The factors that lead someone to take their own life are complex. There’s rarely one single trigger, although there may be an important ‘last straw’.
People may be more vulnerable to suicide because of a genetic predisposition, personality trait or lack of support. In many suicides there has been a long history of mental health problems, the main ones being depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia. Relationship problems are also frequent factors expressed by women who have survived a suicide attempt or have admitted to considering suicide.
Other factors include physical illness (acute and chronic), alcohol and drug abuse, social isolation, housing, money and job problems. Even the phases of the moon have been implicated as having some effect on mood and acting on impulse. But one in five suicides, especially among the young, show no previous sign of emotional difficulties – just some sudden upset which they seemed unable to cope with.
The final straw may be the end of an important relationship, having to face up to debt or a court case, losing one’s home or job, or simply an event that stirs the emotions.
The emotional pressure of external events seems to be particularly pertinent for women. For example, after the death of Princess Diana in 1997, there was a 33 per cent rise in suicides among women. This increase was particularly marked among women of a similar age to Diana. Deliberate self-harm also increased. It’s thought her death may have made people feel worse about their own personal distress.