What is Critical Suicidology?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the consumption of anti-depressants in the US has risen by 400 % since 1998. In the same period, the US suicide rate has remained essentially the same. It seems that the somewhat simplistic equation associating suicide with depression leads to policies and practices that fail to deliver what is hoped for.

Many within suicidology have become frustrated by the limitations of dominant pathologising and medicalized approaches to suicide research and prevention practices. Believing that suicidology is in need of a critical re-thinking of its subject matter and a broadening of it disciplinary basis, they look at cultural practices of making sense of suicide, taking into account how suicide is shaped by history, politics, gender, identity, culture, media and power.

Critical suicidology (which includes emerging work in the anthropology of suicide) is developing theoretical and practical tools of engagement that go against the current “one size fits all” evidence-based trend in suicide prevention/intervention (that, ironically, is losing ground under the weight of its own evidence) towards collective and community-driven approaches.

As a counterpoint to current research on suicide, which is primarily located in quantitative and positivist studies, the collaboration we envisage will emphasize the importance of qualitative and ethnographic research on suicide, rethinking the very meaning of evidence vis-à-vis a good or bad life and a good or bad death.

Critical Suicidology works from the well-reasoned understanding that we need frameworks, strategies and concepts relevant for the complex, contemporary world inw chih are all now living in, or in which some are struggling for liveability.

Critical Suicidology is not a unified approach that seeks to stand on the margins of suicide research; rather, it is site for diverse voices to come together around the fact that suicidology has become too narrowly focused on individual pathology and on the sometimes-exclusive use of positivist research methodologies, thereby actively excluding from consideration new, innovative and valuable approaches that do not fit well within these orthodoxies.  A suicidology that operates with a singular form of evidence or truth loses the possibilityof creativity nd plurality in developing new approaches to help address and understand suicide.