Chapter 7- Suicide
- It has been estimated that 1 million people die by suicide each year, more
than 38,000 in the United States alone.
- Parasuicides: a suicide attempt that does not result in death.
What is Suicide?
- Suicide: a self-inflicted death in which the person acts intentionally, directly,
- Accordingly, Shneidman distinguished four kinds of people who intentionally
end their lives: the death seeker, death initiator, death ignorer, and death
o Death seekers clearly intend to end their lives at the time they attempt
▪ This singleness of purpose may last only a short time.
▪ It can change to confusion the very next hour or day, and then
return again in short order.
o Death initiators also clearly intend to end their lives, but they act out
of a belief that the process of death is already under way and that they
are simply hastening the process.
o Death ignorers do not believe that their self-inflicted death will mean
the end of their existence.
▪ They believe they are trading their present lives for a better or
o Death darers experience mixed feelings, or ambivalence about their
intent to die, even at the moment of their attempt, and they show this
ambivalence in the act itself.
- Subintentional deaths: a death in which the victim plays an indirect, hidden,
partial, or unconscious role.
- Self-injury or self-mutilation, has been added to the list of DSM
- Nonsuicidal self-injury be studied for possible inclusion in future revisions of
- Self-injurious behaviors are more common than previously recognized,
particularly among teenagers and young adults, and it may be on the
How is Suicide Studied?
- Retrospective analysis: a psychological autopsy in which clinicians piece
together information about a person’s suicide from the person’s past.
- Because of these limitations, many researchers also use a second strategy-
studying people who survive their suicide attempt.
o It is estimated that there are 12 nonfatal suicide attempts for every
Patterns and Statistics
- Suicide happens within a larger social setting, and researchers have gathered
many statistics regarding the social contexts in which such deaths take place.
- Religious affiliation and beliefs may help account for these national
differences. - Research is beginning to suggest that religious doctrine may not help prevent
suicide, as much has the degree of an individual’s devoutness.
- Three times as many women attempt suicide as men, yet men succeed at
more than four times the rate of women.
- Men tend to use more violent methods, such as shooting, stabbing, or
hanging themselves, whereas women use less violent methods, such as drug
- Suicide is also related to social environment and martial status.
- Finally, the United States at least, suicide rates seem to vary according to
- Studies show that factors such as alcohol use, modeling, and the availability
of guns may also play a role.
What Triggers a Suicide?
- Common triggering factors include stressful events, mood and thought
changes, alcohol and other drug use, mental disorders, and modeling.
Stressful Events and Situations
- Researchers have counted more stressful events in the recent lives of suicide
attempters than in the lives nonattempters.
- However, those without such social supports are particularly vulnerable to
suicidal thinking and actions.
- People who illnesses cause them great pain or severe disability may try to
commit suicide, believing that death is unavoidable and imminent.
Abusive or Repressive Environment
- Victims of an abusive or repressive environment form which they have little
or no hope of escape sometimes commit suicide.
- Some jobs create feelings of tension or dissatisfaction that may trigger
Mood and Thought Changes
- Many suicide attempts are preceded by a change in mood.
- The most common change is an increase in sadness.
- Suicide attempts may also be preceded by shifts in patterns of thinking.
- Helplessness: a pessimistic belief that one’s present circumstances,
problems, or mood will not change.
- Dichotomous thinking: viewing problems and solutions in rigid either/or
Alcohol and Other Drug Use
- Studies indicate that as many as 70 percent of the people who attempt
suicide drink alcohol just before they do so.
- It may be that the use of alcohol lowers a person’s fear of committing suicide,
releases underlying aggressive feelings, or impairs his or her judgment and
- The majority of all suicide attempters do have such a disorder. - Research suggests that as many as 70 percent of all suicide attempters have
been experiencing severe depression, 20 percent chronic alcoholism, and 10
- Severe depression also may play a key role in suicide attempts made by those
with serious physical illness.
- A number of the people who drink alcohol or use drugs just before a suicide
attempt actually have a long history of abusing such substances.
- Alternatively, a third factor- psychological pain, for instance, or depression-
may cause both substance abuse and suicidal thinking.
Modeling: The Contagion of Suicide
- It is not unusual for people, particularly teenagers, to try to commit suicide
after observing or reading about someone else who has done so.
- Either way, one suicidal act apparently serves as a model for another.
Family Members and Friends
- A recent suicide by a family member or friend increases the likelihood that a
person will attempt suicide.
- This additional risk factor is often called the social contagion effect.
Other Highly Publicized Cases
- Suicides with bizarre or unusual aspects often receive intense coverage by
the news media.
- Some clinicians argue that more responsible reporting could reduce this
frightening impact of highly published suicides.
Coworkers and Colleagues
- The word-of-mouth publicity that attends suicides in a school, workplace, or
small community may trigger suicide attempts.
What are the underlying causes of suicide?
- Theorists have proposed more fundamental explanations for self-destructive
actions than the immediate triggers considered in the previous section.
The Psychodynamic View
- Many psychodynamic theorists believe that suicid