Murder suicide

With the recent tragic murder suicide which involved 4 children and three adults, near where I live this comes from my journal article recently published which examines murder suicides. It suggests that murder suicide is really a subtype of suicide. That the decision to murder others first, comes as an after thought to the decision to kill self.

One problem with these is they get huge press coverage and if murder suicide is a sub type of suicide attempt then there is a real possibility of a copy cat effect.


2. If things get too bad I will kill myself and others – Don’t exist (I) and Don’t exist (You)

It involves a person killing self (suicide) and killing another (homicide) often in the one act. Lankford (2014) and (2012), in his in-depth study rebukes the notion that suicide bombers display little psychopathology that is commonly found in the suicidal. He along with others such as Berko (2007), Merari (2010) and Lester (2014) found considerable evidence that suicide terrorists displayed significant signs of psychopathology commonly found in the suicidal such as depression and Post traumatic Stress Disorder. However, more interestingly he found many were suffering with a precipitating crisis event including divorce, unwanted pregnancies, job problems, reports of rapes, addiction to drugs and serious health problems.  Epidemiological studies of homicide-suicide suggest that this is in essence a subtype of suicide. This is further supported by Milroy (1998) who says that in most homicide-suicides the decision to kill self was made before the decision to kill others thus making it primarily a suicidal act. This of course supports the notion of a decision such as,  “If things get too bad I will kill myself and others”. To quote Lester (2014), “In a number of these cases, there appeared to be a direct cause-and-effect link between the crisis and the individual’s decision to seek death.” (p.355). 

Finally there can be what are known as rampage shootings. These usually gain very wide press coverage such as the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, USA where Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 people in 1999. After their shootings both committed suicide at the scene. Assuming these are a variety of murder suicide phenomena then one would argue that they are primarily suicide attempts. 

Whilst suicide bombing and murder suicides are rare events this decision can be seen to occur much more often with the use of a motor vehicle. Cars are easily accessible to large numbers of people and it is simple to use them in a homicidal and suicidal way. One simply gets in the car and accelerates to high speed, especially when intoxicated. Due to its ease of access it makes sense that such individuals will be attracted to this means of homicide and suicide. More will be said about this in the decision “I will kill myself and others by accident”. Many governments have recognised this type of person who will use their vehicle in a homicidal and suicidal manner. State legislation in Australia has what is called the Habitual Offenders Scheme (New South Wales (2013)). A person can be declared a habitual offender if they are repeatedly caught driving a car in a very dangerous manner. 

Clinical implications – similar to decision one above. The therapist is seeking to identify what are the ‘things’ for the client that can get too bad.

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