Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

Suicide Frequently Asked Questions

The answers to why a person might commit suicide and, in the process, take many others with him, are complexly rooted in the individual psychology of the pilot, as well as influences by culture and/or religion. As those details are known, clearer answers may be known. However, years of research have taught us what some of the predictors of suicide may be, though these are a far from absolute in any given individual.

1. What are some general risk factors associated with suicide?

  • Presence of a mental disorder (in particular, substance abuse, affective disorders, panic disorder, and schizophrenia;
  • Age over 45 (Older adults are more likely to use lethal weapons and less likely to talk about their suicide plans)
  • Sex (Depending on age, men commit suicide 3 to 12 times more often than do women)
  • Marital status (Divorced, widowed, separated, and never-married people, especially men, are at higher risk for suicide)
  • Economic and employment factors (economic recessions and depressions and unemployment are linked to suicide)
  • Chronic physical illness
  • Recent losses (Loss of resources, ability, status, and loved ones is associated with suicide)
  • Race or ethnic background
  • Previous attempt (Patients who have attempted suicide previously are much more likely to commit suicide.)

2. How is suicide related to depression?

  • 10 to 15% of all clinically depressed people will commit suicide.
  • Depression is one of the best suicide predictors.
  • People who are depressed will most likely commit suicide when:
    • There are intense thoughts and feelings of anxiety.
    • The person has panic attacks.
    • There is alcohol abuse.
    • The person has insomnia.
  • Very important symptoms are hopelessness, helplessness, and excessive guilt.

The most alarming immediate suicidal predictors are a combination of the above symptoms with a specific, lethal suicidal plan and the means to carry it out.

3. Why would someone choose to commit suicide and mass murder at the same time?

This sometimes occurs when someone kills family members, like children, to “protect them” from the pain of dealing with the loss of the adult who plans to commit suicide.

When the people who are taken are strangers, often this is an indicator of a generalized sense of anger and revenge at “the world”. Such people often feel a diminished sense of person power, perhaps having undergone some loss for which they continued to hold a grudge. They then commit make one last “screaming statement” to the world.

4. How might Egyptian culture/Moslem religion have impacted the possibility that this pilot committed suicide?

It is my understanding that in the Moslem religion, suicide is viewed as a sinful death, and that the person would go to hell. About 98% of Egyptians are Moslem.

If the pilot was Moslem, then, he would have known that what he was about to do...a combination of murder and suicide... according to his religion would doom him to hell, no matter how good the rest of his life had been.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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