Watched by Partner via Webcam, Woman Commits Suicide

In addition, studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that one in ten college students, and one in five high school students, acknowledge having seriously considered committing suicide in the preceding year. Nearly one high school student in ten admits to having actually attempted it. Each year in the United States, more than 500,000 suicide attempts are made that are serious enough to warrant medical attention in an emergency room.

We understand—up to a point—the mental states of those who kill themselves: the despair, depression, irritability, agitation, and sheer hopelessness. We have learned a great deal about the suicidal experience from the victims’ legacies—notes, diaries, psychological autopsies, and clinical interviews with people who have survived severe suicide attempts. We have compelling evidence from a large number of studies that the single most important factor in suicide is psychopathology: More than 90 percent of all people who kill themselves suffered from a major psychiatric or addictive illness (depression, manic-depression, schizophrenia, or alcohol and drug abuse), a severe anxiety disorder, or borderline or antisocial personality disorder. Those who are victims of both depression and alcohol or drug abuse are especially at risk.

Most people who were depressed will not kill themselves. But of those who do, the majority was profoundly depressed. Most of us can hardly imagine the suffering that precedes suicide and the pain left in its wake. When the person who dies is young, the devastation is even more profound. The public, however—including most parents— remains disturbingly unaware of the prevalence of suicide among young people. This is in part because, until recently, there was virtually no public health policy on the subject; in part because society is reluctant to discuss both suicide and the mental illnesses most directly responsible for it; and in part because there is a pervasive belief that suicide is highly idiosyncratic in nature and therefore neither predictable nor preventable. Unlike oncologists and cardiologists, who know that certain types of tumors or heart disease radically increase the likelihood of death, psychiatrists and psychologists tend not to think of mortality rates in the context of psychiatric illnesses.

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This has led to considerable confusion, as well as to an under emphasis on how much is actually known about suicide from a clinical and scientific point of view. In fact, we know a great deal.
We know, first, that suicide is a terrible killer of the young. In the United States, suicide is the third major cause of death in 15-to-19-year-olds and the second leading cause of death in college-age students. In 1996, more teenagers and young adults died from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, stroke, and lung disease combined. Suicide kills the young dreadfully and disproportionately. And, across the world, in those between the ages of 15 and 44, suicide is the second leading killer of women and the fourth of men. Nearly one million people die by suicide each year, 30,000 of them in the United States.