Understanding Suicide: A Four Quadrant Model

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

This story is based on a model originally developed for the practice of social work in the 1970s. It has been adapted over the years to show how we can explore and understand suicide from a community-based and suicide-safer living perspective. The model includes both societal and personal actions. It is guided by two axes of actions to help with direct and other intervention options. One axis tells us who is Engaged (the person or others). The other tells who is intended to Benefit (the person or categories of people). The outcomes include suicide and life.


Suicide is known throughout human history. Mostly as a stigmatized death, often criminalized or treated as a mortal sin. Although most societies acknowledge it as a legal classification of death, suicide generally remains stigmatized and shrouded with taboo restrictions against open talk, and reluctance to provide unconditional acceptance and caring support for those bereaved and grieving.


A Mortal Sin


"Suicide is known throughout human history. Mostly as a stigmatized death, often criminalized or treated as a mortal sin. "

At a person level, suicide is a generally viewed from a psychological orientation and seen as a way of thinking that can lead to injury (minor or major) and/or death. Suicide is of said to be “an effort to stop the unbearable flow of negative effects.” Ed Shneidman, considered to be one of the founders of modern suicidology, described the effect as “psych ache” and believed the relationship contributors to this pain came from physical, biological, spiritual and social pain/difficulties.

Here is a graphic of how these contributors and their connections might be wholistically represented.















Consciousness


Suicide involves a conscious thought about dying, ranging from partially to fully formed.

Suicide involves a conscious thought about dying, ranging from partially to fully formed, fleetingly to frequently thought about. It generates from varying levels of unbearable/intolerable mind pain that are usually closely connected to deeply personal (sometimes secretly protected) life experiences. Conscious thoughts of suicide often generate a belief that “suicide is the only way out” and the “only way to do it is by a specified method, which may lead to deliberate acts with no, little or greater intent to die. Choosing a deliberate act can lead to non-fatal injury (minor or major) or death.

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