As you may already know September is National Suicide Prevention Month. As the month comes to an end, and October begins I thought it was only right to discuss the link between Suicide and Domestic Abuse & Violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and as we enter we should carry with us the thoughts, prayers, and knowledge of suicide and how we can help family, friends, or even strangers get through times of suicidal thoughts and attempts. A question I get a lot and have explained in previous blogs is what Domestic Abuse & Violence actually is.
Intimate Partner Violence involves physical, sexual, or psychological harm upon current or former partners. This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and threats of violence. While I’m not going to jump into detail in this blog post about what each of those forms of partner violence are, it leads us into what may cause people that have experienced this type of abuse and trauma in their life to think about or actually commit suicide.
Multiple studies have found that Domestic Violence survivors have higher than average rates of suicidal thoughts:
As many as 23% of survivors have attempted suicide compared to the 3% among the population with no prior exposure to Domestic Violence.
Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence are 2x as likely to attempt suicide multiple times. In the cases of murder-suicide, most are likely to occur in the context of abuse. Domestic Violence related phone calls account for the most local police responses (as many as 50%). These calls also present the most call related fatalities in 2016.
And while many of us when we hear Domestic Violence and Abuse automatically assume it's physical, it’s not just physical violence that’s linked with an increase to think or commit suicide. Verbal and Emotional Abuse is also connected with suicide. I can personally stand for this, as the type of abuse I experienced was mostly mental (verbal and emotional). My own experience led to me suffering from PTSD as well as thoughts of suicide on my journey to recovering.
Female victims with an illness or disability who experience Intimate Partner Violence have an increased risk of threatening or attempting suicide. While African American women show a comparatively low risk of suicide, when Intimate Partner Violence is involved the risk of suicide in African American women doubles when experienced in low-income households.
Are you or someone you know at risk? According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, these signs may be red flags that can indication someone is at risk of attempting suicide:
Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing their use of alcohol or dugs
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or Isolating themselves
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood swings
If you or a loved one can relate to the things listed above seek help as soon as possible by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
While someone may come forward about their situation dealing with Domestic Abuse and Violence, they might not be honest about the daunting thoughts and feelings of hopelessness that accompany it.
If a Domestic Abuse & Violence Survivor is considering suicide, here are some ways you can help:
Help the survivor connect with support groups and other community resources (My father encouraged me to do this).
Encourage the survivor to seek help for the Domestic Violence so they can break the cycle that’s fostering the suicidal thoughts.
Encourage the survivor to reduce dependency on drugs or alcohol (these substances can increase suicidal urges).
Build a strong social bond with the survivor and help the survivor build solid relationships with others outside of the abusive relationship. (Coming out of this relationship this person might feel they have no one because of being isolated from friends and family, etc. by their abusive partner).