Reasons for Suicidal Behavior

Why do people kill themselves? This is an extremely difficult question to answer. Although there are many ideas or theories about why people commit suicide, there is no single comprehensive theory that describes and explains all life-threatening behaviors. The major theories of suicide can be categorized into sociological theories, psychological theories, and biological theories. In general, sociological theories are based on the idea that suicide results from the level and amount of control society has over an individual and the effects of social conditions and social changes on the person. Psychological theories of suicide typically focus on conflicts within the individual; the role of one's thought processes, emotions, and personality characteristics; the person's developmental stage; and the ways in which the person's family functions. Finally, biological theories are based on the examination of biological aspects of suicide such as the influence of genetics, hormone levels, and neuro-transmitter levels in the brain.

Suicidal acts take on very different meanings based upon the lenses one uses to examine each individual case of suicide. It is tempting to make sense of suicidal behavior by applying one of the many theories that have been developed by researchers to explain suicidal behavior. It appears, however, that the most complete understanding requires one to look beyond theories and ideas to the concrete evidence. Rather than asking why someone would commit suicide, the question can be rephrased as follows: What problem or problems was the person trying to solve?

Based upon the ways in which adolescents attempt to kill themselves, those who work with suicidal teens have found that most do not really want to die. When adolescents attempt suicide, most do it in their own homes, which is the place they are most likely to be found, and between the hours of 4 P.M. and midnight, which is the time of the day when someone in the family is most likely to be around. Thus, the chance of rescue is high, and those who hope for rescue do not really want to die. It appears then, that suicidal teens are simply attempting to solve one or more problems occurring in their life, but they, unfortunately, choose a permanent solution to their temporary problems. These teens are looking for a way to escape the emotional and physical pain that results from the problems they perceive or experience in their lives, and suicide appears to be a sure way to make the pain stop.

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