Why Do People Commit Suicide?

Why Do People Commit Suicide?
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It's often difficult to imagine what led a friend, family member, or celebrity to commit suicide. There may be no warning signs, and you may wonder what clues you might have missed. Often, many factors combine to lead to a decision to commit suicide. It is often an act made during a storm of strong emotions and life stresses rather than after careful consideration.

Depression and Mental Illnesses

While there are many factors which can influence a person's decision to commit suicide, the most common one is that the person has severe depression. A person is feeling great emotional pain but isn't able to see any way to relieve that pain other than ending her own life.

Other mental illnesses besides depression can also play a role in suicide. For example, a person with schizophrenia or other illnesses that produce psychosis might be hearing voices which command her to kill herself. Bipolar disorder, an illness in which a person experiences alternating periods of high and low moods, can also increase a person's risk for committing suicide. Borderline personality disorder is another condition with a high rate of suicide. Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, have a high rate of death by suicide.

Traumatic Stress

A person who has had a traumatic experience, including childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse, or war trauma, is at a greater risk for suicide, even many years after the trauma. Having the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder or multiple incidents of trauma raises the risk even further.

Substance Abuse and Impulsivity

Drugs and alcohol can also influence a person who is feeling suicidal, making her more impulsive and likely to act upon her urges than she would be while sober. Use of drugs and alcohol can contribute to the other reasons people commit suicide, such as the loss of jobs and relationships. As well, the rates of substance abuse and alcohol use disorder are higher among people with depression and other psychological disorders. Put these together and the risks increase.

Loss or Fear of Loss

A person may decide to commit suicide when facing a loss or the fear of a loss. These situations can include:

  • Ending a romantic relationship or close friendship
  • Losing a job or being unemployed and unable to find a sufficient source of steady income
  • Finacial problems
  • Losing social position
  • Losing your living situation due to financial reasons or the ending of a relationship
  • Academic failure
  • Losing social or family acceptance due to revealing your sexual orientation
  • Bullying, shaming, or humiliation, including cyberbullying
  • Being arrested or imprisoned


Hopelessness, either in the short term or as a longer-lasting trait, has been found in many studies to contribute to the decision to commit suicide. The person may be facing a social or physical challenge and see no way the situation can improve.

When a person feels that she has lost all hope and she doesn't feel able to change that, it can overshadow all of the good things in her life, making suicide seem like a viable option. While it might seem obvious to an outside observer that things will get better, a person with depression may not be able to see this due to the pessimism and despair that go along with this illness.

Chronic Pain and Terminal Illnesses

If a person has chronic pain or an illness with no hope of a cure or a reprieve from her suffering, suicide may seem like a way to regain dignity and control of her life. Assisted suicide is legal in some states for these reasons.

Belief Your Life is a Burden to Others

People who decide to commit suicide often state that their loved ones or the world, in general, would be better off without them. The person sees herself as a burden to others or feels worthless.

Social Isolation

A person can become socially isolated for many reasons, including losing friends or a spouse, physical or mental illness, social anxiety, retirement, or due to a move to a new location. This can lead to loneliness and other risk factors such as depression and substance abuse.

A Cry for Help

Sometimes people attempt suicide not so much because they really want to die, but because they simply don't know how to get help. Suicide attempts then become a way of crying out and demonstrating to the world just how much the person is hurting. Unfortunately, these cries for help may sometimes prove to be fatal if the person misjudges the lethality of her chosen suicide method.

Accidental Suicide

There are some situations where what appears to be a suicide is actually an accidental death. The dangerous "choking game," where teens attempt to asphyxiate themselves in order to feel a high, and autoerotic asphyxiation, are examples.

A Word From Verywell

You may never know why a person committed suicide. While it might have appeared that someone had everything to live for, it probably didn't feel that way to her. If you or a friend are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for online chat, or call 800-273-8255.

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