A thematic analysis of suicide notes

Crisis. 1999;20(3):106-14. doi: 10.1027//0227-5910.20.3.106.

Abstract

The analysis of suicide notes is an integral part of understanding suicidal behaviour. To this end, Leenaars (1996, 1992) has developed the Thematic Guide to Suicide Prediction (TGSP) for profiling the psychological correlates of suicide. The utility of this tool in suicide prevention, however, is not known. This study applied the TGSP to suicide notes (n = 45), interpreted in the light of coroner's inquest papers, drawn from a Northern Irish population. The results yielded support for the existence of psychological suicidal correlates. Moreover, qualitative differences between depressed and not depressed notewriters and those with and without a previous suicidal attempt were identified. For example, depressed suicides were more likely to communicate difficulties in developing attachments, or to exhibit cognitive constriction than nondepressed notewriters. Analysis of age differences was limited because of the paucity of suicide notes (in this sample, written by individuals aged 65 years or older). This research has further helped to identify psychological differences that should be beneficial in the prevention of suicide. Such differences should be integrated into existing risk assessment schedules. It is also argued that the analysis of suicide notes should form one strand in an integrated research framework.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Suicide / psychology*