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Suicide methods

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This is a list of a number of common suicide methods that are used by people who wish to commit suicide.


  • 1 Burning oneself (self-immolation)
  • 2 Car collision
  • 3 Drowning
  • 4 Electrocution
  • 5 Hanging
  • 6 Jumping
  • 7 Lethal injection
  • 8 Overdosing
  • 9 Plastic bag method
  • 10 Poisoning
  • 11 Seppuku
  • 12 Shooting
  • 13 Slashing throat
  • 14 Slashing wrists
  • 15 Starving to death
  • 16 Suffocation by Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning
    • 16.1 CO Poisoning by Car Exhaust
    • 16.2 CO Poisoning by Burning Charcoal
  • 17 Suicide by cop
  • 18 External links
  • 19 Further reading

Burning oneself (self-immolation)

Main article: Self-immolation

Self-immolation is the act of setting oneself on fire, often practiced as a form of protest against a particular governmentor regime. Burning to death can take several minutes, making this a painful way to expire. Self-immolation is not foolproof; if done in public, a suicidal person might be stopped by people nearby. A person who survives self-immolation may still suffer extensive burns. An accelerantsuch as gasolineis frequently used to hasten death.

Car collision

Also known as autocide, suicide by deliberately driving a carinto an immobile object such as a concrete barrier. The distinction between a genuine accident and a vehicle suicide can be very difficult. It is also possible to commit suicide by intentionally crashing an aircraft.


Suicide by drowningis deliberately entering water and staying there long enough for it to fill the breathing channels. This might be done by walking into water with heavy objects attached to the body to prevent buoyancy or escape. One might drive into water or jump off a ship or boat. This method risks permanent brain damageif rescue arrives after the brain has been deprived of oxygenfor several minutes.

If a car is driven into water, it will usually stay afloat for quite some time before sinking. After submerging, the pressure outside the car will be greater than the pressure inside, preventing its occupants from opening the doors until the interior fills with water and the pressure has equalized.

Suicide by drowning could also be done by jumping from a bridge; see the section on Jumping.


Suicide by electricity. Electricity through the body can seriously disrupt nerve signalsand cause death if the current is strong enough and affects enough of the body.

Water is often involved, as water is a good conductor of electricity. A common method is to sit in a bathtubfull of water and throw in an electrical device that is plugged into an outlet. Fusesinstalled in the electrical device can potentially thwart this method when a short-circuitoccurs.

As with other forms, electrocution is not always fatal and can result in brain damage or other neurological impairment.


Main article: Hanging

Hanging is typically performed in the one of the following three ways:

  1. Drop hanging. After putting a noosearound the neck and tying the other end to some fixed object, a person jumps or drops himself from a height with the aim of breaking the neck.
  2. Vertical position. A person strangles himself using their own weight. This is slower than the previous method. Strangulation is usually performed by standing on an easily-movable object such as a chair, putting a noose around one's neck and attaching the other end to a fixed object above one's head, and then kicking the object away.
  3. Horizontal position. This is usually done when conditions do not allow for other means. The person puts a noose around his neck and attaches the other end to something that sticks out (e.g., a doorknob or water tap) and then uses his own force to push away from it, or establishes himself in a position where gravity can help. Due to prolonged asphyxiation, blood may pool in the eyes before death. Note that a violent seizure might occur causing unexpected disturbance.


  1. Jumping from a tall building or from a bridge. The impact can shatter organs and tissues. If a person jumps from a bridge into water, the person may die by drowning rather than by impact, especially if the bridge lies low over the water.
  2. Jumping off the stern of a ship. This is done by jumping off the stern of ship into cold water and ultimately drowning. The chances of rescue are small since hypothermiasets in rapidly; it is also difficult to turn a ship around in time for any serious rescue attempt. This method occurs on cruise ships, cross-channel ferriesand so-called "love-boats."
  3. Jumping under a train, tram or car. The damage done depends on the speed and type of the vehicle. Being struck by a vehicle takes less damage and is less lethal than being run over. Nevertheless, just an arm or a leg may get under the wheels, and the person may survive handicapped.

Lethal injection

Injection of a harmful chemical substance, drug or air into the bloodstream. Injecting enough air into a vein causes an air embolismand acute heart failure. The effect of drugs or other chemicals injected into the bloodstream depends on the chemical and quantity injected. This method is not always effective or lethal.


This method involves taking a large dose of medication, such as sleeping pills, antidepressants, painkillers. Due to the unpredictablity of dosing requirements, death is uncertain and an attempt may leave a person alive but with severe organ damage. Drugs taken orally may also be vomited back out before being absorbed. Overdosing may also be performed by mixing medications with one another or with alcohol or illegal drugs. This method may leave confusion over whether the death was a suicide or accidental.

Painkilleroverdoses are among the most unpleasant things for medical personnel to deal with. Often these are teenagers taking over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol(acetaminophen) in a 'cry for help', believing that these everyday drugs will not cause too much damage. Paracetamol overdoses cause very painful liver failure over a period of days, so it is common for people to regret their choice in hospital when it is too late to do anything about it: there is currently no medical treatment for liver failure except a liver transplant. People who overdose on paracetamol may have no serious adverse symptoms for days afterwards; the effect of a paracetamol overdose can be reversed if medical treatment is sought within a few hours of taking the drug.

Plastic bag method

A large plastic bag (e.g. a refuse bag) is used for this method, often combined with sleep-inducing drugs, a near overdose or other ingredients such as bicycle glue rubbed under the nostrils. The glue is thus inhaledand causes hallucinationsor drowsiness. The plastic bag is fastened tightly around the neck with a strap or rope. Unconsciousness or sleep rapidly sets in as a result of lack of oxygento the brainand the use of drugs (e.g. sleeping tablets). Since the combined use of drugs often results in a deep sleep or unconsciousness, the person then eventually suffocatesduring sleepwithout being awareof this. This method is generally lethal since the person has no further control over his or her will after becoming unconscious or falling asleep.

