Understanding Suicide

Suicide and Suicide Prevention

This is a two-part video series on suicide. The first video outlines some of the common misconceptions or areas of confusion, such as the conception of suicide as an event caused by a biologized depression, as opposed to a deeply personal act. I then suggest two very general (though noninclusive) pathways to suicidal contemplation: as an escape from some intractable emotional or psychological pain/suffering, and/or, as a response to a perceived lack of meaning in one’s life.

The second video explores how the above understanding might guide intervention and/or prevention, including taking a hard look at the role played by attitudes and assumptions within our cultures and communities. I give some of my own opinions on what might be wrong with mainstream approaches to dealing with the problem of suicide, and use the above framework to point toward sensible ways of engaging someone who is feeling suicidal. By the end, viewers should have a very basic sense of how they might assess suicide risk, and learn how to feel more comfortable with these all too important conversations.

Video 1 of 2 (watch on YouTube)

Video 2 of 2 (watch on YouTube)

Do you have anything to add or contribute to the conversation about suicide? Add your thoughts below. Here are some questions to stimulate discussion:

  1. Is suicide the result of prior causal events (e.g. is it something that necessarily happens in the right conditions), or is it a voluntary act that is more probable under certain conditions?
  2. If it is inappropriate to say that someone ‘committed suicide’ (due to implied guilt/shame), and misleading to say that someone ‘died by suicide’ (the person sounds passive to the process), what is a better way for us to talk about it?
  3. Professionals seem divided on whether it is wise to engage in public discourse on the topic of suicide. Some argue that it should be a good thing because it reduces stigma and encourages people to be more comfortable having these important discussions. Others seem concerned that it may place ideas in people’s heads (e.g. by ‘cognitive contagion’) that may increase rather than decrease overall suicide rates. Which approach seems most reasonable to you?
  4. What could we be doing, as professionals, to better educate the public and/or help those who are either suicidal, or wanting to support someone who is?
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