What if Mass Murders are Suicide Attempts?

Did you see the news about yesterday’s suicide? No, you didn’t. News agencies seldom report suicides. Suicide.org offers guidelines to news agencies on how to report suicides because, “the way suicides are reported in the media can either CAUSE suicides or PREVENT suicide.”

Suicide-Mass-MurderBut what if mass murders are suicides? Many acts of suicide include acts of murder as well. There is considerable evidence that most mass murders are actually successful murder suicides. According to the psychiatrist Karl A. Menninger, “murder and suicide are interchangeable acts – suicide sometimes forestalling murder, and vice versa.“.

When someone commits a murder, followed by a suicide, is it a murder, or a suicide?  How should it be reported? How should it be researched? When someone commits a mass murder and then forces the police to kill them, is it a murder, or a suicide?

Suicide.org gives about 50 recommendations on how to report suicides, including this: “DO NOT say “committed suicide” say “died by suicide.” But, Suicide.org’s recommendations for suicide do not mention murder.

We hear a lot about mass murders, but not a lot about suicides.  News agencies avoid reporting suicide.  But if it’s a murder – it’s big news. Even if it’s clearly a suicide, you will hear reporters asking silly questions like “what was the motive” (for the murder), even if it’s clear that the motive was suicide. According to Wired researchers Tricia Wang and Xiao Mina, more than half of multiple murders commit suicide immediately after the killing. Suicide frequencies rise as the number of murder victims rises. James Alan Fox, writing for Crime and Punishment noted that “Mass murderers do not typically see themselves as criminal, but instead as the victim of injustice.

It also makes some sense to view most murders as a form of suicide. Most murder victims are family members. Most murderers are killing ‘a part of themselves’ or their family, that they cannot escape. Hoping that through murder – they can escape. There are clear parallels to suicides, where the victim is trying to escape their life, themselves. Many murderers, not just mass murderers, see themselves as victims.

According to Suicide.org, “The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression.” (my emphasis).  I don’t believe it. It might be valid to state that no-one would commit suicide unless they are depressed, but the claim of ‘untreated depression’ does not make sense. I don’t think many people commit suicide ‘as soon as they become depressed’. Once depression is diagnosed, it becomes ‘treated depression’. It seems more likely that the number one cause of suicide is failure to successfully treat depression effectively.

When we look at murder suicides, mass murder suicides, one very common factor is ‘treated depression’, not ‘untreated depression’.

Maybe the solution to the mass murder problem is simply to recognize that most, perhaps all mass murders are not murders first, they are suicides first. Not every suicide is a murder suicide – not even 1 percent. But most mass murders are suicide mass murders.

If we want to begin to understand, to deal with, and to prevent mass murders, we must begin by recognizing that they are suicides. We need to talk about them, and report on them, as if they were suicides.

We should call them suicide murders, not murder suicides.

to your health, tracy




About Tracy Kolenchuk

Founder of Healthicine.org. Author of two books about healthicine; Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness Healthicine: Introduction to Healthicine
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