SUICIDE INVESTIGATION

Arrowhead Region Law Enforcement Training Association

Sgt D Micheal Moyle


"My sorrow is so wide I cannot see across it So deep I shall never Reach the bottom of it."

Rexroth



INTRODUCTION

In the summer of 1991, Rod Pietala of the Arrowhead Region Law Enforcement Training Association asked me to put together a three-hour training seminar on Suicide Investigation. My first thought was that the topic was too narrow; I would never be able to fill up 3 hours with useful information about suicides. My second thought was that I didn't know nearly enough about it. But Rod makes his living being a tough guy to so no to.....

As I researched the subject, I found out that not only had I not known much about suicide, but much of what I had thought I had known was wrong! I realized that after 20 years of dealing professionally with schizophrenics and manic depressives, I didn't know a thing about their illnesses, much less how to deal with them effectively. I had thought that Depression was just an emotional weakness. I had never questioned what would make a person believe that the FBI was sending "secret radio thought beams" through their coffee pots, or whatever.

I also realized that I have been asking the wrong questions at my on-scene suicide investigations. Most of the suicide investigation reports I had reviewed, cited the wrong evidence of the victims motive. While we were doing a pretty good job of looking at the physical evidence, our attempts to establish "motive" were strictly amateur, based on ignorance of the real reasons that people kill themselves.

My research on the subject got further and further from traditional cop topics. In discussing it with my peers, I've run into some resistance to the notion of looking for psychiatric evidence. And rightfullly so; it is not an area of investigation that many policemen can comfortably muck about in. But no suicide investigation is complete, until it has been established that the victim had a motive for suicide. And in most suicide cases, the motive is best defined in psychiatric terms. So, a good deal of what follows will be a primer on the psychiatric conditions that lead to most suicides.

What started out to be a simple handout, has become a pretty good-sized document. I hope that you will find it useful and the subject matter as interesting as I have.

Its divided into five sections:

Preliminary stuff...Definitions, Statute 390, facts, statistics, myths and misconceptions, and other trivia

Causes and Prevention of Suicide...Severe Depression, Manic Depression, Schizophrenia, Illness, Grief, Personality Disorders, Delusions, Warning signs, Prevention.

Special Suicide Types...Youth and child suicides, Cluster suicides, Jailhouse suicides, Murder- suicides

Common elements of Suicide Investigations...Suicide notes, Time of death, Dealing with psychiatrists, Prior attempts, the Weapon, Multiple means, Planned Suicides, Evaluating bruises

Common Means of Suicide....Gunshot, Hanging, Pills, etc, and the specific needs of investigating each.

Thanks to the St Louis County Medical Examiner's Office, Dr Ronald Abler; to Dr Helen Halvorson of Psychiatric Associates in Duluth, and to Lt John Hall and Sgt Jim Pederson of the Duluth Police Department Detective Bureau, for reviewing the text and for their suggestions and comments.

DEFINITIONS

Affective Disorder any of a number of diseases of the mood-regulation system Can afflict any mammal. Typically, but not always casued by excessive stress, and by a genetic pre-disposition to the disorder.

Asphyxia a condition of lack of oxygen supply to the brain. Can be caused by problems with the circulation of blood to the brain, of by lack of oxygen transfer to the blood. Technically, every death is caused by asphyxia.

Bipolar Affective Disorder Also called Manic Depression. A malufunction of the mood-regulating system that causes long-term extreme mood swings.

Coroner An elected official whose main duty is to investigate mysterious and violent deaths. Has special powers in that regard. Counties in Minnesota that utilize the Medical Examiner system, do not have a coroner.

Delusions A persistent belief in something that is false. When a person's basic interpretation of their sensory input (sight, hearing, touch) becomes delusional, it is most likely caused by an organic disorder of the brain.

Depression a condition of being in a bad or sad mood. Also incorrectly used by laypeople to refer to Unipolar Affective Disorder, aka Clinical Depression, which is a medical condition characterized in part by being depressed.

