[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
February 1976

The Communication of Suicidal IntentA Reexamination

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (Drs Kovacs and Beck), and the Philadelphia General Hospital (Ms Weissman), Philadelphia.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1976;33(2):198-201. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770020042006

• Verbal expressions and nonverbal indicators of suicidal intent have been frequently regarded as pleas for rescue and help. We investigated the clinical and empirical significance of verbalizations of suicidal ideas, putting one's affairs in order, and previous suicide attempts as forms of "communication of suicidal intent." The patient sample consisted of 211 suicide attempters: 71 "communicators" and 140 "noncommunicators."

The results indicated the following: (1) there is no clear evidence that verbal communication, final acts, and previous suicide attempts are justifiably labeled together as ways of communicating suicidal intent; (2) prior verbalization of suicidal ideation or intent bears little relationship to the extent of the wish to die experienced at the time of the suicide attempt; and (3) "talking" or "not talking" about suicidal plans may be a manifestation of personal style rather than an index of despair or hidden motives.