It is rare adolescent, who does not, at sometime or other, think of killing himself because he is a “failure” or because he believes world is “unfair” to him. Relatively few adolescents go beyond talking, though some do try to commit suicide, if for no other reason than frighten their parents or teachers in to treating them better in the future.
When threats or suicide attempts occur frequently, they are one of the most serious danger signals of maladjustment. They not only show how self-reject ant the person is but also how hopeless about his life situation. Sometimes suicide attempts are impulsive and sometimes premeditate. Sometimes the person hopes that, by showing other, how great his self rejection is he will get them to help with his problems and will, certainly, get them to treat him more sympathetically.
Suicide is in most cases, a sudden precipitous reaction to stressful situation resulting from frustration, depression, overt or masked or rebellious act against a restraining figure, a loved one. It is intended to frighten and to cause the restraining person to change an attitude or behavior towards the victim. It is often intended as a warning to parents or loved ones as an expression or dissatisfaction or displeasure which existing unpleasant situation and as a plea for improved relationship.
Personality patterns of suicide victims
Clinical studies of people of different ages who commit suicide, who attempt to do so, or who meet their daily problems by talking about suicide reveal that they are strongly self-reject ant. Sometimes this self-reject ant attitude comes from accumulated failures, often failures which they have convinced themselves are due to no fault of their own, and sometimes it comes from the loneliness which results not from environmental isolation but from social isolation.
Regardless of the cause of the self-reject ant attitude, the personality pattern associated with it is characterized by depression and anxiety: by feelings of extreme inadequacy and inferiority; by a belief that the situation is so hopeless that the person is completely helpless to cope with it and is, therefore, a martyr by the belief that he is the victim of prejudice: by the belief that members of the social group consider him “useless” and by marked feelings of guilt and shame which have led to self-contempt. Most people who are suicide-prone have long histories of gloominess, withdrawal, anxiety, and other problems. They have suffered from personality sicknesses which in greater and greater self-rejection.
Danger periods in suicide
There are certain predictable times when suicide and suicide attempts are more likely to occur. These danger periods coincide with those times in the life span when adjustments are especially difficult and when emotional stress is most common. A person who is poorly adjusted finds if particularly difficult to adjust to the problems that are normal for person of his age. When he sees his problems mounting, he becomes increasingly self-reject ant, feeling that he is more of a failure than he was earlier.
Adolescence, with its myriad adjustment problems, is one of the peak danger periods. While the suicidal impulse may have developed earlier, often in later childhood, it is strongest between the ages of 14 and 18 years. This is the most difficult time in the adolescent span for the young person to adjust to his new status and to new social expectations. If he adjusts with reasonable success, suicide-proneness decreases.
For women, another critical period comes at middle age, usually between 45 and 54 years. This is a time when women have many difficult adjustments to make, owing to their role-status change as their children grow up and as they find satisfying employment difficult to obtain. The feeling of uselessness and futility which these adjustment problems give rise to intensify any already-existing maladjustment they may experience.
Men, by contrast, do not reach a critical period until they face the problems that retirement gives rise to, at the age of 65 or later. If, in addition, they suffer from poor health and feel that their days of usefulness are over, they too experience a feeling of futility. This, combined with any existing maladjustment, predisposes them to think of suicide as the best solution to their problems shows the critical periods for suicide and suicide attempts.