Saturday, April 16, 2011

Risk factors in suicide

1. The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution: A suicidal person is seeking a 
solution to a problem that is "generating intense suffering" within him or her. 

2. The common goal of suicide is cessation of consciousness: The anguished mind of 
a suicidal person interprets the end of consciousness as the only way to end the 

3. The common stimulus of suicide is psychological pain: Shneidman calls it 
"psychache," by which he means "intolerable emotion, unbearable pain, 
unacceptable anguish." 

4. The common stressor in suicide is frustrated psychological needs: A suicidal 
person feels pushed toward self-destruction by psychological needs that are not 
being met (for example, the need for achievement, for nurturance or for 

5. The common emotion in suicide is hopelessness-helplessness: A suicidal person 
feels despondent, utterly unsalvageable. 

6. The common cognitive state of suicide is ambivalence: Suicidal people, Shneidman 
says, "wish to die and they simultaneously wish to be rescued." 

7. The common perceptual state in suicide is constriction: The mind of a suicidal 
person is constricted in its ability to perceive options, and, in fact, mistakenly sees 
only two choices—either continue suffering or die. 

8. The common action in suicide is escape: Shneidman calls it "the ultimate egression 
(another word for escape) besides which running away from home, quitting a job, 
deserting an army, or leaving a spouse ... pale in comparison." 

9. The common interpersonal act in suicide is communication of intention: "Many 
individuals intent on committing suicide ... emit clues of intention, signals of 
distress, whimpers of helplessness, or pleas for intervention." 

10. The common pattern in suicide is consistent with life-long styles of coping: A 
person's past tendency for black-and-white thinking, escapism, control, capitulation 
and the like could serve as a clue to how he or she might deal with a present crisis.


  1. Steve why did you post this and the previous post? Is someone you know going through depression? Maybe we can pray for the person.

  2. It wouldn't surprise me if there were some Christians who are regular readers of Triablogue who might be going through spiritual depression. One of many good resources (for a Christian) is D.M. Lloyd-Jones' series of sermons (or the book based on the series) titled "Spiritual Depression: It's Causes and Cure".

    One website says that in his book, Preaching and Preachers, Dr. Lloyd-Jones had this to say about this series of sermons:

    "There is a volume of sermons preached by me published under the title Spiritual Depression. The story of how I came to preach that series may help illustrate this matter [of choosing which sermons to preach]. I had actually determined – it seemed to me that I was being led in that way, but undoubtedly it was my own determination – to start a series of sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians. However, one morning while dressing, quite suddenly and in an overwhelming manner, it seemed to me that the Spirit of God was urging me to preach a series of sermons on ‘spiritual depression.’ Quite literally while I was dressing the series took order in my mind, and all I had to do was to rush as quickly as possible to put down on paper the various texts, and the order in which they had come to me, in that way. I had never thought about preaching a series of sermons on spiritual depression; it had never occurred to me to do so; but it came just like that. I always pay great attention to such happenings. It is a very wonderful and glorious experience apart from anything else; and I would not dare to disobey what I regard as a very definite injunction coming in that manner. I am quite confident that the preaching of that series of sermons was dictated to me by the Spirit Himself."

    I'd also recommend Sam Waldron's sermons on Elijah which can be downloaded at

    As well as Thomas Watson's "A Divine Cordial"

    Those three resources (among others) helped me out years ago when I was battling spiritual depression.

  3. Here's a sermon by John Piper on "Spiritual Depression in the Psalms"

  4. Michael Card put out a wonderful book about lament called A SACRED SORROW. It comes with a personal journal for individuals experiencing spiritual depression. I highly recommend it.

  5. AP,

    The issue of suicide came up in a recent post by Dustin.

  6. What about a person suffering a degenerative terminal illness ?

    I would not agree to assist someone suffering from depression commit suicide but I might consider agreeing to assist someone who has a degenerative terminal illness who does not want to 'go gently'

    "Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on that sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

    Dylan Thomas.

  7. Paul Baird said:

    What about a person suffering a degenerative terminal illness ?

    I would not agree to assist someone suffering from depression commit suicide but I might consider agreeing to assist someone who has a degenerative terminal illness who does not want to 'go gently'

    1. Just to be clear: no one here said anything about assisting someone suffering from depression to commit suicide. In fact, the above is taken from a suicide prevention weblog.

    2. I think it's probably best if we're a bit more specific here.

    Degenerative diseases include neuropathological ones such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's, Huntington's, and Tay Sachs. I believe these are the ones which most people tend to think of when they think of degenerative diseases in light of euthanasia. I mean I'd doubt most people tend to think of degenerative diseases like, say, osteoarthritis in this context. Are you referring to one of these neurodegenerative diseases then?

    If so, it's true each of these carries a high burden of disease for the individual. Each includes substantial morbidities which affect a person's daily quality of life. That's putting it mildly too.

    Not to mention they surely have a dramatic affect on caregivers and other loved ones. That's something else to keep in mind. Among several other important factors.

    However, most of these are not terminal if by terminal we mean a disease which has no treatment or cure and which will result in the death of the patient in short order.

    Tay Sachs is the only one I've mentioned that might be considered terminal. But only the infantile, not the adult form would be considered terminal. As a whole Tay Sachs is quite rare though. Although there's a higher than average prevalence among Ashkenazi Jews.

    Nevertheless if you're asking about such a rare degenerative disease like infantile Tay Sachs disease, which is usually terminal by age three or four, then are you perhaps suggesting you'd consider helping a roughly three to four year old commit suicide?

    Or did you have another degenerative disease which is terminal in mind?

    3. But perhaps what you're really getting at is whether and where one should attempt to draw lines in euthanasia? If so, then check out the relevant sections in John Frame's Medical Ethics for starters.