Different Theories of Suicide
A few weeks ago I participated in a twitter chat (@SPSMChat). The discussion was about how Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory was the cause of suicide. The theory is the hypothesis that Perceived Burdensomeness (PB), Thwarted Belongingness (TB), and fearlessness of lethality all contribute to a suicide. Perceived Burdensomeness is when a person thinks they are a burden to society, their family, and their significant others. It is the “better off” type of feelings that are believed to go into suicidal thinking.
Thwarted belongingness (TB) is when a person believes that they are outcasts of society or group they belong to. They feel they do not belong to any such group and thus feel isolated and alone.
Fearlessness of lethality is a premise that the person doesn’t have a fear of death. It is like a Russian roulette towards death. An example of this is taken from the book Myth of suicide by Thomas joiner is Kurt Cobain. He was at first totally against the use of guns but then acclimated to them and then use a rifle to inflict his death. His lyrics speak to his struggle with suicide and depression as well as the pain he was feeling.
While Joiner’s theory does have some merit, it, like other theories of suicide cannot be proven due to the nature of the study. No ethic board would condone the death of the subject to prove a hypothesis.
The other theory that comes to mind is Shneidman’s theory of psychache as a causal factor in suicide. The here is that deep, unbearable pain is the reason behind suicidal thinking and action. In my own personal experience, I thought for a long time that I don’t belong to any group. And I also thought that I was a burden to others. But what drove me to the brink of death was the deep psychological pain that I was feeling, an element that I believe Joiner is lacking in his theory. If you combine psychological pain with TB and PB then you have a nice recipe for suicide.
There is some merits with Joiner’s Interpersonal theory of suicide but I believe whole heartedly he is missing the key element of pain. I really believe that if he adds psychological pain to his theory it will be a valid theory, in my opinion.