Thursday, October 20, 2005

Meanwhile, back in the land of Oz...

Dr. Marianne Wyder has allegedly debunked the myth that suicide attempts are "always a pre-meditated, long planned act." This is of interest to me because it's the first i've heard of the myth despite my participating in various suicide fora for over a decade now. I suppose one learns something new every day.

Dr. Wyder astutely observes that:
It's important to understand the differences between those who attempt and those who die by suicide. Suicide and attempted suicide all share intentional or deliberate self-harming characteristics, but differ in the outcome.
Well, yes. The people who die are dead and the people who fail to die are still alive. That's a distinction that cannot be refuted, but the significance of the difference is not entirely clear.

Dr. Wyder, after interviewing 90 people who have attempted suicide, concludes that suicide attempts are impulsive, often influenced by the use of alcohol and other drugs, and that the suicidal impulse quickly dissipates after the attempt has been made. It would be more accurate, though, to conclude that incompetent attempts to die are often impulsive and made while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. The only way the conclusion Wyder makes could be logically extended to all instances of suicide or attempted suicide would be to interview dead people and find their circumstances regarding planning, execution of method, and post-suicide attitude to be the same. However, the dead don't usually give interviews. Maybe they're dead because they spent more time planning a better method and/or because they were more strongly motivated by a death wish that was chronic.

And, of course, Dr. Wyder's conclusions are based on the assumption that the people interviewed are being truthful. Given the circumstances of the interview (i.e., being questioned about the circumstances of their attempt as soon as possible after the attempt), they would have plenty of motivation to lie about how much time they spent planning their death and/or whether they still wanted to die if being truthful meant being involuntarily committed to a psych ward.

If anyone can provide a source for the "suicide is *always* a long-planned act" myth, i'd be glad to hear of it.

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