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Theories Of Suicide

Research into why individuals become suicidal has identified psychiatric disturbance as the strongest predictor of future suicidality. In particular, depression, both unipolar and bipolar, is associated with the greatest suicidal risk, and even in schizophrenics and substances abusers, both groups with high rates of suicide, depression is the strongest predictor of which individuals in those groups will complete suicide (Maris, Berman, and Silverman 2000). Among the components of depression, the cognitive component, which has been called pessimism and hopelessness by Aaron Beck and his colleagues (1979), is a more powerful predictor than the somatic components of depression (such as loss of appetite) or the mood symptoms (such as guilt).

Suicidal individuals are found to have experienced a high level of stress for a long period of time, and often have an increasing level in the time leading up to their suicidal action. In addition, suicidal individuals are found to have few resources, and the resources that they have are often unavailable (Lester 2000). For example, the people available to turn to for help may be resented by the suicidal person, or the resources may be hostile toward the suicidal person.

The family plays a critical role in each of these factors. Physiological and psychological theories of psychiatric disorder stress the role of the parents, either in passing on the genes for the disorder (in physiological theories) or in creating a pathological home environment (in psychological theories) (Maris, Berman, Silverman 2000). Family members are often the cause of much of the stress that suicidal individuals experience, and they are the resources that may be unavailable to the suicidal individual.

Sociological theories of suicide attempt to explain the suicide rates of cultures or regions. They have focused on the role of social disorganization (social integration and social regulation in Durkheim's theory—see below) or in the opportunity to blame others for one's misfortunes rather than oneself (Henry and Short 1954). For example, African Americans have been oppressed by the racism in U.S. society and so have a clear source of blame for their misery, whereas white Euro Americans have been the oppressors. African Americans have higher murder rates whereas whites have higher suicide rates, in line with this argument.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Social IssuesSuicide - The Epidemiology Of Suicide, Theories Of Suicide, Marital Status And The Family, The Protective Effect Of Children