Suicide amongst people with PTSD

Suicide amongst people with PTSD

This is an extremely tough topic, and this article contains triggers and some very hard truths. However, it’s crucial to explore and discuss the link between PTSD symptoms and suicidal thoughts and actions to save more lives.v

For urgent psychological support, please call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text CONTACT to 85258 to reach trained volunteers at Shout. 

World Suicide Prevention Day was more poignant than ever in 2021.

Though the figures so far don’t suggest a significant upturn in the rate of suicide, the global pandemic has raised concerns that the continuing economic hardships and health fears could eventually lead to even more people ending their own life. What’s also significant is the trauma impact felt by healthcare professionals exposed to COVID-19 deaths for many months.

The pandemic has also made accessing mainstream health services problematic, including mental health support. It has even affected the collation of accurate statistics on suicides, due to backlogs at Coroners Courts.

The Office for National Statistics has reported that in England, during 2020, there were 4,902 registered suicides, but attributes an apparent decrease in numbers to the issues mentioned above.

What is clear is that more resources and attention need to be directed to preventing suicides, including those amongst people with PTSD.

How likely is to consider suicide, with PTSD?

In one study, looking at people with PTSD, over ‘half of the sample (56.4%) reported some aspect of suicidality with 38.3% reporting ideation, 8.5% reporting suicide plans and 9.6% having made suicide attempts since the trauma. Of the nine participants who reported suicide attempts, six had made more than one attempt. The proportions of participants who reported suicidality in this sample were significantly greater than reported within the general population.’

However, knowing exactly how many people with PTSD or C-PTSD have suicidal thoughts, make attempts on their life, or succeed in killing themselves, is a number impossible to collate accurately, through research has documented consistent evidence of a strong association between the conditions and suicide.

One study ‘examined all suicide deaths from 1994–2006 using the Danish national healthcare and social registries, and found that persons with PTSD had 5.3 times the rate of death from suicide than persons without PTSD, after adjustment for gender, age, marital status, income, and pre-existing depression diagnoses. A subsequent study examined death from suicide among all persons diagnosed with PTSD in Denmark from 1995–2011 and found that after adjustment for demographics and pre-existing comorbid psychiatric diagnoses, persons with PTSD had 13 times the rate of suicide than persons without PTSD.

We also know – from research carried out by London University UCL – that in general populations women with PTSD are almost seven times more likely to die by suicide, compared with women without this condition.

Figures for the incident of suicide among males with PTSD are also sobering, as the condition makes them four times more likely to end their life.

The researchers in this study also evaluated the time lapse between the ‘start’ of PTSD, and people committing suicide. On average, it was less than two and a half years.

The association between PTSD and suicide has been researched more thoroughly in military members and Veterans, (given the availability of registry-based data), so most of the more recent research in this area has been conducted within these populations. Studies have shown that by 2020, suicides amongst veterans and serving personnel in the British Armed Services were the highest for 15 years; and still rising.

What this tells us about PTSD and Suicide

This study reinforces the urgency of addressing suicidal thoughts in people with PTSD and C-PTSD. It also shows how vital early intervention is in tackling PTSD symptoms and offering robust therapies that achieve sustainable recovery.

Left undiagnosed, untreated or insufficiently supported, PTSD linked depression, despair, isolation and guilt can escalate all too quickly, leaving individuals with the conviction that death is their only escape.

Also, new focus needs to be placed on the support provided to those who survive suicide attempts. Research into PTSD and suicide has shown that 15% of people who survive, eventually complete the act. That number needs to be drastically reduced.

What is PTSD UK doing to address this issue?

Our mission is to find ways to increase awareness of PTSD’s causes, symptoms and treatment paths. Our aim is always to show ways to recover from this condition and achieve a better quality of life, but also to prevent more deaths amongst those with PTSD.

If you need help, or someone to talk to, please don’t wait.

IF YOU, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW IS IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, PLEASE CALL 999.

For urgent psychological support, please call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text CONTACT to 85258 to reach trained volunteers at Shout. 

Alternatively, contact one of the organisations listed below:

  • Papyrus HOPELINEUK: 0800 068 41 41 papyrus-uk.org Confidential support for under-35s at risk of suicide and others who are concerned about them. Open daily from 9am–midnight
  • Sane  sane.org.uk Offers emotional support and information for anyone affected by mental health problems.
  • Samaritans 116 123 (freephone) samaritans.org Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
  • Shout 85258 (text SHOUT) giveusashout.org Confidential 24/7 text service offering support if you are in crisis and need immediate help.
  • Mind Helpline: 0300 123 3393 The team at Mind (mind.org.uk) provide information on a range of topics including: types of mental health problems, where to get help and medication and alternative treatments. They will look for details of help and support in your own area. The lines are open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays): 0300 123 3393

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

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