Suicide and Culture

Understanding the Context

Edited by: Erminia Colucci, David Lester

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Suicide and Culture (PDF)
ISBN: 9781616764364
1st edition 2013, 284 pages
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Print edition
Suicide and Culture
ISBN: 9780889374362
1st edition 2013, xiv/270 pages
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Suicide and Culture

Why understanding the role of culture can help prevent suicide

The increasing domination of biological approaches in suicide research and prevention, at the expense of social and cultural understanding, is severely harming our ability to stop people dying – so run the clearly set out arguments and evidence in this lucid book by leading social scientists and suicide researchers.

In the first part of this book, instead of simply comparing suicide in different countries, the authors review and examine the fundamental issues of why culture is of vital importance in understanding and preventing suicidal behavior, what the “cultural meaning” of suicide is, and where current research and theory are leading us.

The second part of the book then presents (and, importantly, also critiques) exemplary recent research, including a quantitative and qualitative study on the meaning of suicide in Australia, India, and Italy, which is reported in detail, as well as other studies on correlates of suicidal behavior in Kuwait and the US, on a culturally specific form of suicide (sati), and on the role of cultural conflict in South Korea.

In the concluding section, the editors highlight both the necessity and the challenges of conducting good culturally sensitive studies, as well as suggesting solutions to these challenges. This volume is thus essential reading for anyone involved in suicide research and prevention.

From the reviews:

“The book is full of relevant cross-cultural perspectives on the issue of suicide. The authors tear us away from our monocultural, ethnocentric perspectives by pointing out stark differences in suicide patterns in different cultures. Accordingly, suicide prevention strategies should be constructed with cultural context guiding the work. This book underscores the reality that behavior has many determinants. It also highlights some universal drivers of risky behaviors, such as social disorganization, cultural conflict, and the breakdown of the family.”
Carl C. Bell, MD, Schools of Medicine and Public Health, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, writing in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2014), 75(6), e594

"Readers will find a rich methodological discussion of the issues and in-depth analyses of empirical data ... In conclusion, the book offers innovative ideas and will probably be more helpful to readers who have already been introduced to the field. We learn much about how culture could be related to suicide."
Michel Tousignant, Université du Quebec à Montréal, in Transcultural Psychiatry, 2014

Colucci and Lester's "significant work ... is an interesting and important advocacy for the consideration of the context of culture in our understanding of suicide."
Brad DeFord, PhD, in Illness, Crisis and Loss, Vol. 21, No. 4, 2013

"This thought-provoking book is one of the best resources for any stakeholder interested in the field of suicide research and intervention at any stage of their career. Anyone on the look-out for a refreshing yet embracing view on the intriguing complex phenomena of suicide in mankind will be rewarded by reading this treatise."
Sandra Chan, MRCPsych, FHKAM (Psychiatry), FHKCPsych, Department of Psychiatry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China, in East Asian Archive of Psychiatry, Vol. 23, 2013

"In this book the editors explore the cultural contexts, causes and consequences of suicide. They show that psychiatrists have to pay more attention to different disciplines in order to really understand and effectively prevent suicide. Not only clinicians but also other stakeholders will all benefit from this book because it provides up-to-date research materials and cultural meanings of suicide with additional background."
Dr Giovanni Timmermans, at

"... a thought-provoking and in-depth discussion regarding aspects of culture which may contribute to increasing [suicide] rates and cultural factors, which may be neglected when considering a person’s suicidal state.
Suicide and Culture is well-written and thoughtful, and ... of interest to all those who may be involved in suicide prevention ..."
Jad Kesserwani, King’s College London, UK in International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Vol. 59, 2013

"Suicide and Culture: Understanding the Context provides a comprehensive picture of how, by understanding the role of culture, suicides can be prevented. This book is a must-read for everyone in the fields of suicidology, suicide prevention, and research.
"The authors present sound evidence on why culture is important in all suicide prevention research, including biology. ...The debate on the cultural meaning of suicide is particularly well-written, drawing on both theory and practice. The authors challenge readers to think for themselves…[they] also provide invaluable advice on research methodology that would be of tremendous help to both novice and advanced researchers. …
Of particular significance are the quotes from study participants which provide a window into the lives of those affected by suicide. The authors are to be commended for retaining the “voice” of the participants, whose words are powerful and a poignant reminders of reality."

Nandika Currey, BSc, DPH, in the AAS (American Association of Suicidology) newsletter, March 2013

"[The book] discusses the role of culture in a biological era ... debates the cultural meaning of suicide, presents research and theories on the role of culture in suicide [and] opens the dialogue for further discussion and research."
Valerie E. Mathis-Allen, MD, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, in Doody's Notes, 2013

Praise for the book:

"By taking culture seriously, the contributors have produced a path-breaking book that can inform the next generation of suicide research, clinical practice, and prevention."
Laurence J. Kirmayer, MD, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Head of Social Axis, FRSQ Suicide Research Network; Director of Culture & Mental Health Research Unit, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Editor-in-Chief of Transcultural Psychiatry

"An eye opening book which also will hopefully open the minds of all professionals concerned with suicide and suicide prevention."
Prof. Benedetto Saraceno, MSc, MD, FRCPsych, Calouste Gulbenkian Professor of Global Health, University Nova of Lisbon, Portugal; Director of WHO Collaborating Center on Mental Health, University of Geneva, Switzerland

"A wise, excellent, and original book... Uptodate and modern, it is an important book for all persons involved in suicide prevention."
Prof. Sergio Perez, MD, Founder of World Psychiatric Association's Suicidology Section and Founder of World Suicidology Net

"This valuable book, if well used, will not only help to save human life and human capital, but also help society to understand a fundamental philosophical issue facing us all: the meaning of life and the value we place upon it."
Prof. Kamaldeep Bhui, BSc, MBBS, MSc, MSc, MD, FRCPsych, Professor of Cultural Psychiatry & Epidemiology, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, UK

"I was completely captivated by the book, which is a landmark in the study of culture and suicide. A perfect mix of precision and compassion."
Prof. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, MBBS, DPM, PhD, FRCPsyc, Founder of SNEHA; Honorary Associate Professor, Melbourne University, Australia; Adjunct Professor, Australian Institute for Suicide and Research Prevention, Griffith University, Australia

"This book is a wake-up call to suicidologists."
Prof. Michael Kral, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology and Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL

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