Ganglia the extreme ends of the longs fibrous extentions of nerve cells. Electro-chemical activity at the ganglia pass nerve signals throughout the nervous system. Conditions at the ganglia affect the ability of the nervous system to operate properly. Each ganglia faces a matching ganglia of another nerve cell, accross a small gap known as a synapse.

Manic Depression (see Bipolar Affective Disorder)

MAO inhibitors a class of anti-depressant drugs, which have their effect by inhibiting the ability of monoamine-oxidase to destroy neurotransmitters near the ganglia.

Medical Examiner a doctor (usually of pathology) hired on a retainer basis by the county board, to examine medical evidence in death investigations.

Neurotransmitters a class of bio-chemicals in the brain, whose function is to be ejected from a ganglia in response to a electric signal, travel accross the synapse to a facing ganglia, and be received by the facing ganglia at a matching receptor site. There are many kinds of neurotransmitters, each having a variety of specific functions in the nervous system.

OCCS an acronym for "Operational Criteria for the Classification of Suicide". Provides a working definition of suicide which is widely used by researchers and statisticians in analysing suicides. Has no standing as a legal definition of suicide.

Organic "originating from the body". An organic disease is one that is caused by any physical malfunction of the body

Pathologist a medical doctor who specializes in the changes caused by disease in body fluids and tissues. Skilled in the determination of cause of death and disease. Clinical pathologists are primarily trained to work in hospital and laboratory settings, for the benefit of other doctors. Most pathologists are clinically trained. Forensic pathologists are specially trained in the field of criminal investigations.

Personality Disorder a non-organic emotional problem or bizarre thinking process, typically caused by exposure to unusual conditions in a person's formative years.

Schizophrenia a poorly understood and ill-defined psychiatric condition, characterized by personal withdrawal, fragmented and distorted perceptions of reality, bizarre behavior, and progressive deterioration. There are several types, which are also ill-defined.

Seasonal Affective Disorder a rare type of Unipolar Affective Disorder which is apparently caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. Causes depression in the winter months. Easily cured by the use of sunlamps several hours a day.

Subpeona a legal paper issued by the court, which requires that a person provide evidence, testimony, or documents in a legal proceeding. Useful in a death investigation if a person refuses to provide information (such as medical records). If you need one, apply to your County Attorney or Clerk of Court, but you can't get one unless the Court has the case on file.

Suicidal display a fake suicide attempt, done "for sympathy", with the intention that the attempt be discoverred prior to death.

Suicide rate The number of suicides, expressed as a ratio of suicides per unit of time, per unit of population. The usual meaning is "x" number of suicides per year, for every 100,000 people in the referenced demographic group. For instance, the US suicide rate in 1989 was 12.7, meaning 31,750 suicides that year divided by 250,000,000 people in America, times 100,000.

Tri-Cyclic-Antidepressants The most popular class of drugs used to combat Unipolar Affective Disorder. They are MAO inhibitors. Sold under a variety of brand names. An overdose is fatal. They do not always work, because UAD can be caused by a variety of different problems.

Unipolar Affective Disorder Also known as Severe Depression and Clinical Depression. An organic malfunction of the mood regulation system that causes a number of emotional and physical symptoms, the most obvious being a depressed mood lasting several weeks or months. It is by far, the most common reason for suicide. The basic cause of UAD is not well-understood; it is most likely the symptomatic result of a number of different malfunctions of the mood system.

MINNESOTA STATUTES, CHAPTER 390

Statute 390 defines death investigations in Minnesota. It recognizes that the investigation of unexplained deaths is a special situation, requiring the granting of special powers and duties to various officials. The statute states that officials will investigate all violent deaths (whether homicidal, suicidal, or accidental), and all unusual or mysterious deaths. They must also investigate all deaths of inmates, and the death of any person whose body will be disposed of in an irretrievable manner such as cremation.

