Hopelessness and emotional pain are the two main reasons why people attempt suicide, research finds.
Common beliefs about suicide were not strongly supported by the study.
People were less likely to mention the following reasons:
- Financial problems,
- as a cry for help,
- or to solve some kind of practical problem.
Instead, it was more because the emotional pain they were in was unbearable and they felt that it would never go away.
Professor David Klonsky, study co-author, said:
“It may be surprising to some, but focusing on motivations is a new approach in the field of suicide research — and urgently needed.
Until now, the focus has been largely on the types of people attempting suicide — their demographics, their genetics — without actually exploring the motivations.
Ours is the first work to do this in a comprehensive and systematic way.”
The conclusions come from a survey of 120 people who had attempted suicide in the previous three years.
Hopelessness and emotional pain emerged as the biggest reasons.
However, there were a wide array of motivation for suicide attempts.
After the main two, which were mentioned by two-thirds of respondents, trying to escape and avoiding burdening others, were also frequently mentioned.
Feeling a low sense of belonging and feeling fearless were also mentioned by some participants.
The researchers used the survey to develop a measure that helps evaluate why people attempt suicide.
Professor Klonsky said:
“Knowing why someone attempted suicide is crucial — it tells us how to best help them recover.
This new tool will help us to move beyond the current “one-size-fits-all” approach to suicide prevention, which is essential.
Different motivations require different treatments and interventions.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (May & Klonsky., 2013).