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Investigating suicide as a career response

Angus J. Duff (Business Administration Program, Trent University, Oshawa, Canada)
Chris C.A. Chan (School of Human Resource Management, York University, Toronto, Canada and Faculty of Business, Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 4 February 2014




To empirically consider work and career as potential influences of suicide.


In this qualitative study we conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 16 individuals who were survivors (i.e. family members or intimates) of individuals who had committed suicide. Data was analyzed using a grounded theory methodology.


This exploratory study used purposive self-determination as the theoretical framework for analyzing their life histories. Factors of purposive self-determination, including lack of purpose, feeling controlled, experiencing failure, and social exclusion all figured prominently but differentially according to life-stage. Distinct work and career themes for early-career, mid-career and late-career suicides emerged. Early-career suicides were attributed to educational or work-related contexts, leading to a sense of hopelessness. Mid-career suicides emphasized despair based in failure. Finally, an attempt to escape from challenges associated with transitioning roles in retirements emerged as a key theme in late-career suicides.


Although suicide has been studied extensively from medical, psychopathological, sociological, anthropological, philosophical and religious perspectives, there is a dearth of research considering why certain individuals choose to end their own lives as a result of work and career related reasons. This study sought to contribute to our understanding of this under-researched phenomenon. Additionally, while extant careers theory and research has considered positive notions of career such as career success or careers as a calling, this work presents an alternate lens, the consideration of career failure and careers as a sentence.



J. Duff, A. and C.A. Chan, C. (2014), "Investigating suicide as a career response", Career Development International, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 4-26.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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