New study explores motivations behind suicide attempts

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Suicide attempts motivated by internal factors, such as hopelessness and unbearable pain, were performed with the greatest desire to die, according to a new Canadian study that digs deep into suicide motivations.

The study, published recently in the official journal of the American Association of Suicidology and conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC), is believed to be the first of its kind to explore suicide motivations in a comprehensive and systematic way.

Despite massive prevention efforts, suicide rates have increased globally over the last 50 years, with almost 1 million people taking their own lives annually, according to the researchers.

The study, based on 120 participants who attempted suicide within the past three years, suggests many motivations believed to play important roles in suicide are relatively uncommon.

For example, suicide attempts were rarely the result of impulsivity, a cry for help, or an effort to solve a financial or practical problem. Of all motivations for suicide, the two found to be universal in all participants were hopelessness and overwhelming emotional pain.

It also finds that suicide attempts influenced by social factors — such as efforts to elicit help or influence others — generally exhibited a less pronounced intent to die, and were carried out with a greater chance of rescue.

“Knowing why someone attempted suicide is crucial — it tells us how to best help them recover,” said Prof. David Klonsky, UBC Department of Psychology. “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.”

 

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