First major study of suicide motivations to advance prevention

A University of British Columbia study sheds important new light on why people attempt suicide and provides the first scientifically tested measure for evaluating the motivations for suicide.

Published in the official journal of the American Association of Suicidology, the work gives doctors and researchers important new resources to advance , improve treatments, and reduce the of further attempts.

"Knowing why someone attempted suicide is crucial – it tells us how to best help them recover," says Prof. David Klonsky, UBC Dept. of Psychology. "This new tool will help us to move beyond the current "one-size-fits-all" approach to suicide prevention, which is essential. Different motivations require different treatments and interventions."

The study, based on 120 participants who recently attempted suicide, suggests many motivations believed to play important roles in suicide are relatively uncommon. For example, were rarely the result of impulsivity, a cry for help, or an effort to solve a financial or practical problem. Of all motivations for suicide, the two found to be universal in all participants were and overwhelming .

The study also finds that suicide attempts influenced by – such as efforts to elicit help or influence others – generally exhibited a less pronounced intent to die, and were carried out with a greater chance of rescue. In contrast, suicide attempts motivated by internal factors – such as hopelessness and unbearable pain – were performed with the greatest desire to die.

"It may be surprising to some, but focusing on motivations is a new approach in the field of suicide research – and urgently needed," says Klonsky. "Until now, the focus has been largely on the types of people attempting suicide – their demographics, their genetics – without actually exploring the motivations. Ours is the first work to do this in a systematic way."

More information: The study, led by UBC PhD candidate Alexis May, was published by Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior – the official journal of the American Association of Suicidology.

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Jun 13, 2013
Having had suicidal ideation myself (one attempt) and my cousin three attempts (one successful) I can state that from first hand experience that overwhelming emotional pain and hopelessness were not present in either case.

In both cases it was anger at self that motivated the behaviour. In other words, the study completely failed to identify Non-emotional forms of the behaviour. I have encountered others who have the same form. They typically are logical about their condition (not emotional) and point out such things as 'I am just draining resources and giving nothing material back in return'.

Other forms of suicide, also not identified in the study, are those resulting from pain and terminal illness. People in this condition know they are going to die anyway and think that it would be better to bring that condition forward rather than suffering for no reason.
Jun 13, 2013
Other forms of suicidal thoughts include the suicidal act for religious or nationalistic motivations, suicide as an act of spite and so on.

Those who commit suicide as a spontaneous act were not interviewed but there is ample evidence spontaneous acts do occur and are more likely to be successful eg jumping off buildings, shooting one's self, or driving into the path of a truck on the highway.

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