The Crisis of Lethality in Suicide

The Crisis of Lethality in Suicide


This paper investigates the crisis of lethality in suicide. The paper bases its argument on research from primary sources including books and recent publications. Many scholars have conducted researches to examine the dynamics of suicide using interpersonal theories. Upon review of several literature materials, it is evident that suicide is a crisis that requires serious and urgent intervention measures. People who commit or attempt suicide have certain characteristics. This paper will examine these characteristics and assess the significance of triage assessment form in addressing lethality. It will also explain the differences between homicide and suicide.


Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in United States and Europe. France (2007) estimates that in United States alone, 250,000 people attempt suicide each year. Only 30,000 succeed translating it to around 25 people per day. In spite of the rise in the numbers, only a few scholars have engaged in empirical research on the subject. This paper will employ psychological theories to explain dynamics of suicide and characteristics of people who commit (or attempt) suicide. Additionally, it will compare suicide and homicide and extrapolate the use of triage assessment form in addressing lethality.

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Dynamic of Suicide

The interpersonal theories of suicide explain that people who commit suicide have the “desire to die by suicide and the ability to do so” (Leenaars, 2004, p. 65). The desire to die by suicide develops when an individual has two extreme, and opposite, emotional states at the same time and for a prolonged duration. The emotions clash and lead to a state that Roberts (2005) calls “perceived burdensomeness, sense of low belongingness or social alienation” (65). The interaction of the two or three states leads the victim to contemplate suicide. The three states, in the presence of ability to commit suicide, shape the dynamics of suicide.

Characteristic of People who Commit Suicide

The major characteristic of people who commit suicide is depression. When people lose hope and develop a sense of futility, the chances of committing suicide rise. People who feel helpless and sad most of the times are likely to commit suicide. More than 50% of people who attempt to commit suicide cite depression (Roberts, 2005). The number is however not verifiable because respondents could have memory lapse or intentionally distort information. People who have gone through traumatizing experiences such as war and accident are likely to feel a sense of futility in life and hence commit suicide. Individuals who play victims all the time or feel guilty about something in the past are predisposed to commit suicide.

Similarities between Homicide and Suicide

The most direct similarity between the two is that both lead to death. Additionally, both are unlawful. Both homicide and suicide result from similar factors. For instance, people who earn low income are more predisposed to commit suicide than those from high-income bracket. As observed before, depression is the leading cause of suicide. James (2008) reports that depression also drives people to commit homicide. Though the extent of predisposing factors varies, the factors do not change. Those with guilt feelings are also likely to commit suicide or homicide. There are those who argue that suicide is the opposite of homicide but such comparisons fail to take cognizance of the facts that life is lost in both cases and the predisposing factors are the same.

Triage Assessment

Triage assessment forms enable clinicians determine whether there is cause for alarm for patients who show suicidal tendencies. Clinicians supply the patient with a form containing several assessment yardsticks. From the form, he or she is able to determine suicide lethality. The clinician then classifies the patient as mild or extreme and recommends appropriate measures. The assessment forms are crucial in determining lethality but lack the means to verify given information (Roberts, 2005). A patient may experience memory lapse or distort information deliberately. This diminishes the validity of the forms in assessing lethality.


France, K. (2007). Crisis Intervention: A Handbook of Immediate Person-to-Person Help. Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher, LTD.

James, R. K. (2008). Crisis intervention strategies. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Leenaars, A. A. (2004). Psychotherapy with Suicidal People: A Person-centred Approach. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Roberts, A. R. (2005). Crisis intervention handbook: Assessment, treatment, and research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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