The inquiry into the Lindt Cafe siege by Man Haron Monis has started today. The usual things are being said so far but it will be interesting to see if they look at it from Monis’ perspective. That probably wont happen as people are so angry and wont want to look at it from his perspective.
He would have planned this siege over many weeks if not many months meaning it was not a spontaneous or random event. He would have known he is putting himself into position where it is likely if not highly likely he will die. That must say something about what was going on in his psyche at the time. We saw from the television that he was moving freely around the cafe and in open view at times. He would have known that police snipers would have been able to see him openly and that also says something about his motives. Indeed the police decided to move in when one police observer saw him shoot a hostage. He was then subsequently killed by the police.
From Monis’ perspective it seems likely there was suicidal component to this. Sometimes known as ‘Death by cop’. One suicides by getting the police to kill them. It will be interesting to see if the inquest addresses this possibility but I suspect they won’t.
Unfortunately events like this are not all that uncommon. One hopes at some point they will be recognised for what they are instead of us just not wanting to consider such possibility. Indeed this type of event psychologically is an interesting one because it is a homicide – suicide. It raises the question of the differences and similarities between the the act of killing another and the act of killing self. It can be argued that psychologically they are not all that different. Events such as these would add weight to that argument.
It is hoped this will start to be openly acknowledged. Putting our heads in the sand about it because we find the concept of ‘giving him what he wants’ by killing him is very unpalatable. But to just pretend it does not exist means we will never get any where near doing something about it. I am not too sure what we could do about it with the extra knowledge or perspective but pretending it just doesn’t exist certainly is not going to help.
Another way to suicide is to get the state to kill self through the death penalty. There are indeed two Australians who are likely to be executed in a few weeks time in Indonesia. This, as one can imagine gets considerable press coverage. There will be a small group of suicidal people who will read such press reports and see that one can get self killed by walking through an Indonesian airport carrying a sizeable quantity of illegal drugs. If this is true, that people seek surreptitious ways to complete a suicide, then the death penalty will in fact invite such people to break those laws which carry the death penalty. There is in fact research to support this as I note in my book – Working with suicidal individuals.
This however is psychologically different to Mr Monis, as it is a suicide attempt, whereas he demonstrated homicide – suicide type of behaviour. This may be more common that we think. People can display their suicidal urges by the way they drive a car. This is nothing new as I describe in my book the work of eminent psychologist Aaron T. Beck. In 1967, almost 50 years ago he states: “A suicidal wish may be manifested by the patient’s taking unnecessary risks. A number of patients drove their cars at excessive rates of speed in the hope that something might happen.”
Is this at least partially a suicide?
People can use a car to act out their suicidal urges and drive at high speed into a solid object. This is then an expression of suicidal urges. However there are others who will drive such that their own and others lives are put at risk and some times people are killed. This is different as it is an expression of homicidal – suicidal urges. This has been openly discussed in the scientific literature for 50+ years but I can never recall seeing it discussed in the popular media, if it is it is rare. Also the police and politicians are usually very keen to discuss the road toll in public forums. Again they never mention a car being used as an expression of suicidal urges or suicidal – homicidal urges. It seems they are just not ready to open up this aspect of human behaviour in public. Which is most unfortunate because it means it is not getting addressed. This is also why I think the homicidal – suicidal aspect of Mr Monis psyche will probably just be completely ignored. However it remains to be seen if I am right.