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Chapter 10

PSY240H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Suicidal Ideation, Altruistic Suicide, Suicide Attempt

Course Code
Ayesha Khan

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Abnormal Psychology
Chapter 10: Suicide
Suicide is both an unusual act and a surprisingly familiar one.
Suicide is a serious health concern in Canada, as it is in many
industrialized countries throughout the world
The suicide rate for Canadians as measured by the World Health
Organization (WHO) is approximately 13 per 100 000 people per year,
and suicide rates across the country have increased dramatically over
the last five decades
Suicide accounts for nearly one in four (24%) deaths among
Canadians aged 15 to 24 and is the second-leading cause of death for
those between the ages of 10 and 24
One in four teenagers admits to attempting or seriously contemplating
Suicide is one of the three leading causes of death worldwide among
people 15 to 44 years of age
More people die from suicide than from homicide
The impact of suicide on surviving family members and friends is huge.
They experience guilt—over not having prevented the suicide, over
things that were said to the person who committed suicide, over things
that may have contributed to the suicide.
The WHO says that suicide is a deliberate act of self-harm taken with
the expectation that it will be fatal.
Suicide-like behaviors fall on a continuum.
Types of Suicides:
Four types of people who commit suicide:
oDeath seekers
Clearly and explicitly seek to end their lives
Their intentions to commit suicide may be present for a
long time, during which they prepare for their death by
giving away possessions, writing a will, buying a gun
Most often, their intentions are fleeting
oDeath initiators
A clear intention to die but believe that they are simply
hastening an inevitable death
Many people with serious illnesses who commit suicide
fall into this category
oDeath ignorers
Intend to end their lives but do not believe that this
means the end of their existence.
They see their death as the beginning of a new and
better life.
Suicide bombers who believe they will receive
tremendous rewards from God for their acts are
considered death ignorers.

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oDeath darers
Ambivalent about dying, and they take actions that
greatly increase their chances of death but that do not
guarantee they will die.
A person who swallows a handful of pills from the
medicine cabinet without knowing how lethal they are
and then calls a friend is a death darer
Death darers may want attention or may want to make
someone else feel guilty more than they want to die
Acts in which people indirectly contribute to their own death, perhaps
unconsciously, as subintentional deaths.
Most researchers and theorists, however, reserve the label suicide for
deaths that are intentionally caused by the individual
Suicide Rates:
It is difficult to obtain accurate suicide rates
Sometimes, it is absolutely clear that a death was a suicide—a note is
left, the person had been threatening suicide, or a revolver is still in the
victim's hand, with powder stains that could only mean a self-inflicted
Many deaths are more ambiguous, however, particularly when no
notes are left behind and no clues remain as to the victim's mental
state before the death
Accurate data on non-lethal suicide attempts are even more difficult to
obtain, particularly since more than half of all people who attempt, but
do not complete, suicide never seek professional help and thus may
not be diagnosed
The statistics on the rates of suicide in various groups are probably
gross underestimates
Internationally, an estimated 1 million people die by suicide each year,
or one person every 40 seconds
Large differences in suicide rates exist between men and women,
among age groups, and among cultural groups, but the characteristics
of the individuals who attempt suicide and those who complete it are
Gender Differences
In Canada, males are more likely to commit suicide than are females
We might have expected that rates of suicide in women would be much
higher than in men, since women are more prone to depression than
men are and depression is often associated with suicide.
A study of high school students found that girls were much more likely
than boys to have considered or planned a suicide attempt
Men and boys are four times as likely as women and girls to complete
This gender difference in suicide completion rate is true in many
nations of the world and across all age ranges

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The gender difference in rates of completed suicides may be due in
part to gender differences in the means of attempting suicide.
In Canada, males are more likely to use irreversible methods in which
less opportunity to prevent death exists, such as suicide attempts by
hanging and firearms; females are more likely to use drugs, poison,
and gases, in which a better chance of preventing death remains
In comparing the differences in suicide methods by gender between
the United States and Canada, suicide by gun was found to be the
most common way women in the United States commit suicide, at 39%
of all female suicides
This difference in suicide by firearm between women in Canada and
the United States may point to differences in the availability of guns in
the two countries.
Men tend to be surer in their intent to die when they attempt suicide
than women, and this is why they choose more lethal means
Men may feel that it is not masculine to be ambivalent about their intent
to die or to communicate this intent to others in hopes that they will be
prevented from succeeding
Women, on the other hand, may be more comfortable in using suicide
attempts as cries for help
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases impulsive behavior, and guns
provide a means for carrying out suicidal thoughts.
Men are more likely than women to drink alcohol when they are highly
distressed and may have more ready access to guns
In some countries, women are at least as likely as men to commit
suicide. For example, in China, women account for 55% of all suicide
Gender roles probably interact with cultural beliefs about suicide to
influence rates in both women and men.
The gender gap is due to selective underreporting of female suicide
Ethnic and Cross-Cultural Differences
Within Canada, substantial differences are seen among ethnic groups
in rates of suicide, with immigrant groups being much less likely than
native-born Canadians to commit suicide
Immigrant rates differ significantly by continent of birth
People born in Europe and Oceania (e.g., Australia, New Zealand)
have relatively higher suicide rates than people from Africa and Asia
The presence of ethnic communities in these cities is suggested to
provide a protective effect. Finally, suicidal ideation, plans, and
attempts do not appear to differ significantly by generation level or
degree of acculturation
Cross-national differences exist in suicide rates, with higher rates in
much of Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Australia, and lower
rates in Latin America and South America
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