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Is an unsuccessful suicide attempt just a cry for attention?

External causes of suicidal behavior.


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. In their mind the situation has reached a breaking point and they see no other way out except death, or the threat of death. When external forces become unbearable enough for a person to contemplate suicide depression of some sort is always involved. The depression causes the individual to make irrational decisions based on unstable emotions.

This type of suicidal tendency is often accompanied by “after-death” fantasies in which the now dead individual, after taking their own life, gets to view the reactions and grief of those they left behind. In these fantasies the people that have caused the psychological pain feel punished by the suicide and in their grieving they demonstrate great remorse for having driven the person to take their own life. In this type of suicide (or suicide attempt) the individual is attempting to take back control in a situation that they feel is totally outside of their control. In killing themselves they are taking back control and getting in the last word and if the real life situation has left the individual feeling totally helpless the idea of going out in control and teaching other people a lesson in the process can be strangely appealing.

Suicidal urges that are brought on by external circumstances are typified by three distinct characteristics; the individual is intrigued by the fantasy that they would be getting back at somebody who they feel has hurt them and that this somebody will see the error of their ways and feel tremendous guilt, they are often fleeting in nature and happen in a moment of extreme emotional stress, they are more likely to fail, be repeated and escalate in severity with each repeated attempt. Under these circumstances the suicide attempts are often dismissed as cries for attention, which can be a fatal mistake on the part of the people close to the suicidal individual. Since the root cause here is a deep and wounding sense of helplessness being ignored or having others dismiss the attempts as attention seeking can lead to the person successfully taking their own life. Ironically when the external causes are addressed and dealt with and the person’s sense of helplessness is overcome the suicidal urges all but disappear.

Some examples of external causes common to teen suicide attempts; unwanted pregnancy without a support system, abuse in the family, abuse in a relationship, sexual assault, sexual harassment, bullying, peer rejection, and romantic rejection.

Next: What are internal causes?

Mike Hardcastle
About.com Teen Advice

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