Explaining suicide: Patterns, motivations and what notes reveal
by Cheryl Meyer, Taronish Irani, Katherine Hermes & Betty Yung. Academic Press. (2017). 262 p.

Suicide is a complex phenomenon. Suicide notes are invaluable as qualitative data for researchers to examine these complexities.

Suicide notes are also among the most important of personal documents that researchers can obtain from the life of a decedent. They are indispensable for their candor. They are an immediate and intimate recording of a person’s final moments. They permit a view into the suicidal mind otherwise hidden.

However, despite popular belief, notes are seldom written at all (estimates range from 5-30%, depending on the sample). The majority of those who die by suicide leave no notes.

Meyer, et al. have published an important book on suicide notes. One aim is to examine whether those who leave suicide notes are representative of the larger population of those who die by suicide.

They draw on data from 2, 936 suicides in Montgomery County, Ohio in the period between 2000-2009. Their sample found 18.25% of decedents left notes. Their final dataset contained 350 notes from 174 writers, a large enough sample to examine a wide array of commonalities and differences as to what motivates an individual to take his or her life.

Online Resources

Trauma and suicide toolkit

This toolkit addresses the relationship between trauma and suicide: trauma places us at higher risk for mental health issues, and also at a greater risk for suicide.

Trauma and suicide in children toolkit

A companion toolkit to the Trauma and Suicide toolkit but with a focus on the relationship of trauma and suicidal behaviours and children. Unresolved trauma in childhood is linked to an increased risk of suicide ideation and if unaddressed, can escalate with age.

Youth at Risk

An online information guide for teens about what to do if someone you know is suicidal, or if you yourself are suicidal.

iE22: Does Canada need a national suicide prevention strategy?

This infoExchange column outlines the importance of a national strategy for suicide prevention, how it could potentially be implemented, and why a framework is not enough.


Tony: Back from the brink

Piksuk Media, Inc. (2014). 45 min.

A victim of childhood violence and neglect, Tony Kalluk spent half of his first forty years in jail or on probation. He was angry, violent; he attempted “suicide by police” but was only shot in the leg. Later something changed; he returned home to Clyde River, became a counselor to others in distress, and started a family. The film follows Tony as he tries to stay on track, while battling his demons from a past that will not leave him alone.