Title page for ETD etd-03152006-222905

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Praetorius, Regina T.
URN etd-03152006-222905
Title Suicide and Community Traumatic Events: Is There a Connection?
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Human Resource Education Workforce Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Krisanna Machtmes Committee Co-Chair
Michael Burnett Committee Co-Chair
Frank Campbell Committee Member
Margo Abadie Committee Member
Priscilla Allen Committee Member
Satish Verma Committee Member
David Spruill Dean's Representative
  • suicide prevention
  • community-based suicide prevention
  • trauma
Date of Defense 2006-02-23
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this study was to determine if a relationship exists between community traumatic events (CTEs) such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the temporal distribution of suicide in a metropolitan Louisiana parish (county) in the Southern United States over the period of January 1, 1994 to December 31, 2004.

The researcher used data on suicides (homicides and accidental deaths were used for comparison) in the selected parish to describe the distribution of suicides over the 11 year period. A procedure was developed for identifying and categorizing CTEs sustained by the selected parish (county). A spectral analysis of the distributions was planned to identify patterns and assess whether these were related to the sustained CTEs. However, the spectral analysis was not completed due to violation of the necessary assumption of stationarity. As an alternate means of assessing relationships between CTEs and the distribution of suicides, Pearsonís Correlation Coefficient was employed.

Two key conclusions are that no relationship was identified between the occurrences of CTEs and the distribution of suicide and, although the literature identifies patterns due to different aspects of seasonality (e.g. month of the year), the Werther Effect, and contagion or clustering of suicides, this study does not support these patterns.

In research dating back to Durkheimís landmark piece, Le Suicide [Suicide: A Study in Sociology] (1897/1951/1979), identified patterns have been studied and explained as functions of a variety of phenomena including inclement weather, cultural differences, social isolation, inactivity, and media coverage. However, in current research and supported in this study, patterns are almost imperceptible. This may be explained by two plausible theories: (1) statistical tests previously employed were not appropriate for detecting patterns and (2) advances in communication and adapting to inclement weather has diminished the impact of these elements.

The primary implication of these findings is that suicide prevention programming should be ongoing and aimed at entire communities. A key recommendation is that this study be repeated on a national level, complementing the current research design with phenomenological psychological autopsies of a random sampling of those who died by suicide.

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