Suicide and suicide risk factors: A literature review

  • SM Masango
  • ST Rataemane
  • AA Motojesi


Suicide can be defined as intentional self-inflicted death. 1 It is a serious cause of mortality worldwide. Suicide is considered as a psychiatric emergency and the awareness of the seriousness of suicide in our society should not be overlooked. It is a significant cause of death worldwide.1 It accounts for about 30,000 deaths annually in the USA and more than 5,000 deaths annually in South Africa,2 and the prevalence of suicide in our society is on the increase. Etiological factors for suicide include social, psychological and physical factors. But suicide is multi-factorial in nature.1 This review focuses mainly on the associated risk factors for suicide: demographic factors, psychiatric disorders, terminal or chronic medical conditions, and recurrent unresolved psychological stressors.3 Search strategy: The search strategy included research carried out internationally and in South Africa. Computerised database searches were utilised. These covered a wide range of health, educational, occupational and other areas of research. Recent major reviews on suicide and associated risk factors were located electronically and the references in such reviews scrutinised for the relevant articles. The sources of information included relevant textbooks of psychiatry, journals of psychiatry (both local and international), internet search engines like Medscape and Google, and abstracts from relevant articles. Definition of terms • Suicide: self-inflicted death with evidence that the person intended to die.1,2 • Suicide attempt: a self-injurious behaviour with a non-fatal outcome.1,2 • Suicide ideation: thoughts about killing himself or herself. Suicide ideation may vary in seriousness depending on the specificity of suicide plans and the degree of suicide intent.1,2 • Lethality of suicide behaviour: objective danger to life associated with a suicide method.1,2 • Deliberate self harm: injurious act without the intent to die.1,2

South African Family Practice Vol. 50 (6) 2008: pp. 25-28

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190