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Expanded suicide: what it is, how it occurs and why it creates controversy

The concept of suicide expandedAs a result of several unfortunate events in recent years, she has become known. It is about the act of first murdering a loved one and then committing suicide.

Next we are going to define in more depth what this expression is about, what diagnostic criteria are used by experts in the field to define when there is a case of extended suicide, risk factors and comment on why it is an expression with controversy.

  • Related article: "Suicidal thoughts: causes, symptoms and therapy"

What is Expanded Suicide?

Extended suicide is a tragic event in which the individual first ends the life of a loved one, usually a son or daughter, and then commit suicide. The victim of the person who will end up committing suicide is usually a person for whom she has appreciation, and considers that, far from taking away her future, she is saving her from an adverse future.

In this type of homicide it is not that the mother, or the father in what situations, hates her children or other close beings, or has had a largely negligent behavior towards them. We are not talking about a case in which the homicidal-suicidal person has previously committed ill-treatment.

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Suicide is not given as an act of repentance for the murder of a loved one, but they coincide in time. She first makes sure to take her life and then take it from herself.

Usually, the person who commits this act is deeply depressed, having a very pessimistic idea of ​​how the future will go for both him and her loved ones. Due to this thought pattern, and considering that there is no way out of the impasse that she thinks she is in, the mother or father decides, as an act that she understands as altruistic, to end the life of her son and then to end his own.

The way in which the life of the child or loved one is killed is usually more or less fast and, in most cases, as painless as possible. The homicidal person tries to avoid all suffering to her son, despite the fact that she is doing him the greatest evil of all evil: murdering him. These "mild" and less traumatic murder methods include the use of psychotropic drugs, release of gas, stabbing in strategic and rapid bleeding areas, throwing off a large height...

According to Save the Children, about 24% of the deaths of children registered since 2012 were murders perpetrated by their mothers, 36% by their fathers and 7% as a consequence of suicide due to bullying. The remaining 33% of child deaths were due to reckless homicides or murders carried out by people outside the family. About a third of mothers who murder their children later attempt suicide, and 23% of them succeed.

What signs indicate that you are facing this type of homicide?

There are diagnostic criteria to determine that there is a case of extended suicide, or that the person runs the risk of trying to take the life of a loved one and later attempt suicide. The most notable are the following:

  • Intention of the aggressor to die.
  • Inclusion of a second person in the suicidal act without her consent.
  • Suicide is not a consequence of homicide. They are given at the same time.
  • Altruistic or pseudoaltruistic motivation (p. eg, “save my son suffering”).
  • Spontaneous decision, without realizing the consequences of his act.

Risk factor's

Different explanations have been given to understand why a person, in most cases of women who commit homicide-suicide, commits extended suicide, although in most cases the explanation turns to psychopathology, especially when you suffer major depression.

In most cases, these are women who are depressed, either due to mistreatment or other factors such as marital breakdown and financial problems. They are so desperate that they don't believe there will be a better alternative than death. It is especially common when the person has psychotic or delusional symptoms, such as those found in paranoid schizophrenia.

Suicidal history prior to this extended suicide attempt, whether successful or not, has been shown to be a risk factor. Besides this, suffer from a serious personality disorder, as is BPD, it is something that can significantly influence the achievement of this type of homicide-suicide. Substance use and intoxication can also contribute to its occurrence.

To all this, do not make the mistake of stigmatizing mothers those who have had or are going through a depressive episode, have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or, in the past, have committed suicide attempts. As we have already seen, mistreatment and marital problems, along with employment and economic problems, can influence which a person is She feels so overwhelmed by events that she sees no way to keep the children safe, and decides to end it all at once. time.

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A controversial concept

Killing a child or other loved one, whatever the motivation behind committing this type of crime act, it is something despicable and of course it cannot be justified in any way, whether woman.

The concept of expanded suicide has been criticized, given that, sometimes, and as some of the media put it, rather than treating it for what it is, a homicide followed by a suicide, is presented very differently from the part aggressor. Depending on the ideology of the medium, the murder of her child by a mother can be seen either as a heroic act against the macho society, or just the opposite, emphasizing the lack of criticism towards the behavior of those who have killed.

It is important to note that there is little information about the number of cases in which, really, she would be facing an extended suicide itself. That is, the mother ends the life of her offspring because she does not see a promising future.

In these cases we would be facing a person who is suffering a psychological problem, mostly of a depressive type combined with psychotic symptoms and delusions. This does not forgive the homicidal act, but allows us to understand that whoever has done it does not do so out of revenge or hatred towards the husband or the victimInstead, he thinks he's being altruistic.

On the other hand, there would be the idea that, indeed, there are cases, although few, in which the mother would not have a mental disorder someone and the homicidal act would have been committed in a context of domestic violence, in a situation that would have left her hands.

The records in which the cases of extended suicide are taken into account are made a posteriori, that is, once they have happened and the suicidal person can no longer explain the reality of him because he is dead.

This means that the investigation, although efficient in most cases, does not always know exactly what the motivation of the murderer-suicide was. If the person was depressed but did not see a professional, there will be no medical or psychiatric history that allows contextualizing the murder and, if it were the case that she was the one who was abusing but her husband did not reported them, it becomes difficult to be sure whether the husband's statements after the event are true or invented.

Final reflection

Before all this, there is room for a final reflection, and that is that Mood disorders and domestic violence should not be underestimatedWhoever the aggressor and the victim are.

Everyone can suffer, at some point in their lives, a depression, which can be aggravated depending on the personality characteristics of the individual and the factors external to it, such as the experience of mistreatment that hundreds of women suffer every day and that is related to the majority of cases of extended suicide seen in the media. It has to do with the situation in which he has lived and certain factors that have predisposed him to believe that the best thing to do is to end everything in this way.

Anyone can live in a situation that, far from seeking a realistic solution or seeking the support of loved ones and authorities, believes that the best end of all is death. The person suffering should be helped as soon as possible, react to symptoms of extreme sadness that may indicate psychopathology, see if you are giving a progressive isolation or the person does not show signs of enjoying what before liked.

It is for all this that it is vitally important to understand that units should be established and promoted. psychiatric specialized in seeing how the mother-child bond (or father-child as the case may be) occurs to watch if there is a risk of this type of homicide-suicide being committed. In addition, interventions in the face of suicidal crises should be refined and guarantee that, especially, the child or loved one involved in the suicidal act is not injured.

The intervention must be multidisciplinary, in which psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and doctors work collaboratively and coordinated to ensure the maximum well-being of both the mother / father and her children in a case of mood disorder. Greater sensitivity is also necessary on the part of other professionals who do not work directly with psychiatric patients or cases of abuse, such as gynecologists, family doctors and pediatricians.

Bibliographic reference:

  • Meszaros, K., Fischer-Danzinger, D. (2000). Extended suicide attempt: psychopathology, personality and risk factors. psychopathology, 33 (1), 5-10. doi:
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