BACKGROUND There is a dearth of information on the motivational aspects of serious suicide attempts, in particular those which involve violent methods. Clarification of the reasons which lie behind such acts may suggest appropriate preventive strategies.
METHOD Interviews were carried out with 20 individuals who had attempted suicide by jumping in front of a railway train. Demographic and psychiatric data were collected for each case and the Suicidal Intent Scale was administered.
RESULTS In most cases the act had been impulsive and was characterised by an extremely high level of suicidal intent. The majority were receiving psychiatric treatment at the time of their suicide attempt. In some cases, survival and the aftermath of the attempt appeared to have a beneficial effect on mental state.
CONCLUSIONS While high levels of psychiatric morbidity and high suicidal intent were common, impulsivity and improved mental state indicate that there are similarities between high and low suicide intent survivors.