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August 13, 1973

Suicide in Released Prisoners of War

Author Affiliations

Pomona, NJ

JAMA. 1973;225(7):747. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220340051020

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To the Editor.—  The recent suicide of CAPT E. A. Brudno, a Vietnam prisoner of war (POW), has led psychiatrists to comment about the trauma of captivity (Time, 101(25):67, 1973), the publicity upon return, and difficulty in adjusting to spouses and family. In addition, mention might be made of a hypothesis previously proposed in a LETTER (219:757, 1972) that amelioration of suffering can facilitate suicidal behavior, since the loss of suffering removes an external apparent cause of the individual's distress and suffering. The individual is then forced to confront the internal causes of the distress—that his own unhappiness has its source in his own personality. Suicide thereby becomes a more viable option. Patients who were blind but who had their sight restored them were used to illustrate the hypothesis. Returning POWs may well serve as good examples of the hypothesis also.