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What are the Most Common Reasons for Suicide?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Usually, those left behind after a suicide are asking themselves why their loved one took his own life. Reasons for suicide are almost limitless and can be anything from a recent job loss to a political statement. The most common reasons for suicide include mental illness and substance abuse. Some people also commit suicide so they won't have to face serious punishment or disgrace, or for political, religious, or military reasons.

Not surprisingly, many experts agree that one of the most common reasons for suicide is some type of mental illness. Depression and schizophrenia are the two most common mental illnesses that are associated with suicide. Depression alone afflicts roughly one out of every six people in the United States, and almost half of all people who commit or attempt suicide have been diagnosed with some type of mental illness.

Individuals who abuse alcohol or other mind-altering substances are also considered to be more likely to commit suicide. Generally speaking, individuals under the influence are considered to be much more impulsive, since most substances impair a person's judgment. Many times, alcohol can act as a mood-enhancer, and combined with major depression, it can possibly push someone to do things that he normally wouldn't do, such as attempt suicide.

Sometimes, individuals try to commit suicide without actually meaning to or realizing that they could die. Many times, these people are attempting to cry out for help. Unfortunately, they make a mistake, and end up dying. Erotic asphyxiation and oxygen deprivation are sometimes thought to be reasons for suicide, but most of the time, these are accidental deaths.

Criminal acts and public disgrace are other reasons for suicide. Sometimes, when people commit a violent crime, such as murder, they commit suicide to avoid the consequences. They can either commit suicide directly after the crime, often known as murder-suicide, or wait until some time after the crime was committed.

One famous example of this involves the German Nazis after World War II. Many of these leaders committed suicide during the Nuremberg trials to avoid prosecution. A United States politician, R. Budd Dwyer also committed suicide to avoid prosecution and disgrace after he was convicted of taking bribes while in office. In 1987, during a live television broadcast, he gave a speech then promptly put a pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Politics, religion, and military tactics have also all been reasons for suicide. Individuals who commit suicide for these reasons typically believe that their deaths serve a great purpose. Examples of these types of suicides include suicide bombers and kamikaze pilots.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Mar 11, 2014

The strange thing about suicide is that it can be so hard to tell when a person is having suicidal thoughts. The people who kill themselves are sometimes the ones who seem to have everything to live for. You just never know.

By Sporkasia — On Mar 10, 2014

Climate can greatly influence mood and thus suicide attempts. Having lived in a couple of communities that virtually shut down during the winter because of snow and inclement weather, I have seen how people's mood can be affected when the days get short and cold, and snow starts to pile up.

Some people with seasonal moods disorders will seek warmer and sunnier climates during the winter because for them bad weather can be a reason for suicidal thoughts.

By Animandel — On Mar 09, 2014

The life changes that often accompany old age commonly lead to depression in the elderly. For this reason, many seniors are prime candidates for suicidal acts. Elderly men should be watched more closely for suicide prevention because of the greater frequency of men committing suicide.

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