Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Firearm Suicides among Males in Australia: An Analysis of Tasmanian Coroners' Inquest Files

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Firearm Suicides among Males in Australia: An Analysis of Tasmanian Coroners' Inquest Files

Article excerpt

Eighty-nine male completed suicides who used hanging were compared with 388 male completed suicides who used firearms for 45 variables concerning the circumstances of the suicidal act and the personal characteristics of the men. All came from the Australian state of Tasmania during a twenty-year period from 1968-1987. It was found that those choosing firearms less often had a history of suicidal behavior and psychiatric problems, more often were reacting to interpersonal conflict and more often left a suicide note. Thus, the motives and psychodynamics of a potential suicidal act may provide clues to the choice of method for suicide.

Keywords: men, suicide, firearms, hanging

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In a recent study in this journal, Tewksbury, Suresh and Holmes (2010) compared men who commit suicide by firearm with those who use hanging, both considered to be violent methods, in a sample of 419 male suicides in Kentucky. In a multiple regression analysis, older age and a higher body mass index predicted the use of firearms, as did the use of alcohol or drugs prior to the act. Race, marital status, employment, leaving a suicide note, and the location of the suicidal action were unrelated to the choice of method. The present study was based on a series of consecutive suicides in Tasmania (Australia) over a twenty-year period (1968-1987) which has a richer set of variables with which to compare men using these two types of method for suicide. The aim was to see whether the findings of Tewksbury et al. can be replicated and whether additional clues to the choice of method for suicide by men can be ascertained, and so the sample was restricted to men using hanging and firearms for suicide as in the study by Tewksbury et al.

There have many attempts over the years to find differences between those using different methods for suicide. It has long been known that men use more lethal and more violent methods for suicide--firearms rather than overdoses (Lester, 1984)--as do psychiatric patients in general and psychotics in particular (Lukianowicz, 1975). Kaplan et al. (1996) found that the use of firearms for suicides was more common in white males over the age of 65, those living in rural areas, the divorced and widowed and those with less education. Chia, Chia, Ng, and Tai (2011) found that, in Singapore, the use of hanging for suicide (rather than jumping, the two most popular methods for suicide in Singapore) was more common in older individuals, men, and Indians (rather than Chinese or Malay), and they were less likely to leave a suicide note and to have a major psychiatric disorder.

Kaplan, McFarland, and Huguet (2009a) found that military veterans in the United States were more likely to use firearms for suicide than non-veterans (especially those 18-34 years of age), a result probably related to the increased ownership of gun by veterans and their greater familiarity with their use. For the United States in general, Kaplan, McFarland, and Huguet (2009b) found that the use of firearms for suicide was associated with older age, veteran status, raised blood alcohol concentration, and acute crisis and relationship problems, and less common if there was a history of psychiatric illness and attempted suicide. In Taiwan, Chuang, and Huang (2004) found that men and younger individuals were more likely to use firearms for suicide.

It is of greater interest when data on the personal characteristics of the suicides and the circumstances of the suicidal act are available, as in the study by Tewksbury et al. (2010) mentioned above. In Australia, De Leo. Evans, and Neulinger (2002) reported that men who used hanging (rather than firearms and car exhaust) were younger, less likely to leave a suicide note, more likely to have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, more likely to have made prior suicide attempts, and to have no physical illness.

The present study sought to examine the generality of these findings in a sample of 787 male suicides from one region in Australia, 89 of whom used hanging and 388 used firearms. …

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