Excerpt from the book “Need to Know: Teenage Suicide” by Claire Wallerstein
Parasuicide is when people make a suicide attempt, but do not actually want to kill themselves. It is sometimes called deliberate self-harm. Usually, they take an overdose and then call a friend or the emergency services. Or they may carry out the act in a place where they hope to be found and helped. Sadly, this does not always happen. Help may not arrive until it is too late.
Parasuicide is not the same as when people deliberately harm themselves in less serious ways. For example, some people may cut themselves when they feel very stressed or upset. This is not life-threatening, and they do it because the pain somehow helps them.
Parasuicide is usually a cry for help from people, usually girls, who have trouble coping with their problems. They suffer from the same kind of difficulties as those who actually do commit suicide. They may feel it is the only way to make the people around them understand how bad, or how angry they are feeling. Some teenagers commit parasuicide because they want to frighten someone who has upset them and “make them sorry”. This is very dangerous because some parasuicides end in death.
Parasuicide also shows how confused many suicidal young people are. They may want to take drastic action or even kill themselves, but often change their minds quite quickly. Few people are 100 per cent certain that they want to die. Even when they feel at their worst, there is nearly always a part of them that clings to life.
People who commit parasuicide may be told they are attention-seekers or time-wasters. Their families may be very angry and upset, making the person feel even more miserable and guilty. However, people who have committed parasuicide should be taken seriously. They are likely to try it again, and are up to twenty times more likely than the general population to finally take their own lives.