Murder-Suicide: When Killing Yourself Isn’t Enough

Although murder-suicides are relatively uncommon, they account for 5% of all homicidal deaths in this country, and murder-suicides appear to be occurring with increasing frequency in the USA. Medical studies estimate that between 1,000 and 1,500 deaths...

Additional Considerations for Law Enforcement Officers

Do not be afraid to ask if a person has had thoughts about homicide, suicide, or both. You will not be giving them any new ideas. Here are specific questions that will assist in your risk/lethality assessment. All suicidal subjects should be evaluated for homicidal ideation, and all homicidal subjects should be evaluated for suicidal ideation. Suicide is an act of aggression; in essence suicide is homicide turned inwards—murder in the 180th degree.

Spousal Conflict:

  1. Have you ever thought that if you killed both of you all of your problems would be over?
  2. Have you ever wondered if it would be better for both of you just to get life over with?
  3. I know you love your husband (wife), does that love include helping him/her avoid a painful death?
  4. Have you ever discussed ending your lives together?



  1. Now that I know you are thinking of suicide, I’m wonder what will become of your children if you die?
  2. Have you ever felt it was your duty to take care of your family no matter what happens?
  3. How will you care for your family if you are dead?



  1. Who seems to be pushing you towards suicide?
  2. Who do you see as being the root of your problems?
  1. When you think about the problems suicide would solve, do any of these problems occur at work/school?

Finally, ask the person what plans they have related to death and their funerals. The more detailed the plan, the higher the risk. Ascertain whether there are guns in the house or not. Remove guns and other methods to kill. Remember that separating the perpetrator and victim may appear to be appropriate in order to diffuse the tension and protect the victim; however, separation is often the trigger for violence in murder-suicide cases (especially the elderly).


Related Forums Threads:

About The Author:

Pamela Kulbarsh, RN, BSW has been a psychiatric nurse for over 25 years. She has worked with law enforcement in crisis intervention for the past ten years. She has worked in patrol with officers and deputies as a member of San Diego's Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) and at the Pima County Detention Center in Tucson. Pam has been a frequent guest speaker related to psychiatric emergencies and has published articles in both law enforcement and nursing magazines.

  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.