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People with disabilities, more risk of suicidal behavior

Suicide is a social problem that is more present in people with disabilities. Both risk and protective factors must be known.

The risk of behaviors related to suicide has increased in recent years, mainly, more often in some social groups, such as people with disabilities.

Becoming aware of which groups are more likely to experience this type of behavior is necessary, as well as knowing how they can be avoided and what aspects cause them.

The State Disability Observatory (OED) of the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030 next ILUNION Accessibility for CERMI and Royal Disability Trusthave carried out an investigation: “Suicide in people with disabilities in Spain”.

The relationship that suicide and people with disabilities share has been analyzed, revealing that suicide obeys multicausal risk factors and that it has a greater rate of repercussion in this group. Specifically, in people with disabilities due to mental disorder, kidney failure, brain injury and physical disability.

The analysis of risk factors and the importance of strengthening protective factors has also been emphasized.

What risk factors increase suicidal behavior?

According to the study, suicide risk factors occur in different areas and act in a combined and cumulative manner.

In this case, people who are part of a minority group different from the normative standard are more at risk of suffering suicidal behavior since they are usually in the spotlight, bear more prejudice and stigma and can be discriminated against and even all socially excluded.

Luis Miguel Bascones, social consultant of IL·LUNION Accessibility and director of the studyexplains that disability must be understood as a varied group of the population, heterogeneous, and not only by profiles, but also by age.

“The situation is different when it comes to a disability acquired at a traumatic time in life, than if it is a congenital or prenatal disability,” he points out.

Who is most at risk for suicidal behavior?

In the case of men, the behavior is more impulsive and more of them end up committing suicide. The role that gender roles play is one of the main reasons why they don’t express how they feel and therefore don’t ask for help, they just drag it out in silence.

On the other hand, the women they are the most tentative, however, being more communicative they end up asking for help. In addition, they are less compulsive than men, so there are fewer women who end up committing suicide.

Social exclusion is one of the risk factors. EFE/David de la Pau

Social, community and individual risk factors

The available studies agree that the combination of different factors, both from the psychophysical and social and community spheres, increase suicidal behaviour.

Some aspects are common in the population but occur more frequently in the disabled group:

  • Map of the health field: difficulty in accessing health resources and, in particular, mental care.
  • Social field: economic crisis and pandemic are aspects that lead to more emotional tension, social stress and unwanted loneliness.
  • Bullying: it occurs when people are building their personality, a critical stage in the lives of minors.
  • Situations of dependency and lack of support: when a person perceives that it can be a burden, especially in cases where the disability is overdue.
  • chronic pain
  • Mental health disorders.

Elena Ortega Alonso, Director of Social Consulting at IL·LUNION Accessibilitypoints out the need for a “multilayered” approach that acts on different levels with the aim of counteracting the risk factors and strengthening the protective factors.

The importance of protective factors

The director of the study points out that protective factors are key when it comes to reducing behaviors related to suicide:

  • Community inclusion, participation.
  • Accessibility to public spaces, affecting education and leisure.
  • Supports the family network, which plays a crucial protective role.
  • Enhancing individual qualities such as competence or emotional intelligence.
  • Communication skills.
Disability suicidal behaviors risk
The Social Consultant of IL·LUNION Accessibility, Luis Miguel Bascones, at the presentation of the research. Image provided by CERMI

Plan of proposals

When it comes to counteracting the risk factors of suicide, there are several lines of action available, such as: Mental health action plan and the suicide hotline (024)in which they have already asked that the media be accessible and that they incorporate the necessary requirements of people with disabilities.

The deputy director of the Knowledge and Health Area of ​​the Spanish Red Cross, Fátima Cabello Sanabriahighlights the success of the implementation of this phone.

“There are more than 45,000 calls to the 024 telephone registered in four months, more than 1,500 have been referred to 112 and 300/400 calls are being answered a day with an average attention of 25 minutes”, he explains.

On the other hand, they are betting on the construction of an inclusive and diverse society through education, which ends the stigmas, prejudices and taboos that are present there. In addition to promoting an education based on respect and equity.

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