Definitions and classification schemes for suicide attempts vary widely among studies, introducing conceptual, methodological, and clinical problems. We tested the importance of the intent to die criterion by comparing self-injurers with intent to die, suicide attempters, and those who self-injured not to die but to communicate with others, suicide gesturers, using data from the National Comorbidity Survey (n = 5,877). Suicide attempters (prevalence = 2.7%) differed from suicide gesturers (prevalence = 1.9%) and were characterized by male gender, fewer years of education, residence in the southern and western United States; psychiatric diagnoses including depressive, impulsive, and aggressive symptoms; comorbidity; and history of multiple physical and sexual assaults. It is possible and useful to distinguish between self-injurers on the basis of intent to die.
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