The importance of death investigation goes beyond merely determining if a homicide has occurred. The investigating officials must determine and pronounce the "manner of death". Once established by the investigation, the "manner of death" is significant in civil law, public safety, public health and criminal justice

Insurance policies, for instance, typically do not pay off in cases of suicide; many pay double in the case of criminal or accidental death. A determination of "accidental" as opposed to "suicide" can be of great significance to the family of the deceased, and to the insurance company. The rightful claim of the estate of a deceased killed by another's negligence, will be negated if the deceased is improperly found to have died by means other than an accident. Therefore the common statement that the police do not "work for the insurance company" or "do civil cases", is not strictly true. Death investigation is in many cases, civil in nature, and Statute 390 specifically assigns that work to law enforcement.

Death investigations also impact public safety and public health. Proper identification of the cause and manner of deaths assists public safety officials in identifying unsafe conditions in our environment. Suicidal death is generally regarded by professionals in the field of suicide prevention, as being underreported by death investigators. They think that many coroners and medical examiners fail to identify many suicidal deaths as suicides. If true, this makes it more difficult to determine the behavior patterns that should be warning us of impending suicides.

The statute grants certain parties the right to take temporary custody of the scene of the death, and the body and effects of the deceased. Note that officials do not need a warrant to enter the scene of a death covered by this statute. While this statute does NOT grant the police the right to conduct a warrantless search and seizure spree, it does grant temporary custody of the scene of the death to specific officials, in most cases, the police. Once legally at the scene, the plain sight rule and similar legal exceptions to the warrant requirement may apply. However, before doing any actual searching of the scene, you should consider whether any potential suspect would have standing to object. A warrant or consent to search must be obtained in any questionable case.

Various officials are charged by the statute with responsibilities for various aspects of the investigation, as listed below. Just who gets which responsibilities and authorities, depends on the County Board. The County Board must decide which death investigation system to utilize within its county; the Coroner System, or the Medical Examiner System. The law enforcement community ends up with considerably more responsibility under the Medical Examiner system.

If the coroner system is used, then the coroner is an elected official who is charged with conducting all death investigations. He typically deputizes the local sheriff, to do the actual investigatory work, and hires a pathologist to do the medical examinations. He is not required to do so.

A pathologist is a medical doctor who has received advanced training and education in the medical investigation of deaths. In the case of anatomic and clinical pathologists their formal training generally assumes that their investigations with be conducted in a medical setting, for the benefit of other doctors. A forensic pathologist is a pathologist who has received post-graduate training, in the investigation of criminal deaths. His/her training assumes that the work will be under less sanitary conditions and must be suitable for court use. Since forensic pathologists only get paid half what a clinical pathologists gets, and need a more expensive education, they are hard to find. Their are only 400 forensic pathologists in the United States.

A medical examiner must by a pathologist, by law in Minnesota. In most counties, the job goes by default to the local hosptial's pathologist, who is trained as a clinical and/or anatomic pathologist. The expertise of the hospital pathologist is strongest in the medical aspects of death investigation. Your local, clinically-trained medical examiner may have, on his own, sought additional training in the forensic field, but he has not been required to do so. Because of the limitations of clinical pathology, it may be necessary for a forensic pathologist to advise in the investigation of a particularly difficult death. If your local pathologist or coroner sounds too sure of himself, consider requesting the consult yourself. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Officer is escellent.

The special powers and responsibilities mandated by Statute 390, do not apply to all deaths. They apply to "mysterious, unusual" or "violent" deaths; the deaths of inmates of institutions such as jails; and certain other specific situations involving the dispositions of bodies. Death Certificates regarding such deaths may only be signed by the coroner, probate court judge, or medical examiner, after a proper investigation. The deceased's doctor may sign the death certificate only if it is an obvious natural death, not within the scope of Statute 390. Most suicides are violent deaths, and so should not be signed off by the family doctor.

