This effort was initially encouraged and supported, in part, by the Suicide Prevention Research Center (SPRC) at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, Las Vegas, Nevada. Principal investigators were G. Thomas Shires, MD, and John Fildes, MD. The Denver VA VISN 19 MIRECC sponsored a meeting of the MIRECC Nomenclature Workgroup in July, 2005, which resulted in the preparation of this revision. The Director of the Denver VA VISN 19 MIRECC is Lawrence E. Adler, MD. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Denver VA VISN 19 MIRECC.
Rebuilding the Tower of Babel: A Revised Nomenclature for the Study of Suicide and Suicidal Behaviors Part 1: Background, Rationale, and Methodology
Article first published online: 31 DEC 2010
2007 The American Association for Suicidology
Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
Volume 37, Issue 3, pages 248–263, June 2007
How to Cite
Silverman, M. M., Berman, A. L., Sanddal, N. D., O'Carroll, P. W. and Joiner, T. E. (2007), Rebuilding the Tower of Babel: A Revised Nomenclature for the Study of Suicide and Suicidal Behaviors Part 1: Background, Rationale, and Methodology. Suicide and Life-Threat Behavi, 37: 248–263. doi: 10.1521/suli.2007.37.3.248
Earlier drafts were read by David A. Jobes, PhD, Herbert Nagamoto, MD, and Pamela J. Staves, RN, MS, NP. The co-authors appreciate their contributions, critiques, and recommendations.
- Issue published online: 31 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 31 DEC 2010
- Manuscript Received: June 15, 2006 Revision Accepted: October 8, 2006
Since the publication of the O'Carroll et al. (1996) nomenclature for suicidology, there have been a number of published letters and articles, as well as an active e-mail dialogue, in response to, and elaborating upon, this effort to establish a standard nomenclature for suicidology. This new nomenclature has been presented on a number of occasions at both national and international meetings. In this paper we provide the background, rationale, and methodology involved in the process of revising the O'Carroll et al. nomenclature, based on the feedback and discussions that have ensued over the past 10 years.
Those who have written and studied the phenomenon of suicide have not defined the term so simply … how the word is defined has implications and large effects for statistics that are compiled on the official number of suicides, and for researchers, so that there is clear communication regarding what and who is being studied.
Among writers in the field of suicidology there is no single common accepted definition … the term suicide refers not to a single action but more broadly to a great many varied behaviors. For example, one can speak of suicidal thoughts, intentions, ideation, gestures, attempts, completions, equivalents.
Thus far, no single term, definition, or taxonomy has served to sufficiently represent the complex set of behaviors that have been suggested as suicidal. A standard set of terms and definitions are greatly needed to advance the science of suicidology and aid communication and understanding of the field.
McIntosh (1985, pp. 18–19)