Phenomenological Psychological Autopsies: A Survivor Driven Model For Understanding Suicide
Mitchell, Elizabeth Ann
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Over a million people worldwide die by suicide each year. 32,000 of these deaths occur in the United States. Strikingly, that number is miniscule in comparison to the 300,000 additionally recorded and 775,000 estimated non fatal attempts in that same year's time (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008; Maris, Berman & Silverman, 2000). In 1999, suicide was recognized by the Surgeon General as a serious public health issue (Satcher, 2000). The purpose for this study was two-fold. First and foremost the effort was to increase knowledge about why people die by suicide. Secondly, the author hoped to assess the suitability and advantage of using the qualitative method known as phenomenology to conduct psychological autopsies. The findings from this study cannot be generalized because of the number of participants and the nature of the method. However, the findings are thought- provoking and present a telling picture of the struggles of both the decedents and their survivors. The narratives, when compared to the presented theories, demonstrate the way in which few people perfectly fit a theoretical mold.