Coroners and medical examiners have found that there is intense social and legal pressure against ruling that a death was a suicide. The finding of suicide can be easily and often successfully contested by embarrassed next-of-kin, unless it is a straightforward case.

THE CORONER SYSTEM

A coroner, if the county chooses to have one, is an elected official who investigates cases of violent, unusual or mysterious death, and certain other cases. He can do this in spite of the objections of the deceased's family, or any other person, including the deceased. He can conduct an autopsy, regardless of whether or not there is an indication of a crime having been committed. If the next of kin objects to the autopsy, the coroner needs a court order. He is charged with the power (and the responsibility) to "proceed to the body, take charge of it, and when necessary, order that there be no interference with the body or the scene of the death." He can order any person (including the cops!) to be excluded from the scene of the death.

The coroner may determine the "manner of death" on his own, based solely on his own investigation if he so chooses. The coroner also can convene and conduct an inquest, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants arising out of the inquest. Note that an inquest is not a criminal trial, but if the inquest jury decides that a murder has been committed, and that probable cause exists to believe that a certain person committed it, the coroner must issue an arrest warrant for that person.

While he typically relies on law enforcement officials for assistance, the coroner is not required to do so.

The coroner has legal custody of the body, in cases of violent, unusual or mysterious deaths. When a crime is suspected, the coroner may take custody of any material evidence at the scene, without a warrant. He still needs a search warrant to conduct a search of the scene. He can exclude any person from the scene, including the police.

THE MEDICAL EXAMINER SYSTEM

In those Minnesota counties which do not utilize the coroner system, there is no Coroner. The powers of the Coroner are divided up between the Medical Examiner, Sheriff, Probate Court, and the County Attorney.

The Medical Examiner is a hired employee of the County Board. He must be a medial doctor, and is typically either a forensic pathologist, or the local hospital pathologist. He has certain official powers. He has the power to conduct an autopsy, based on his own judgment. If the next of kin objects, he must obtain a court order before doing the autopsy. He may make a final determination of the manner of death if an inquest is not convened. He is not, however, a "mini-coroner"; he is basically limited to the conduct of the medical portions of the death investigation.

The Sheriff (and, by extension, other law enforcement officials working under his umbrella) is mandated to "proceed to the body, take charge of it, and when necessary, order that there by no interference with it or the scene of the death," in cases of violent, unusual or mysterious deaths. Note that this may be an exception to the warrant requirement in some cases. You don't need a warrant to enter the scene of the death at the time of the investigation. (However, it is always best to obtain a search warrant as soon as practical, if there is going to be an actual search, or if the scene is to be kept in custody for an unusual length of time.) In addition, the Sheriff is charged with conducting the investigation into the death, except for the medical determinations.

The County Attorney decides if an inquest is necessary. If an inquest is ordered, it is conducted by the Probate Court. Any duties of the coroner not specifically transferred to the Sheriff, County Attorney, or Probate Court, belong to the Medical Examiner.

DEATHS IN GENERAL

There are four "Manners of Death": homicide, suicide, accident, and natural. "Manner of death" is distinct from "Cause of death". "Cause of death" refers to such things as gunshot wound, heart attack, drowning, self-inflicted knife wound, etc. That is, the specific incident that effected the death. "Mechanism of death" refers to the internal medical bodily dysfunction that caused the death. For instance; if the "manner of death" was homicide, and the "cause of death" was a gunshot to the chest, then the "mechanism of death" might be a massive rupture wound to the heart.

IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THE FINDING

Should you be involved in a case in which you disagree with the manner of death proclaimed by the medical examiner or coroner, you can request an inquest. A coroner has the option of holding an inquest if he wishes, but is never required to do so. The medical examiner has no say regarding inquests; if the county uses the medical examiner system, the determination to hold an inquest is made by the county attorney. If an inquest is held by the coroner, then the manner of death is determined by a jury. Under the medical examiner system, the final determination is made by the probate judge before whom the inquest is held.

