Suicide and Social Factors

Suicide refers to a deliberate action of taking own life. Suicide is widespread social problem in the United States. Each year, over 40,000 Americans lose their lives through suicide. This death is higher that the number of deaths attributed to HIV/AIDS (Shea, 2013). This problem in more pronounced among adult men. Over half of all cases of suicide in the country involve young adult males of between 25- 65 years. Suicide is also the second largest killer of people between 15-24 years (Shea, 2013). These figures only depict the tip of the iceberg in the suicide problem as only one in every 200 suicide attempts leads to death. This ratio means that many more Americans attempt suicide.
Society plays a fundamental part in influencing the rate of suicide. Kathriarachchi, Perera, Dharmasena and Sivayogan (2004) examined theories that explain the link between suicide and society. Several theories are covered in this literature. The opportunity for suicide theory is one of these theories. This theory suggests that suicide rates are bound to increase in societies where the opportunities for committing suicide are abundant. For instance, widespread gun ownership within a given society can have a striking effect on suicide rates as the availability of gun make it easy for people take own lives. In the U.S., over half of all suicide cases in the country are executed with a firearm.
Another theory that explains prevalence of suicide is the society reaction to suicidal behaviors. This theory suggests that the reaction of a given society towards suicidal behavior will influences peoples attitude towards suicide (Kathriarachchi et al., 2004). Societies react differently to suicidal behaviors. For instance, some Islamic groups view suicide as an acceptable practice while suicide is highly condemned in other religions such as Christianity. Societies that condemn suicide are likely to have low suicide rates than societies where suicide is accepted.
The imitation theory of suicide suggests that glamorization of suicide within a given society leads to high rates of suicide due to the imitation effects (Kathriarachchi et al., 2004). This theory explains glamorization of suicide as the tendency to report suicide in glamorous or favorable ways. Studies have confirmed that suicide rates increased after the coverage of a suicide story in the media. The number of suicides increased at a high rate when the story being reported involves a celebrity or entertainer. The theory explains that members of the public tend to imitate the suicide actions of the people covered in the story. Imitation suicide is more prevalent among teenagers.
The role conflict suicide theory views suicide as a phenomenon that is linked to role conflict. This theory suggests that the rate of suicide within a given society increases when people find it difficult to execute the responsibilities presented to them by societies (Kathriarachchi et al., 2004). The theory explains that people commit suicide when they are unable to manage the demands and expectations of work, family, community, religion and other responsibilities. This theory may explain why suicide cases are rampant among young adult males. Young adult males deal with huge expectations and demands from their families, work, and the community.
Altruistic suicide theory explains that incidents of suicide can become prevalent when the bond between people and the society become very strong (Kathriarachchi et al., 2004). The strong bond between people and their communities motivate people to give up their lives for the society. Subordinate people may give up their lives for their superiors. The altruistic theory of suicide may explain the action of suicide bombers. Suicide bombers sacrifice their lives so as to pursue the course of the group to which they belong. Their actions are highly appreciated within these groups.
The last theory presented in this literature is the egoistic theory of suicide. The egoistic theory of suicide proposes that incidents of suicide are bound to become rampant when the bond between society and people become feeble (Kathriarachchi et al., 2004). Weak bonds between people and society make people vulnerable. The weak bond encourages people to act contrary to social rules, norms and obligation. It encourages people to adopt individualistic behaviors making them prone to self-regulated suicidal behaviors.
Risk Factors
There are more than a few factors that increase a person’s chances of taking own life. Mental illness is among the most significant risk factor. Mental illnesses such as depression, personality disorder, schizophrenia and affective disorders can drive a person to complete suicide (The Scottish Government, 2008). These mental illnesses tend to diminish individual’s capacity to make sound judgment. Consequently, patients suffering from these conditions may contemplate and complete suicide. Prevalence of mental health illness within a given society may increase the rate of suicide. Therefore, societies have to address problem of mental illnesses so as to tackle the suicide problem. Society needs to ensure that people with mental illness can get affordable treatment for their condition.
Drug abuse is another vital risk factor for suicide. People who engage in drug abusing behaviors have a high chance of completed suicide (Shea, 2013). Drugs and other substances such as alcohol tend to diminish individual capacity to make sound judgment. Substance use also increases the risk for developing mental illnesses, which are also risk factors for suicide. Societies that have substance abuse problems are more likely to record high rates of suicide than societies that do not have drug abuse problem. Therefore, it is imperative for society to address substance abuse so as to tackle the suicide problem.
Unemployment and poverty can also be significant risk factors for suicide. Studies have showed that occupation social class and suicide incidents are inversely correlated (Shea, 2013). People with low social-economic status are more likely to commit suicide than people with high social-economic status. This relationship can be explained by role conflict theory of suicide. People with low-social economic status are more likely to experience role conflicts than people from social-economic backgrounds. The poor people are likely to experience challenges in meeting the responsibilities that the society assigns to them.
Protective Factors
There are various factors that decrease a person’s likelihood for committing suicide. The first factor is strong family relationship. Positive family relationships provide individuals with an avenue for channeling their frustrations and challenges (The Scottish Government, 2008). Family connectedness also provides social support that enable members to overcome risks such as poverty, drug abuse and mental illness. People from functional families are least likely to abuse drugs, suffer from mental illnesses or experience poverty. Even when individuals from functional families develop mental illnesses, they are likely to receive treatment before the individuals is severely affected by the illness.
Religious participation is also significant protective factor when it comes to suicide. People who develop faith in a given religion are least likely to commit suicide. Religion tends to give people a high purpose in life (Shea, 2013). It encourages people to look beyond immediate problems and challenges. Religion also cultivates values such as perseverance and respect for the sanctity of life, which tend to discourage suicidal behaviors. Similarly, religion can provide individual with platforms for sharing their problems and challenges. This platform enables individual to cope with difficult situations without contemplating suicide. However, some isolate religious beliefs may encourage suicidal behaviors.
Studies have also found that employment is a protective factor against suicide. People who are in full-time employment are unlikely to commit suicide than individuals who are unemployed (The Scottish Government, 2008). This phenomenon may be explained by the role-conflict theory. The employed are less likely to experience difficulties in fulfilling their family and social responsibilities. In addition, employment may also give individual a sense of purpose; hence, it may increase his desire to live. Similarly, employment environments provide people with social support that enable them to share experiences and cope with challenges.
Suicide has become a widespread phenomenon in the United States. This paper examines this phenomenon and concludes that the high incidents of suicide in the society have originated from many societal factors. Several theories explain the link between society and suicidal behaviors. These theories include the opportunity for suicide, role conflict, imitation, societal reaction to suicide and egoistic theory of suicide. Suicidal behaviors are also linked to a number of risk factor including unemployment, poverty, mental illnesses, and substance abuse. The protective factors include religious participation, employment, and strong family relationships.

Kathriarachchi, S. Perera, E. Dharmasena, R. and Sivayogan, S. (2004). A review of sociological theories of suicide and their relevance. Journal of Humanities and Social Science. 1, 115- 126
Shea, E. (2013). The sociology of youth suicide: Protective and risks factors. Emmanuel College. Retrieved from
The Scottish Government (2008). Risk and protective factors for suicide. Retrieved from

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Submitted On Dec 27, 2017. Viewed 83 times.

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