The British Journal of Psychiatry
Two Syndromes of Suicide
IRENE M. K. OVENSTONE, NORMAN KREITMAN

Abstract

A sample of 106 suicides diagnosed in accordance with defined criteria were dichotomized into 50 (the P group) who had a history of parasuicide ('attempted suicide') and 56 who had not (the NP group).

The P group was composed of sociopaths, drug addicts and alcoholics, known to psychiatrists but largely refractory to psychiatric treatment, with long histories of instability, and living in situations of chronic personal and social disorganization; debt and a criminal record were not uncommon. They committed suicide by using drugs, intimated their intent beforehand, and carried out the act while others were in the vicinity.

The NP group comprised relatively more stable personalities with shorter periods of instability, whose suicide resulted from failure to adapt to an acute stress situation, particularly loss of a loved person. They committed the act while alone, used lethal methods of coal gas poisoning and self-injury, and did not intimate their intention beforehand.

It is suggested there are two syndromes of suicide, characterizing different persons.

The implications for preventive action and for epidemiological studies are briefly reviewed.