But donít be fooled by the statistics. Many men who are depressed donít know they are suffering from this condition or are not likely to admit it because such emotions are not considered manly. The consequences of not knowing how you feel can be disastrous. Emotional numbness/deadness often leads to physical health problems and clinical depression, and this can lead in extreme cases, to suicide. Sadly men are the leaders in the suicide department. Women try suicide three times more often than men, but men succeed at suicide three times more often than women. The reason :Men are more likely to complete the task with a more violent and non-reversible means than, for instance pills, which are what many woman resort to, as a means to end their life.



When are people most at risk from suicide?

Suicide is the deliberate act of taking oneís own life. However it is not a disease. It is an expression of a host of emotions; hopelessness, guilt, sorrow, loneliness, rage, fear that have their roots in psychological, social, medical and biochemical factors. (Psychological Society of Ireland 1992).

Suicide risk is greatest where there is

  • Recent loss or the break up of a close relationship.
  • Current or anticipated unhappy change in health or circumstances: e.g. retirement or financial problems.
  • Painful and/or disabling illness
  • Heavy use of or dependency on alcohol/drugs
  • History of earlier suicidal behaviour
  • History of suicide in the family
  • History or existence of Depression

People often show their suicidal feelings by

  • Being withdrawn and unable to relate
  • Having definite ideas about how to take their own life, and maybe speaking of tidying up affairs, or giving other indications of planning suicide
  • Talking about feelings isolated or lonely
  • Expressing feelings of failure, uselessness, hopelessness, or loss of self-esteem
  • Constantly dwelling on problems for which there are no apparent solutions
  • Expressing the lack of a supporting philosophy of such as a religious belief

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem

People die by suicide because the fear of living seems more painful than the fear of dying. They want to get away from the pain they are experiencing and to escape from their inner torment. Suicide is an act of total despair and hopelessness, an act which the person thinks will bring peace. Most people who consider suicide have Ďtunnel visioní which is the inability to see anything else in life except the loneliness and pain of that particular moment. They are not crazy, just unable to step back, think the situation through and know that almost always, things will get better.

There are many other choices besides death by suicide

Find someone who will listen: a friend, a neighbour, a family member, a counsellor, a teacher or clergy man or anyone with whom you trust and feel will listen to you. The Samaritans on Tel NI. 0345 90 90 90 and Tel ROI. 1850 60 90 90. The Samaritans in Ireland provide confidential, emotional support to anyone in crises,24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Trained volunteers listen without judgement and without giving advice.



What is self-harm?

Deliberate self harm is a deliberate non fatal act committed in the knowledge that it was potentially harmful. There are many forms of deliberate self harm involving insertion of objects, punching, self assault, ingestion, head banging, picking of old wounds, self strangulation, overdosing disordered eating and probably the most common is self mutilation by cutting. The reason why this group of people self harm can be to manage moods or feelings, often the cutting provides a kind of relief after a building up of tension over the previous hours or days.