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PTSD and Suicide

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Updated June 18, 2014

Connections between the experience of a traumatic event, PTSD and suicide risk have been found.

What is Suicide?

Suicide is the intentional ending of one's own life. In the United States, nearly 31,000 people commit suicide each year. Although women attempt suicide more so than men, men are more likely to succeed in killing themselves during a suicide attempt. In addition, people who have experienced a traumatic event and/or have PTSD may be more likely to attempt suicide.

Trauma, PTSD, and Suicide

In a survey of 5,877 people across the United States, it was found that people who had experienced physical or sexual assault at some point in their life also had a high likelihood of attempting to take their own life at some point:

  • Nearly 22% of people who had been raped had also attempted suicide at some point in their life.

  • Approximately 23% of people who had experienced a physical assault had also attempted suicide at some point in their life.

These rates of suicide attempts increased considerably among people who had experienced multiple incidents of sexual (42.9%) or physical assault (73.5%). They also found that a history of sexual molestation, physical abuse as a child, and neglect as a child were associated with high rates of suicide attempts (17.4% to 23.9%)

People with a diagnosis of PTSD are also at greater risk to attempt suicide. Among people who have had a diagnosis of PTSD at some point in their lifetime, approximately 27% have also attempted suicide.

There is Hope: Seeking Help

Experiencing a traumatic event and/or developing PTSD can have a tremendous impact on a person's life. The symptoms of PTSD can make a person feel constantly afraid and isolated. In addition, depression is common following a traumatic event and among people with PTSD. A person may feel as though there is no hope or escape from their symptoms, leading them to contemplate suicide.

It is important to realize that even though it may feel as though there is no hope, recovery and healing is possible. If you are having thoughts of ending your life or if you know someone who is having these thoughts, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Mental Health Information Center has put together a downloadable information sheet on suicide that provides valuable resources on suicide, as well as who you can call if you are in crisis.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2004). Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/default.htm.

Kessler, R.C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C.B. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 1048-1060.

Nock, M.K., & Kessler, R.C. (2006). Prevalence of and risk factors for suicide attempts versus suicide gestures: Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 616-623.

Tarrier, N., & Gregg, L. (2004). Suicide risk in civilian PTSD patients: Predictors of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 39, 655-661.

Thompson, M.P., Kaslow, N.J., Kingree, J.B., Puett, R., Thompson, N., & Meadows, L.A. (1999). Partner abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder as a risk factor for suicide attempts in a sample of low income, inner-city women. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 12, 59-72.

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