Diagnosing Self-Destruction


And also, Matthew Nock is professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard in Cambridge. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Nock.

NOCK: We know there’s no simple answer, and as you were highlighting, we have identified risk factors for suicide, so we know that in the U.S. people who are white, people who are male, people with a mental disorder, people with a family history of suicide or mental disorders, are at higher risk. What we haven’t done yet is developed an understanding of why it is that people with these characteristics are at high risk.

Taking this – approaching this from another angle, when we ask people who have tried to kill themselves but survived, whether they’re in the emergency department or in the hospital, why they tried to kill themselves, to try and get an understanding of this problem, the primary, the number one explanation that people give is they’re trying to escape.

They’re trying to escape from some seemingly intolerable situation. They feel trapped. They perceive this situation is unbearable and it’s going to go on forever and so they’re trying to get out of a bad situation rather than to die.

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