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Is an unsuccessful suicide attempt just a cry for attention?

The root causes of suicidal behavior explained.


Q:My friend recently tried to kill herself. She took a bottle full of aspirin and had to be rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. I didn’t even know that aspirin was dangerous! Is she just crying out for attention or should I really worry that she might try this again? It seems that if she really wanted to die she could have found a way to do it. How should I react? If this is a cry for attention and I (and everybody else for that matter) start showering her with attention, are we creating a monster who will pull something like this every time she is feeling unappreciated? Advice would be great.

I find your question disturbing and difficult to answer. First and foremost it needs to be said that ANY suicide attempt must be taken seriously and treated accordingly. Even multiple “failed” attempts should never be disregarded as simply cries for attention. Anybody who is seeking attention by putting their life at risk needs help, so even if you truly believe your friend’s multiple suicide attempts are nothing more than extreme attention seeking you must not ignore them. You need to address the underlying causes of this abnormal behavior. Is it reactionary in nature? If so this means the causes are external to the person and that can be very serious as outside influences that lead a person to feel suicidal are always accompanied by a deep sense of helplessness and this feeling can be hard to counteract. Or is the suicidal behavior rooted in something internal to the person; for instance, depression, chemical imbalances or drug/alcohol addiction. In order to know how to help your friend you need to pry and figure out if the suicidal urges have been born from external or internal influences.

What are external causes?
The most common external causes - or more accurately, external catalysts - of suicidal behavior are bullying, peer pressure/incidents, family crisis’s and health problems. Usually these are situational in nature and have an escalating history that has led the individual to feel as if they have no other way out...

What are internal causes?
Internal causes of suicidal behavior are much more complex and harder for the average person to see than external causes. Essentially all suicide attempts come down to something inside the suicidal person but those without external catalysts are often biological in nature...

So how do you help a suicidal friend?
Regardless of the reasons behind a suicide attempt when somebody tries to take their own life it should never be ignored. Even if they make multiple attempts that appear clumsy, as if they really never intended to die, you must treat it as a true suicide attempt. You need to reach out and let the person know that you care, that you are there to listen and to help, and that they are not alone...

Important Resources

Quiz: Is Your Friend a Suicide Risk?
Suicide Risk Indicators
Suicide Help Lines

Mike Hardcastle
About.com Teen Advice

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