(Received 4 August 1993; accepted 8 October 1993)
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Differences in the characteristics of those individuals choosing violent methods of suicide in South Yorkshire were studied. With the exception of jumping from a height, these methods were more frequently used by males, with a particular male predominance in deaths due to self-immolation, railway collision, hanging, firearms, and electrocution. The most potentially painful/disfiguring methods of suicide, jumping from a height, self-immolation, and railway deaths, were favored by the young. Drowning, stabbing and cutting and electrocution were common among the elderly. Severe mental illness was common amongst those choosing some of the most painful or disfiguring modes of death (jumping from a height; self-immolation; cutting/stabbing and road traffic “accidents”) particularly when compared to the principal alternative of hanging. The same group of causes of death was associated with a high proportion of individuals who had previously attempted suicide. Severe mental illness was not so obviously a feature of the railway or firearm deaths.
Hanging represented more than half the cases included in the study and showed a sex ratio of over 4 to 1 in favor of males. However, all seven individuals of non-European origin, six of whom were female, chose to hang themselves. Whereas half of the females aged under 40 jumped from a height, hanging was the method of choice in the age group 40 to 59. Among males, hanging was particularly favored by those with what might be considered an impulsive reason for suicide, namely, the end of a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. A high proportion of these were intoxicated with alcohol and a high proportion left a suicide note.
Senior Lecturer in Forensic Pathology, University of Sheffield, Medico-Legal Centre, Sheffield,
Senior Lecturer in Forensic Pathology, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne,
Stock #: JFS13643J