Fearlessness about death does not differ by suicide attempt method

Brian W. Bauer, Anna R. Gai, Mary E. Duffy, Megan L. Rogers, Lauren R. Khazem, Rachel L. Martin, Thomas E. Joiner, Daniel W. Capron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Modern theories of suicide, such as the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide, have overcome past conceptual limitations within suicide research by examining factors that help differentiate suicide attempters from those who experience suicidal ideation, but never attempt suicide. One such factor that has been studied extensively is fearlessness about death. Given the varying levels of lethality for different methods used in suicide attempts, an important question is if different levels of fearlessness about death are needed for specific methods. The central aim of this study was to test whether various methods for suicide are associated with different levels of fearlessness about death in a large sample of suicide attempt survivors. Participants were 620 suicide attempt survivors from active military, veteran, and civilian populations. Suicide attempt status was confirmed by two independent raters coding qualitative accounts and participants indicating at least one past attempt with intent to die on other survey items. Results indicated that fearlessness about death does not differ by attempt method and that nearly all methods are statistically equivalent to one another. Despite several methods requiring significantly more time facing mortal fear and severe physical anguish (e.g., cutting, hanging/asphyxiation), as well as certain means being much more lethal (e.g., firearm), differences in ability to enact a suicide attempt with a particular method was not associated with fearlessness about death. This may further indicate the importance of clinicians focusing on practical capability aspects (e.g., means safety, access, comfort with method) with patients at an increased risk for suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Capability for suicide
  • Equivalence testing
  • Fearlessness about death
  • Suicide attempt


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