Suicidal behavior has been common throughout the history of humanity. Examples of suicides appear in literary works. It has also been a topic of scholarly inquiry. There are numerous theories on the causes and nature of suicide, and there are various strategies to address this issue. This paper dwells upon major peculiarities of suicide and ways to handle it.
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First, it is important to consider certain psychological theories concerning suicide. Sigmund Freud’s theory is still one of the most influential ones as many later theories are based on Freudian viewpoint. Thus, according to Freud’s drive theory, when there is a lost object, the ego becomes divided with one part attached to the lost object (Goldblatt, 2014). The hostility to the lost object remains and, as a result, one part of the ego attacks the other part. Suicide becomes a way to kill the hated object. The theory of ego psychology was developed and it was common in US psychology. It is based on the principles of the split ego, but the focus is made on ego and super ego. Thus, a person (or rather super ego) is not satisfied with some characteristics of his/her character or behavior and tends to destroy the undesired ego. The theory of self-psychology is based on the assumption that pathological development in childhood (especially “the lack of a nurturing maternal figure”) may lead to the inability of a person to develop soothing strategies during hard times (Goldblatt, 2014, p. 261). Notably, all of these theories involve such concepts as dissatisfaction, time of distress, and lack of problem-solving skills.
It is necessary to note that suicide is closely connected with solving moral dilemmas. Religious beliefs play an important role in this process. For instance, suicide is seen as one of the most serious sins in Christianity as well as in many other religions (James, 2007). Therefore, suicidal people have to solve an important moral dilemma of whether their intolerable life can justify committing suicide. On the other hand, in some religions (in Eastern culture), suicide is regarded as a way to avoid shame and dishonor (James, 2007). Clearly, when helping a suicidal individual these issues have to be taken into account as well.
It is also important to understand the major characteristic features of people committing suicide. Wenzel and Spokas (2014) claim that these are hopelessness, perfectionism, alienation, and unbearably. Hence, suicidal people are often depressed and they feel a lack of problem-solving skills. They feel that their life (as well as their problems) is intolerable. It is noteworthy that these people tend to achieve only highest results and can feel absolutely depressed if they perform less effective. It is necessary to add that such people often have low self-esteem. Clearly, suicidal behavior can be often found in people who have lost their close ones or have some serious issues in their life.
At this point, it is important to add that suicide and homicide share certain characteristics in common. For instance, people who are ready to kill (another person or themselves) often feel that there is no way out. They do not see other opportunities (James, 2007). These people also tend to behave in an inappropriate way and be unable to control their emotions. Behavior of these people may be very unstable. Of course, there is also an object that these people are eager to destroy (other people or their ego). Thus, they often have quite negative emotions when discussing certain things.
Fortunately, practitioners and researchers have developed numerous strategies to assess the state of a suicidal person and to assist him/her. The triage assessment system is seen as one of the most efficient ways to adequately assess the client’s state (James, 2007). The system involves observation and even direct enquiry that helps the practitioner evaluate the risks. The use of the triage assessment form can be beneficial for novice as well as seasoned practitioners, as it is a fast assessment strategy. The practitioner pays attention the client’s feelings, behaviors and thoughts. A suicidal person with high risks of committing suicide hardly controls his/her emotions and he/she often depersonalizes. Such people’s behaviors are ineffective, destructive and unpredictable. As far as a suicidal client’s thoughts are concerned, he/she is unable to find solutions to problems, his/her thoughts are often chaotic. Apart from observing these characteristics, the practitioner may (and sometimes should) directly ask the patient whether he or she intends to kill himself or anyone else. Further steps of the practitioner depend on the answer and behavior of the client. It is necessary to note that two major strategies used to handle such issues are comforting and helping to find solutions or acquire problem-solving skills.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that suicide is a psychological issue that has been present for centuries. The rate of suicides does not decrease significantly due to various issues (social, economic, political, lack of psychological support and so on). However, people have achieved significant results in assessment and treatment of suicidal behaviors. The scope of research on the matter suggests that people will be able to develop more effective strategies in the future.
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Goldblatt, M.J. (2014). Psychodynamics of suicide. In M.K. Nock (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of suicide and self-injury (pp. 255-265). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
James, R.K. (2007). Crisis intervention strategies. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole.
Wenzel, A., & Spokas, M. (2014). Cognitive and information processing approaches to understanding suicidal behaviors. In M.K. Nock (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of suicide and self-injury (pp. 235-255). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.