Sybil Shaver writes:
Reading Stephen White's novel Line of Fire I encountered the following: (in the middle of a discussion of a death which is either accidental or suicide, p. 51 of the hardcover)
"What do you mean 'if she intends to die'? Isn't dying always intent?"
I shook my head. "It helps to think about suicidal behavior having two pairs of defining variables. Picture a simple chi square – a two-by-two graph. On one axis is the dichotomy of intent – the person intends either to die or to survive. On the other axis is the dichotomy of lethality – the person chooses either a method of high lethality or one of low lethality.
"The two-by-two chi square allows for four possible combinations." I turned over our grocery list and sketched a chi-square with four boxes. "People with low intent sometimes choose methods of high lethality. They can end up dying, almost by accident, because death wasn't what they were seeking. The opposite is people who intended to die, but they chose a low-lethality method. They're the ones who believed that five aspirin and two shots of vodka would kill them. But they end up surviving, again, almost by accident."
"You drew four boxes. What are the other two?"
I squeezed water from a rag to use to wipe the counter. "I described low intent/high lethality, and high intent/low lethality. The other two are low intent/low lethality, and high intent/high lethality. People in both those categories get the outcome they intended. Low intent/low lethality is the classic 'cry for help' suicide attempt-someone who intends to survive but is eager for someone else to know about the gesture. That person doesn't wish to die, and she chooses a method that makes death unlikely. High intent/high lethality is the guy who puts a shotgun barrel in his mouth and pulls the trigger with his toes. He intends to die and chooses a method that is damn near certain to do it.'
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