Parasuicidal behavior describes two similar phenomena:
Both types of phenomena are related to less severe cases of depression and/or to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Men are more likely to engage in the first sort, and women in the second.
The first type of parasuicidal behavior manifests itself in acts such as knowingly driving too fast, performing dangerous work without safety equipment, or binge substance abuse. The person doing these things gives the overwhelming impression that while he doesn't necessarily want to kill himself, he's not particularly concerned if that's how things turn out.
The second type accounts for many near-suicides that end up in hospitals. Attempting to kill one's self by an overdose of aspirin, perhaps, or choosing a method, time, or location that will virtually ensure discovery and intervention are examples of this type of behavior. This behavior is seen much more often in women; when men commit suicide, they usually use a gun. Volunteers on suicide hotlines say that women often call asking for help, perhaps saying "I feel like one day I might kill myself". Men are more likely to call and say "I have a gun in my hand."
Both types of behavior can (and probably should) be seen as a call for help from an individual who can't make that call in other ways.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist. I do suffer from depression, and the information in this node comes from reading I have done to better understand my illness.