If the onset of unconsciousness is not rapid, carbon dioxidebuild-up in the bag will cause rapid, shallow breathingsometimes known as "air hunger". To avoid this, some people use an inert gas, such as a tank of nitrogenor heliumto purge the bag of oxygen and minimize the build-up of carbon dioxide. The addition of Nitrous oxidemay also accelerate unconsciousness and act as an anesthetic. Overall, there may be a riskof brain damageshould this method be rendered incomplete.


Use of known poisons. Effectively the same as overdosing; however, the chance of success is higher though the dosage required still varies from person to person. Because the most potent poisons are usually inaccessible to the general public, this method was traditionally used by people in power, such as politiciansor militaryleaders.


Main article: Seppuku

Japaneseritual method of suicide, practiced mostly in the medieval era, though some isolated cases appear in modern times. The most widely-known part of seppuku in western society is probably the slashing of the stomach; however, the ritual is far more complex than that. Dressed ceremonially, with his sword placed in front of him and sometimes seated on special cloths, the warrior would prepare for death by writing a death poem. With a selected attendant (kaishakunin, his second) standing by, he would open his kimono, take up his wakizashi(short sword), fan, or a tanto(knife) and plunge it into his abdomen, making first a left-to-right cut and then a second slightly upward stroke. On the second stroke, the kaishakunin would perform daki-kubi, a ritual in which the warrior is all but decapitated (a slight band of flesh is left attaching the head to the body). In the case that a fan is used (usually when the person is very young or particularly evil) the kaishakunin would perform the daki-kubi the moment the fan touched the person's stomach.


This method involes using a firearmon oneself. It is used more frequently in countries where firearms are easier to obtain. It is debatable, however, if that increases the number of suicides in general; it might be that it just increases the number of people choosing this method. In countries where firearms are harder to obtain, this method is sometimes still used, especially by people who use firearms in their work (e.g., soldiers or policemen).

The lethality of the method depends on where the shot is aimed, usually the side of forehead or the mouth (both ways ultimately aimed at the brain). In some cases the heart is chosen as a target, but it is harder to aim correctly. A shot to the stomach will cause a slower death, which will be caused through blood loss rather than organ trauma. Brain or heart damage kills a person more quickly; however, the gun must be powerful enough for that to succeed.

As in other shootings, shooting suicides have a high mortality rate but occasionally result in seemingly miraculous survivals where the bullet causes little or no damage to life-critical faculties. Some studies have shown that in Western nations, males tend to use this method of suicide more often than females, which has been cited as one potential reason for the higher suicide success rate among men. Though most men shoot themselves in the head, women tend to shoot themselves in the heart to do less facial damage.[1]

Slashing throat

Cutting through the throat. Here, death is caused by blood loss or blood clogging the trachea. It was also practiced as a ritual suicide method in Japan, used by noble women for the same purposes as seppukuwas used by men. This method cuts the major arterywhich leads to the brain and it takes no longer than few minutes to lose enough blood for the wound to be fatal. It is almost impossible for someone to stop the person from dying, especially if it is done alone.

Slashing wrists

Cutting through the wrists until the one of the arteries is reached. People choosing this method die because of blood loss. This method is also frequently used as self-harm, and it is not an immediately lethal method; therefore, not all people who slash their wrists intend suicide.

Slashing wrists may damage tendonswhich could cause partial loss of the suicide's ability to control their hand.

Starving to death

This type of suicide, known as Upwasto Hindusand Jains, is considered the only legitimatesuicide method, because it cannot be done impulsively and the person spends the time beforehand detaching themselves from the world, in meditation.

It takes a long time and is rare in western society. Also, when a person collapses due to starvation, it is still possible in most cases to save them by injecting nutrients intravenously.

Suffocation by Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

Suffocationenough of a gaswhich disrupts the body, usually through failure of the respiratory system. In most cases carbon monoxide(CO) is used for this, as it is easily available as a product of combustion; for example, it can be released by cars and some types of heaters. Carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless, so breathing it is almost unnoticeable. However, CO moleculesattach themselves to hemoglobinin the blood, displacing oxygenmolecules and denying sufficient oxygen levels to the body, eventually resulting in death.

There was a euthanasiadevice invented on this principle where a person using it would have to breathe out of it a few times and then could die.

CO Poisoning by Car Exhaust

In the past, suicide by carbon monoxide poisoningwas usually achieved by running a car's engine in a closed space such as a garage, or by connecting the car's exhaust pipe to the inside of the car with a hose. Air-quality regulations have begun to rule out suicide by this route though, as catalytic converterswere designed to clean up the exhausts and remove all but a trace of CO.

CO Poisoning by Burning Charcoal

When carbon monoxide poisoning via car exhaust has become less of a suicide option, suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning — that of burning charcoalor other fossil fuelwithin a confined space, such as a small room, tent, or car — began to rise. Such incidents have occurred in connection with group suicide pactsin both Japan and Hong Kong. (See Also: Wikipedia?s suicide pactentry, which includes an extensive discussion of ?Internet Suicide Pacts?.)

Suicide by cop

Main article: Suicide by cop

The practice rates for suicide by cop have increased over the years. It entails the act of someone purposefully behaving dangerously in front of a law enforcementofficeror other armed officer so that the officer would use his weapon to kill. Sometimes people use toy weapons and appear they are a threat.

External links

  • Befrienders Worldwide Online Suicide Helpline

Further reading

  • Stone, Geo: Suicide and Attempted Suicide. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001. ISBN 0-7867-0940-5
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