Is there a link between divorce and suicide? Divorce is often a difficult and emotionally draining process, leaving many experiencing high levels of stress, depression, and loneliness that can lead to thoughts of suicide. Unfortunately, far too many divorced individuals end up taking their own life – learn the story behind this phenomenon.
Causes for Divorce and Suicide and Its Impact on Mental Health
A year and a half after my ex passed away, my best friend did too. I had talked to her on the phone just a couple of days before she died. We talked every couple weeks. She had seemed okay when I talked to her, but seemed a little down about an upcoming event. When I asked her a few questions about how she was feeling, nothing she said raised red flags to me. Nothing that seemed out of the ordinary to me. Years later our last conversation still haunts me. I wonder if I missed something. Some small detail that maybe she was trying to tell me. My friend dealt with mental illness prior to her divorce, and after she seemed to struggle with it more.
It is important to understand the root causes of divorce and its related mental health impacts before examining ways to prevent suicide in divorced individuals. Divorce may be caused by a range of factors, including physical or emotional abuse, infertility, financial pressures, cheating and incompatibility issues.
However, regardless of the reasons for the breakup, it can be difficult for individuals to cope with this major change in their life and it can lead to feelings of despair or hopelessness. If you already deal with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses, dealing with a divorce and all that comes with it during and after the divorce can be difficult to balance. Divorcing a spouse with mental illness also doesn’t always eliminate worry for that ex spouse.
Understanding How Gender Influences the Relationship Between Divorce and Suicide
How common is divorce and suicide? Suicide in general is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the 2nd leading cause of death amongst those who are age 15-34. Recent research has shown that men are far more affected by divorce than women when it comes to suicidal thoughts and actions. In fact, divorced men are 80% more likely to commit suicide than married or single men. Statistics show that divorced women, on the other hand quadruple their risk of suicide compared to married or single women.
I can’t find any good statistics for this, but I would think there would be an even stronger correlation between divorce and suicide if you are divorcing a spouse with mental illness or even a chronic physical illness like in my situation. One article I found said that “In the United States, the rate of suicide among persons who are divorced or separated is usually reported as about 2.4 times greater than the suicide rate for married persons.”
Social Support in Dealing with Divorce-Related Stress
I can’t tell you how much I miss my friend. Several years later the ache of her being gone is still there. I wonder how her children are doing. Have they gone through and experienced a lot of what my children have? I miss talking to her, visiting her, and our crazy antics when the two of us get together. I miss our talks. The ones where we would talk through how H-A-R-D life felt and by the end of our conversation we were in fits of giggles.
Social support can be beneficial in helping divorced individuals cope with the challenges of divorce. By offering empathy and understanding, friends, family and mental health professionals can provide a listening ear during difficult times and reinforce the message that life is worth living. Professional counseling sessions can also help to facilitate a safe space for discussion, allowing divorcees to talk about their emotions and make sense of their situation.
There are also popular support groups such as Divorce Angels online that may provide additional avenues for socialization and connection.
Take Note of Early Warning Signs and Take Steps to Prevent Self-Harm
Many suicide prevention programs focus on identifying individuals at risk for suicide, and helping them through a crisis. If you know someone who is dealing with a divorce, keep an eye out for potential warning signs that may indicate suicidal thoughts or tendencies. These include extreme mood swings, sudden changes in behaviors and outlooks or seeking access to guns or other lethal items. If you suspect that someone could be in danger of taking their own life, urge them to seek professional help or support from close family and friends immediately.
There are also national hotlines that can provide help for yourself or ex spouse or partner if needed:
- United States: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- United Kingdom: Samaritans – 116 123
- Canada: Crisis Services Canada – 1-833-456-4566
- Australia: Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
- New Zealand: Lifeline Aotearoa – 0800 543 354
- Ireland: Samaritans Ireland – 116 123
- India: Aasra – +91 9820466726
- Japan: Tokyo Suicide Prevention Center – +81 (0) 3 5286 9090
These hotlines are staffed by trained professionals who can provide confidential and immediate support to individuals who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distress. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.
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**This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to treat or diagnose.