DEFINITION of SUICIDE

There is no legal definition of "suicide".

Suicide is generally held to be the intentional taking of one's own life. This is a good working definition, which is adequate for the vast majority of cases. However, suicidologists (psychiatrists specializing in the field of suicide research) complain that many suicides are incorrectly classified as accidental deaths by coroners and medical examiners, in part because of a lack of agreement as to what constitutes a suicide.

For instance, a 1978 California Supreme Court ruling held that a mentally ill person cannot commit suicide, because the mental illness negated their ability to form an "intention". In a recent study, 25% of 200 medical examiners said that the following actual case, was not a suicide: A man challenged his friends to a game of russian roulette. They declined. He then loaded one round into his 6-shot revolver, pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger five times. It fired on the 5th cyclinder, inflicting a fatal head wound.

The same study found that many medical examiners believe that a death should not be classified as a suicide, unless a suicide note has been found.

The Center for Disease Control (a major government medical institute) sponsors the "Operational Criteria of the Classification of Suicide" (OCCS), an attempt to define suicide for medical and research purposes. The OCCS has been endorsed by many of the leading medical groups working in the field of suicidology. The OCCS includes two elements in its definition, which have to be proven by whatever evidence can be discovered: (1) The evidence has to show that the victim died of an intentionally self-inflicted injury or medical condition, which led directly to the death. (2) The evidence also has to show that the victim intended that the self-inflicted injury cause his\her death believed that it would, and understood the consequences of death.

While this definition is largely accepted in the field of suicidology, it has no legal weight. Furthermore, it still leaves many questions open to interpretation, such as the russian roulette example above. Note, however, that it purposely uses the word "evidence" and does not specify what evidence is acceptable. You have to work with whatever evidence you have. Demanding that the evidence include a "suicide note" in a suicide case, is like requiring that every murderer sign a confession before we charge him.

"Proof" of suicide does not have to be "beyond a reasonable doubt." A ruling of suicide is a civi determination; accordingly it is to be based on the "preponderance of evidence."

The definition of intent is open to interpretation, too. For instance, psychiatrists are accustomed to dealing with "suicidal display" in their patients. Suicidal display is a faked suicide attempt, committed (in layman's terms) for sympathy. Displayers do not intend to kill themselves, even though their methods can be lethal. They intend that their "attempts" be discovered in time to save them. If something goes wrong with their discovery plans, they may very well die. Whether such a case should be considered a suicide is a matter of opinion, but according to the OCCS, it was an accident.

SUICIDE FACTS

SUICIDAL PROFILE

There are all kinds of suicides, and all kinds of people commit them. There is no "typical profile" for a suicide victim. If you insist on looking for an easy profile, then there are some characteristics that show up more often. I'll call it the "classic" suicide. If the suicide that you are investigating meets some of the classic profile, then you can have that much more confidence in your recommendation that it was suicide. No suicide that I have ever been to met all of these characteristics.

Here are the characteristics of the "classic" suicide:
sex: male
age:any age over 14
marital status:widowed, estranged, single, divorced, childless
economic status:high standard of living, with economic crisis
health: increasing or new permanent physical disability or illness
area: lives in urban area, but in rural state or region
personal history: broken home in childhood, drug and/or alcohol abuse
personal problems: excessive concern over a personal problem
mental status:major affective disorder

SUICIDE STATISTICS

In the United States, there are 30,000 suicide deaths reported every year. There are about 300,000 attempts reported. This translates into one successful suicide reported every 18 minutes in America, and more than 3 per day in Minnesota. Depending on who you ask, the actual number of suicides is said to be between 25% and 200% higher than the number reported. The number of unreported attempts is felt to be even higher.

It is more useful to talk about suicide "rates" than about raw numbers. The suicide rate is defined as the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 people, per year.

