The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part III

Premeditation vs. Passion

Author Scott Anderson in his NYT magazine article, "The Urge to End It All," notes:

Just as with homicide, researchers have long recognized a premeditation-versus-passion dichotomy in suicide.

In premeditation regarding suicide, the "classic signs" of suicidal behavior can be observed. Premeditation requires thought and planning. These include some of the notorious warning signs that mental health professionals encourage people to look for:

  • Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.
  • Expressing hopelessness.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Making statements such as:
    • "Everyone would be better off without me."
    • "I don’t care about anything anymore."
    • "I want to die."
    • –And any mention of suicide–
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Being preoccupied with death or dying.

I’m a premed case, so to speak. My suicidal attempts are the result of a build-up
of emotions over time. If events in my life are consistently negative, my thinking dims and I gain tunnel vision: It can’t get any better. It will never get any better. It will always be like this. I’m instantly
driven to finding an escape route from my life and myself. The only
emergency exit that I find often steers me toward suicide. But if I dwell on the idea of a plan and mull it over in my head, I don’t necessarily talk myself out of it but if my method isn’t easily accessible, it "[allows] time for the dark passion to pass."

Hence, Anderson’s hypothesis on premeditative suicide rings true:

simply, those methods that require forethought or exertion on the
actor’s part (taking an overdose of pills, say, or cutting your
wrists), and thus most strongly suggest premeditation, happen to be the
methods with the least chance of “success.” … The natural inference,
then, is that the person who best fits the classic definition of “being
suicidal” might actually be safer than one acting in the heat of the
moment — at least 40 times safer in the case of someone opting for an
overdose of pills over shooting himself.


"Passion," the term used by Anderson, is the impulsive action of
suicide. This is the act of suicide that isn’t carefully planned or
dwelt on for long periods of time. A suicide born out of passion
usually occurs when a person finds whatever is readily available and
has the likelihood of resulting in immediate death. This was likely the
case for the 13-year-old boy who hung himself a result of not being able to play the Nintendo Wii due to his sister watching TV.
The boy, Jake Roberts, had no history of depression or suicidal
behaviors so the police and parents speculate that it was a spontaneous

… [T]hose methods that require the least
effort or planning (shooting yourself, jumping from a precipice) happen
to be the deadliest.

There’s not much more I can add to that. The contrasts speak for themselves.

4 thoughts on “The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part III

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