Suicide by self-immolation: Causal and contributing factors

Date of this Version


Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Citation only

Ellis-Smith, T., & Doley, R. M. (2016). Suicide by self-immolation: Causal and contributing factors. In R. M. Doley, G. L. Dickens, & T. A. Gannon (Eds.), The psychology of arson: A practical guide to understanding and managing deliberate firesetters (pp. 68-81). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Access the publisher

2016 HERDC submission

© Copyright, 2016 Rebekah M. Doley, Geoffrey L. Dickens and Theresa A. Gannon




The current chapter provides an overview of the complex topic of self-immolation, or setting oneself on fire, in an effort to identify the factors contributing to its current prevalence. The chapter considers both the historical factors that have contributed to the relatively tacit acceptance of self-immolation in some cultures and some of the more recent influences on its prevalence. Sociological perspectives on self-immolation are provided by describing cultural factors associated with the rise in the frequency of the act in several countries. A recent psychological theory of suicide is also identified and its relevance to the understanding of self-immolation is discussed. In addition, interventions to reduce self-immolation are identified, and issues associated with treatment strategies and outcomes for survivors of self-immolation attempts are discussed. The chapter will focus on deliberate self-immolation as a means of suicide, as opposed to accidental self-inflicted bums or non-fatal self-harm by burning, which are beyond the scope of this discussion.

This document is currently not available here.



This document has been peer reviewed.