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A Chronological Perspective on Suicide - The Last Days of Life

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A combined psychological autopsy and narrative approach was used to study the completed suicides of 67 Israeli soldiers. Three issues were addressed. First, the authors examined the typology of the life narratives of suicide completed during active army duty. Second, focusing on the last 3 weeks of the soldiers' lives, they sought to examine their triggers for suicide, emotional state of mind, army duty functioning, and communication of suicidal intent. Finally, they examined military responses to communication of intent, help provision, and help acceptance. Four types of narratives were identified: regressive, stable, tragic (progression and sudden collapse), and romantic (ups and downs). During the last days of life, suicide completers exhibited a split between an emotional state of mind (evidencing an emotional deterioration) and a behavioral military functioning, which was mostly stable. The analysis also revealed a resistance to receive help and a resistance to provide help, both of which impeded intervention. The gap between functioning and emotional distress in suicidal individuals and the incongruence between crisis and help are highlighted. The need to educate military personnel to look beyond duty functioning and the need to develop clear guideline about referrals to professional helps are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07481180701603394

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology and the Gonda Brain Science Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel 2: Mental Health Branch, Israel Defense Forces, Israel 3: The Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences and the Music Department, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel 4: Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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