Self harm and suicide

Karen notes that of the eight motives for self harming numbers 3, 4 & 5 can lead to an ‘accident’ which could lead to death and that would be more likened to suicide because it is not really an ‘accident’.

Self harm

I think you raise a good point Karen which I discuss in my book. I seek to highlight the differences between self harm and suicide. I propose to see these as two quite different psychological processes. The motives for self harm are outlined and none of them have death as a motive, hence they are not considered suicide attempts. Any act that is designed at least to some degree to cause a persons death is not self harming but a suicide attempt. There cannot be self harm and suicide in the same act, again because the motives are quite different.

However it is not uncommon for people to confuse the two. For instance if a mother see’s her daughter is cutting self it is understandable how she can then conclude that the daughter is suicidal. However this is not accurate.

Having said that we can define three groups of people:

Those who self harm and have no suicidal urges.

Those who have suicidal urges and no urge to self harm.

Those who have suicidal urges and urges to self harm.

There are people who will self harm and can also be suicidal but if it is self harm one can usually isolate quite quickly the motive behind the self harm as I have done in the chart. Most people know when it is a suicide attempt and when it is not. They know when they are attempting to kill self and when they are not.

Pic 1

Pursuant to this there are people who will make it look like they are attempting suicide in an endeavour to manipulate others into some form of behaviour. This is of course not a suicide attempt because the motive is not to kill self but to manipulate others. Sometimes however the person does end up killing self and technically this is also not a suicide but is an accident. One hears some refer to this as an “accidental suicide”, which is a nonsense. One cannot have an accidental suicide as that is a contradiction in terms.

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