By Tiago Zortea.
As a PhD student carrying out research in suicidality, I am recurrently asked why people take their own lives. The thing is, there is not an obvious, quick, or complete answer. Suicide is a complex phenomenon, and it involves biological, psychological and social factors that interact with each other, and these interactions vary across cultures, genders, and ages. The main reason why researchers have been working so hard to understand it and to develop effective interventions is the fact that there is no time to lose when the aim is saving lives; equivalently, someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world .
In this challenging task of understanding suicide, several theoretical approaches have been developed and are still being shaped by every new research result. Because of the diversity of professionals coming from different areas, the range of contrasting points of view contributes unique elements to help us understand more about suicide. Although much has been done in diversifying our approach to suicide prevention, it is still the dominant opinion to view suicide as a result of risk factors – what can increase the risk for suicidal behaviour? – especially psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) . Identifying risk and protective factors is extremely important, as it improves actions for suicide prevention. However, risk factors alone do not explain why some people take their own lives and how different variables interact to translate suicidal thoughts into suicidal actions.
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Tiago Zortea (@zortea_tiago) is a Clinical Psychologist, MSc Psychology & Human Ethology, and a PhD student in the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, University of Glasgow (firstname.lastname@example.org).