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Suicide without explicit precursors: a state of secret despair?

By David V. Canter, Susan Giles and Catherine Nicol


Although it is usually assumed that all those who commit suicide give some prior indication of their intention to take their own life, there is growing evidence that a small but significant proportion of suicides occur without clear, explicit indicators. It is proposed that these suicides emerge from similar pathways to other suicides but the despair is not expressed so clearly, often being kept secret. In order to identify such suicides and potential suicides it is helpful to have an indicator of the dominant sub-sets of constituents that are precursors to suicide. Support for three prototypical sub-sets; illness, life circumstances and depressive history, was provided from an MDS analysis of a scale of suicidal precursors applied to 128 cases of suicide that occurred between January 1997 and December 2000 in Stockport (South Manchester). These are offered as coherent themes in the life of potential suicides, which may be of assistance both in determining whether an equivocal death is suicide or not, and in alerting caring agencies to the potential for suicide even when the despair is kept secret

Topics: BF, H1, HV
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

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  1. Deceased had communicated suicidal intent <1 week prior to death
  2. Deceased had communicated suicidal intent >1 week prior to death
  3. Deceased had experienced bereavement of relative/close friend
  4. Deceased had made a previous suicide attempt
  5. Deceased has suffered a recent stressful life event (<1 year)
  6. Deceased was diagnosed as suffering from a chronic physical illness
  7. Deceased was diagnosed as suffering from depression Table 1. Description of SSA variables. Numbers in brackets represent frequency of occurrence of variables Life Circumstances Suicidal History Physical/Mental Illness
  8. Deceased was suffering from a psychiatric disorder (not depression, substance abuse or schizophrenia)
  9. Marital (50) Deceased was divorced/separated/widowed at time of death
  10. Note (63) Deceased left a suicide note
  11. Schizo (8) Deceased was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia
  12. Sub.Abuse (31) Deceased had a history of substance abuse and/or alcoholism
  13. Substance Abuse (31) 6. doi
  14. (1991). Suicide and suicide attempts in cancer patients. doi
  15. Unemp (72) Deceased was unemployed/retired/on the sick at time of death

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