Understanding Suicidal Behaviour: The Suicidal Process Approach to Research, Treatment, and Prevention

By Kees Van Heeringen | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
THE SUICIDAL PROCESS
AND SOCIETY

Unni Bille-Brahe


INTRODUCTION

When people ask “why did this person want to kill himself or herself?”, the immediate answer usually begins with the word because: because of a broken heart, because he or she was suffering from depression, because he or she went bankrupt, because of tedium vitae. However, not everybody suffering from a broken heart, a depression or tedium vitae will kill himself or herself, so clearly more questions and answers are needed.

Albert Camus (1942) has frequently been quoted for stating that the question of suicide is the most fundamental of all philosophical questions. Although the person grasping the rope or a glass of pills hardly regards the consideration to kill himself or herself as a philosophical question, the views on life and death in force in society most certainly influence not only the attitudes towards self-killing in general, but also the decision he or she is going to make.

Menno Boldt (1988) summed this up nicely by stating that “Meaning goes beyond the universal psychological criteria for certifying and classifying self-destructive death: It refers to how suicide is conceptualized in terms of cultural normative values. Some examples of particular socio-cultural conceptualizations of suicide are that it is an unforgivable sin, a psychotic act, a human right, a ritual obligation, an unthinkable act, and so on. The meaning of suicide is derived from cultural experiences and encompasses the historical, affective qualities that the act

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