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What Is Parasuicide?

Engaging in self-destructive behaviors is a common symptom of parasuicide.
Eating disorders can be considered a form of parasuicide.
Suicide is the third-highest cause of death among people who are between the ages of 10 and 24.
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  • Written By: Bethney Foster
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2014
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Parasuicide is a deliberate act of self-harm that appears to be a suicide attempt though the person committing the act did not intend for the act to be lethal. Sometimes called suicide gestures, most mental health professionals see these acts as a means for a disturbed person to express a need for help. These acts are most commonly carried out with a low-toxicity overdose.

Women between the ages of 15 and 25 are most likely to make a parasuicide act. There is an established link to poverty among those who make suicidal gestures. It is most common among married teen women, divorced women, and single women.

Among people ages 10 to 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Following young women, the second most likely group to make a suicide gesture are unmarried men in their 30s. Women attempt suicide twice as often as men, but when men do attempt to kill themselves they are four times more likely to die.

Other mental health issues, such as depression or alcoholism, are usually present in someone who makes a suicide gesture. Relationship issues are often present in those who make a parasuicide act. Difficult life circumstances are also often a factor. These can include unemployment, legal issues, and illness.

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When someone makes a suicide gesture, she doesn’t necessarily want to take her own life; however, a parasuicide attempt is the most common factor in the history of those who eventually do kill themselves. Other signs that someone may be contemplating suicide include talking about suicide or death, giving away possessions, and engaging in self-destructive behavior such as cutting. Suicidal ideation is thinking about and talking about suicide. This in itself may be a cry for help similar to that made by those who commit parasuicide. If suicidal ideation doesn’t result in the person receiving the help he seeks, the next step may be parasuicide or actual suicide.

For those who are contemplating suicide or parasuicide, there are toll-free lines that are staffed 24 hours a day. These people can call one of these hotlines, such as 1-800-SUICIDE. If a person is in imminent danger of self-harm, call 911 or other emergency responders. Do not leave the person alone and remove anything from the home, such as medications and firearms, that the person could use to inflict self-harm. Talk to the person and take concerns seriously. Seek help from outside professionals.

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