The suicide rate in America is currently 12.7 (that is, 12.7 successful suicides for every 100,000 people, every year). It had increased from 10 to 12.7 between 1958 and 1980, and has been steady since then. Prior to 1958 it had been fairly steady, except for the war years, when it was much lower. Many of the changes in the suicide rate may be the result of changes in reporting practices, rather than an actual increase in suicides. The current rate for males is 20.7, and for females, 5.2.

In general, all economic and social classes have similar rates, but the very lowest class has a lower rate, for unknown reasons. People who have experienced a dramatic change in financial and/or social status (either up or down) have a higher rate.

Urban and rural areas have similar suicide rates, but the western states have a higher rate. This may be due to guns being more available out west.

Minorities in general have a lower rate of suicide than the white majority. Blacks have a rate of only 5, about 1/3 that of whites. However their homicide rate is 3 times as high as whites; 100. (Some suicidologists claim to detect a pattern of unusually self-destructive behavior in black males, leading to a higher tendency to be victims of homicide; they suggest that this may be "suicide by proxy." An Albuquerque New Mexico study of domestic homicides found that in most cases where a black male was the victim, he had specificly taunted his murderer to shoot him during a violent argument.) Indians in general have a lower rate of suicide than whites, except in tribes where the tribal structure is in the process of breaking down, or where the individual has left the tribal support system.

Statistics for child suicides (under 14 years) are unreliable, since few medical examiners and coroners are willing to say that a child "intentionally" committed suicide. However, children as young as 5 years old intentionally do things which result in their death, under circumstances that strongly suggest they intended to die.

Youth (ages 14-25) suicides are the most traumatic for their families. The youth suicide rate has reportedly increased from 5 to 13 in the last 30 years. Youths commit far more attempted suicides than any other group, at a rate of about 800. In one high school that did an in-depth study after a fellow student had killed herself, they found that there was one attempt every month for every 33 kids, a rate of 36,000.

COMMON WISDOMS AND MYTHS ABOUT SUICIDE

Suicide is an emotional subject, and a lot of folklore and wishful thinking has grown up around it over the years. The next chapter is going to talk about the real causes and behavior patterns of suicide, but first, let's comment on some of the things you may have heard, or thought you knew, about suicide.

1. It's someone else's fault.

Not true. The vast majority of suicides are caused by mental illnesses. Some real or imagined problem with another person may trigger an episode of the illness in a few cases. Suicides may blame another person in their final notes or in conversations with friends, but in fact the decision is their own. Through ignorance, most people fail to recognize the signs of an impending suicide, but that does not make it their fault. Suicides are caused by mental illness, not by other people.

2. They're insane.

Between 60% and 90% of suicide completers have either Severe Depression, Manic Depression, or Schizophrenia. This does not qualify them as insane. Most can lead normal lives if they receive and take the right medications. Even without medications, most depressives can function fairly normally. Without medication, schizophrenics look and act crazy. Some suicides are also caused by delusional psychoses and personality disorders; these people would probably fit the layman's idea of insanity.

A few people commit suicide because they have a very painful, terminal illness, or an unacceptable disability. Make your own judgement as to whether suicide would be a rational or insane decision, under those circumstances.

3. It runs in the family

This is true. There is no "suicide gene", but major affective disorders, the most common cause of suicide, definitely run in families. Medical research has even identified the gene which is associated with both Severe Depression and Manic Depression.

4. They want to die

Not true. Suicides may intend to die, but they have the same will to live as the rest of us. What they want is for the pain to go away, and death is the only way to make that happen. They may express a facination with death and violence, but they still ahve the normal will to live. As we will see later, suicidal peoples' brains tell them that they are in constant pain.

5. They can't be helped

Not true. Both kinds of depression, most schizophrenia and many delusional diseases can be treated with medication, and in some cases with support therapy. Unfortunately, finding the right medication is a tricky business, and it frequently does not take effect for 2-4 weeks. Furthermore, the medicines all have side effects, which entice some patients to quit using them prematurely. If the doctor has guessed wrong on the medication, or the patient doesn't take it, there is danger of suicide. In fact, if the medication misfires, the danger of suicide may actually be greater. This is one reason so many psychiatric patients commit suicide.

