What Is a Suicide Pact?

two sad friends

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A suicide pact is an agreement between two or more individuals to die by suicide together.

Such pacts may be planned in detail, with each person knowing what role they will play and how the suicide will be carried out. Alternatively, a suicide pact may be a spur-of-the-moment decision made by people who are impulsively seeking to end their lives.

In either case, those involved in a suicide pact typically have a shared desire to die and see death as a way to escape from some type of pain or problem in their lives. Oftentimes, people who enter into suicide pacts have suicidal ideation prior to making the pact. This means that they have been thinking about harming themselves before entering into an agreement with others.

Crisis Support

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

History of Suicide Pacts

The history of suicide pacts is relatively short, as the phenomenon is not particularly common. However, there have been a number of notable cases that have made headlines over the years.

Mass Suicide

Perhaps the most infamous case of a suicide pact is the 1997 mass suicide by the Heaven's Gate cult. The cult's members believed that a UFO was trailing behind the comet Hale-Bopp and that they would be taken to a better place if they died by suicide.

On March 26, 1997, 39 members of the cult took their lives by drinking poison or ingesting pills.

Couple's Suicide Pacts

There have been other, less publicized cases of suicide pacts throughout history. In 2010, a couple from Wiltshire, England jumped to their deaths from the cliffs at Beachy Head after making a pact to do so.

In 2020, an elderly couple in India died by suicide as part of a pact after experiencing physical illness and strain due to COVID-19.

Signs of a Suicide Pact

There are a few warning signs that may indicate that someone is considering entering into a suicide pact.

These include talking about wanting to die or hurt oneself, expressing feelings of hopelessness, giving away prized possessions, and making final arrangements (such as putting affairs in order or writing a will).

Types of Suicide Pacts

There are two main types of suicide pacts: those that are planned in advance and those that are spur-of-the-moment decisions. It is important to note that not all suicide pacts are planned in advance or involve multiple people. In some cases, two people who are experiencing suicidal ideation may impulsively decide to die by suicide together.

  • Planned suicide pacts: Planned suicide pacts usually involve multiple people who have known each other for some time and have a shared desire to die. In such cases, the individuals involved typically have a detailed plan for how the suicides will be carried out. The Heaven's Gate cult situation is one example of a planned suicide pact.
  • Spur-of-the-moment suicide pacts: Spur-of-the-moment suicide pacts, on the other hand, are often impulsive decisions made by people who are experiencing a great deal of emotional distress. These types of pacts typically involve only two people who know each other relatively well. The couple who died by suicide at Beachy Head is an example of a spur-of-the-moment suicide pact.

Why Do People Enter Into Suicide Pacts?

People often enter into suicide pacts as a way to escape from some type of pain or problem in their lives. Oftentimes, those who make such pacts are suffering from mental illness, relationship problems, financial difficulties, or bullying.

Entering into a suicide pact can also be seen as a way to exert control over one's life and death. For example, some people may feel that they do not have the power to end their own lives but may feel that they can control the situation if they enter into a pact with someone else.

It is also worth noting that suicide pacts are often seen as a way to die together with someone else. In some cases, people may enter into such pacts because they cannot bear the thought of living without the other person.

Impact of Suicide Pacts

Suicide pacts can have a profound impact on those who are left behind. In addition to the obvious emotional pain of losing a loved one, survivors may also feel guilty, responsible, or confused.

It is important for those who are impacted by suicide pacts to seek professional help in order to deal with their feelings and begin the healing process.

How to Prevent Suicide Pacts

There are a few steps that can be taken in order to prevent suicide pacts.

  • First, it is important to be aware of the warning signs that someone may be considering entering into such a pact. If you see any of these signs in yourself or someone you know, it is important to seek professional help immediately.
  • It is also important to talk openly about suicide and mental health with those around you. By starting these conversations, you can create an environment in which it is OK to talk about these difficult topics. This can help prevent suicide pacts by giving people the opportunity to seek help before they reach a point of desperation.
  • Finally, it is crucial to have systems in place to support those who are struggling with mental illness or suicidal ideation. This may include having access to mental health resources, hotlines, and support groups. These resources can provide vital support and assistance when someone is considering entering into a suicide pact.

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know is considering entering into a suicide pact, it is important to seek professional help immediately. There are many resources available to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, and it is never too late to get the help you need.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."