Patterns of Suicide Methods in Pickens County (1971-2009)

Alexa Geist, Emalie Houk, Kaila Honaker, Kate Spence, Keegan Beane, Kendall Moran, Kenneth Lindsey, Lily Haeberle, Zade Haliq, Zoie White, Dr. Katherine Weisensee


The purpose of this study is to investigate suicides between public and private locations and violent and nonviolent methods in relation to sex and age. Previous literature states that men are more likely to use violent methods of committing suicide compared to women (Kpowsa and McElvain, 2006), and finds that there is little difference in location of suicides between males and females.


Through collaboration with Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelley and Dr. Weisensee, we manually entered information from death records that occurred between 1971 and 2009 into the online ArcGIS survey to create a digital database. A spatial map was created from each case entered, allowing us to view the data as pins over the area of Pickens County. This study analyzes data from 164 suicides.

Young: 18-30

Middle Age: 31-59

Seniors: 60+

Private: One’s own residence; encompasses the basement, bathroom, bedroom, living room, kitchen, one’s own yard and other (in the home but not specified.)

Public: Any outside location where the act could be witnessed by others and/or at another’s residence. We categorized all suicides that happened in a car (not including CO exhaust asphyxia) under the outside category.

Violent: Asphyxia (hanging, drowning, suffocation by plastic bag), self-inflicted gunshot, self-inflicted blunt force trauma (jumping before moving object, jumping from residence) and self-inflicted penetrating injuries.

Non-Violent: All categories of drug poisoning and carbon monoxide asphyxia from a motor vehicle exhaust.


  • Non-Violent and Female suicides occur more often in Private locations

  • Violent suicides occur more often in public locations

  • Examining Method and Location in Relation to Age

    Considering very few studies in the current published literature have examined differences in method of suicide as it relates to age, we aim to introduce findings on this path of inquiry to establish a foundation for future research.


Our data shows that females are significantly more likely to commit suicide in private locations.

Violent and Non-Violent suicides both occur more in private locations.

Our data supports previous literature that males commit suicide with more Violent methods compared to women, but that Violent methods were the preferred method for both sexes.

There was no significant difference between age groups in terms of Violent vs Non-Violent suicides. All age groups were more likely to commit using Violent means.

Discussion, Limitations and Future Research


  • The hypothesis that females commit suicide more often in private locations was supported. However, 67% of females commit suicide in private locations using violent methods, conflicting with our theory that women choose non-violent means in private locations.
  • Our findings can shed light on the causes and motivations behind an individual’s suicide intentions in relation to their demographics, chosen method and location, which can be used by suicide prevention programs to understand how to target suicide risk.
  • Private location was the most common choice for violent and nonviolent methods, disproving our hypothesis that violent methods occur in public. 


  • A larger dataset could yield more significant results.
    • 7 suicides were not included in our data analysis because their locations could not fit into the private or public categories.
  • Data was taken from a rural county in South Carolina (Pickens County) and therefore caution should be taken when applying and generalizing the findings of this study to larger areas and populations. 


This data may be used to inspire more suicide research and guide suicide prevention techniques by shedding light on which methods are more prevalent among age groups and sexes, while incorporating the element of location. This study also can help inform death investigations when examining female suicides involving violent methods.