Even patients with painful terminal illness can be helped. Pain medications can make their final days reasonably comfortable.

People who have severe personality disorders are harder to help. They need long-term, intensive counselling, and there is no guarantee of success.

6. They all leave suicide notes.

Actually, only about 25% of suicide completers have left suicide notes that ever got found. Many suicidal "displays" (faked suicides done for sympathy) are accompanied by suicide notes, but that is a whole different subject. A quasi-science about the interpretation of suicide notes has even developed. Nothing of absolute value to the suicide investigator has been confirmed yet, but some of the tenative conclusions are listed in the chapter on suicide notes.

The suicide motive described in a suicide note should not be taken at face value. The suicide victim is usually mentally ill, with a disease that affects the brain and slightly alters the victim's perceptions of reality. The note may accurately describe the victim's feelings, but not his/her motives. They are too sick to understand themselves realisticly

7. Talking about suicide may increase the risk.

It would seem reasonable to believe that America's socio-religious against suicide helps prevent it, and that talking about it opennly would tend to legitimize it. Nobody has ever proven that this is true, except in the special case of a publicly romanticized suicide leading to cluster suicides (which we will talk about shortly). It is, however, definitely true that a suicidal person needs help. Suicidologists believe that talking about suicide helps. (But then, suicidologists get paid to talk about suicide.)

If a suicidal person has made the decision to kill him/herself, then it is clearly very dangerous not to talk about it.

8. Most suicides happen at night

This is not true. Suicides happen at all times of the day, about evenly. The only exception is the 0400 to 0800 time period, which is quite a bit lower. Most suicides are discovered in the morning, when someone comes to check on the victim who does not keep an appointment.

9. "Cabin Fever" causes suicide

"Cabin Fever" refers to an alleged general restlessness that afflicts northern societies towards the end of winter. Folklore maintains that this leads to depression and suicide. There is no evidence to support this. Actually, more suicides happen in late summer and late spring, as compared with other times of the year.

Some types of Affective Disorder (depression) are seasonal in nature, apparently related to the lack of daytime sunlight. The incidence of "seasonal depression", which is rare, is not enough to cause a noticeable change in the numbers of suicides.

In general, Depression is caused by stress, not boredom.

10. More suicides happen on Monday

This is true, for reasons that are not understood. Most likely, it has something to do with the work cycle.

11. More suicides happen on Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Nationally, far fewer suicides happen on the major family holidays and during holiday periods. However, New Years Day and July 5th are the two most popular days of the year for suicide. There are fewer suicides during the 5-day period before each of the major holidays. The week after New Year's, July 4th and Labor Day all have more suicides. Suicide hotlines report corresponding changes in the numbers of calls they get around the holidays. Psychiatrists notice that depression symptoms are alleviated somewhat during the holidays.

I have yet to find a cop or pathologoist who agrees with this national statistic, however

12. Women commit more suicides

Although women attempt three times as many suicides as men, men succeed at suicide four times as often as women. This may be because men tend to use more violent methods than women.

13. Minorities commit suicide more often.

Dead wrong. Minorities, and the lower socio-economic class in general, commit fewer suicides. Racial minorities in general have a much lower rate than the white middle class majority. However, the suicide rate amongst youths aged 14-25 is about equal for all races and classes. Once members of the minorities leave their birth class, however, their chances of suicide increase. The suicide rate among upper class successful blacks is very high. This is true of successful people in general, but especially for minorities.

14. Old people often commit suicide

True. People between 60 and 80 have a high suicide rate, around 20 per 100,000 per year. This is partly due to them being more susceptible to painful terminal illnesses, and partly because they experience a lot of involuntary and unpleasant changes in their lives, causing more stress and leading to depression.

15. Full moons

Folklore and police-lore notwithstanding, there is no connection between the phases of the moon and the number of suicides.