Suicide Overview

General

Collings, S. & Beautrais, A. (2005). Suicide Prevention in New Zealand: A Contemporary Perspective. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Presents a number of useful frameworks within which to understand suicide prevention (e.g., social epidemiology and biopsychosocial approach to medicine). The report provides a useful critique of individualism and its impact upon suicide studies, and presents alongside this the history and theories of suicide. The report proposed a number of prevention programmes and outlines an understanding of risk intervention and assessment.

Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care (2000). Learnings about suicide, LIFE: A framework for prevention of suicide and self-harm in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Pays particular attention to the importance of understanding how social and emotional/psychological factors interact. Proposes that suicidal behaviour and thoughts result from a disjuncture between multiple stressors and ability to cope (resilience). Outlines some of the key methods, causes and at risk populations for suicide. Illustrates these with simple models of causation.

* Duffy, David & Ryan, Tony (Eds) (2004). New approaches to preventing suicide: A manual for practitioners. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

“Written by front line professionals in the fields of nursing, mental health, prison services and the law, this text is an essential companion to the [British] government’s new suicide prevention strategy. The contributors offer a wealth of practical guidance on issues such as risk assessment and management in a range of settings, policy and the legal framework around suicide.”

Goldney, Robert D. (2002). “A global view of suicide” Emergency Medicine, 14, pp 24-34.

An overview paper that gives global comparisons of statistics and risk factors. It suggests individual approaches to management of those at risk. Lieberman, Lisa (2003). Leaving you: The cultural meaning of suicide. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. Lisa Lieberman explores the puzzle of our reigning perceptions of suicide. Drawing from diverse sources, from biblical stories to Romantic novels, from philosophical theories to psychiatric diagnoses, along with contemporary memoirs of suicidal depression, she finds that the idea of suicide as an act of protest has pervaded Western attitudes toward self-destruction – yet our contemporary way of thinking attempts to deny suicide’s disruptive potential by depriving the act of its defiance.

Williams, M. (1997). Cry of pain: Understanding suicide and self-harm. London: Penguin.

Focuses on the subjective meanings of suicide and the impact that suicide has on those who are bereaved by suicide. Also addresses issues of relevance to practitioners, such as suicide in remote and rural communities and the relationship between suicide and media representation.

History

Hassan, R. (1995). Suicide Explained: The Australian Experience. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

A concise, readable overview of the history of sociological studies of suicide, which also elaborates the medical and psychological approaches. Outlines Durkheim’s critique of individualistic/asocial understandings of suicide, and summarises the individual/social nexus as it shapes suicide in Western cultures. Provides extensive analyses of Australian suicide data and elaborates on the aetiology of suicide.

Heyd, David & Bloch, Sidney (1999). “The ethics of suicide” In S. Bloch, P. Chodoff, & S.A. Green (Eds). Psychiatric ethics 3rd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Discusses the particular ethical problems psychiatrists face when treating suicidal patients, in particular the conflict between ‘sanctity of life’ and the patient’s wishes. Covers historical development of attitudes to suicide and definitions. Using a series of case studies the chapter explores the implications of intervention or non-intervention.

Mental Health

* Bloch, Sidney & Singh, Bruce (1997). Understanding troubled minds: A guide to mental illness and its treatment. Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Press.

“Understanding troubled minds guides us calmly and authoritatively through the full range of specific mental illnesses and available treatments. It deals with particular patterns of illness in women, children and the elderly. It stresses the value of partnerships between psychiatrists, patients and their families. And it places this knowledge within the framework of modern psychiatry – from the history of the profession to just what it is that psychiatrists and fellow health-workers do.”

* Cowling, Vicki (1999). Children of parents with mental illness. Melbourne: The Australian Council for Education Research Ltd.

“This book is a ground breaking study into the frequently overlooked impact on children whose parents have a mental illness. By fusing a theoretical basis with first-hand experiences from parents and adult children, the book forms an invaluable guide for practitioners.”

* MacFarlane, Malcolm M. (Ed) (2001). Family therapy and mental health: Innovations in theory and practice. New York: The Haworth Clinical Practice Press.

“[This book] explores the application of family therapy approaches to the treatment of a variety of mental health problems. This valuable book shows how family therapy techniques can be used to address the needs of patients and their families dealing with conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, suicide, and addictions.”

Biopsychosocial Approach

Collings, S. & Beautrais, A. (2005). Suicide Prevention in New Zealand: A Contemporary Perspective. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Presents a number of useful frameworks within which to understand suicide prevention (e.g., social epidemiology and biopsychosocial approach to medicine). The report provides a useful critique of individualism and its impact upon suicide studies, and presents alongside this the history and theories of suicide. The report proposes a number of prevention programmes and outlines an understanding of risk intervention and assessment.

Engel, G.E. (1977, April 8). “The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine.” Science, 196, pp. 129-136.

Engel outlines the biopsychosocial approach for use within medicine. This approach is a counter to biomedical accounts which most often do not pay sufficient attention to the relational and psychical aspects of disease, the outcome being that patient involvement in the treatment of illness is discounted, and thus some of the potential psychosocial causes of illness may be ignored. A biopsychosocial model emphasises the historical and cultural specificity of the concept of disease/health/illness. Disease may be understood as a metaphor for imbalance or injustice rather than as biological fact per se.

Hassan, R. (1996). Social Factors in Suicide. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, Paper 52. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Provides a concise summary of causes and factors of suicide in Australia, and links this to the economic, social and individual outcomes of suicide.

Pescosolido, B.A. & Mendelsohn, R. (1986). “Social Causation or Social Construction of Suicide? An Investigation into the Social Organization of Official Rates.” American Sociological Review, 51, pp. 80-100.

Explores some of the implications for sociological studies of suicide in the light of methodological and conceptual problems in regards to the recording of suicide rates. Suggests that some of the influences upon the accuracy of suicide rates include particular definitions of suicide and the role that particular officials play in determining the cause of death, which vary according to location.

Pfaff, J.J., Acres, J.G. & McKelvey, R.S. (2001). “Training General Practitioners to Recognise and Respond to Psychological Distress and Suicidal Ideation in Young People.” Medical Journal of Australia, 174, pp. 222-226.

Research highlights the importance of a biopsychosocial approach in that a focus on the presenting issue of physical pain may fail to pay attention to psychological distress that may lead to suicide. Due to often non-disclosure of suicidal thoughts, GPs may consider the consultation as an opportunity to enquire about such thoughts in the context of general well being. Suggests importance of developing referral procedures and brief assessment tools based on key characteristics.

Definitions

O’Carroll, P.W., Berman, A.L., Maris, R., Moscicki, E., Tanney, B. & Silverman, M. (1998). “Beyond the Tower of Babel: A Nomenclature for Suicidology”. In R.K. Kosky, H.S. Eshkevari, R.D. Goldney & R. Hassan (Eds.) Suicide Prevention: The Global Context. New York: Plenum Press.

Provides a succinct overview of the issues and problems involved in defining suicide, and the implications of this for practitioners, coroners and researchers. Proposes a clear set of terms for understanding suicide and suicidal behaviour.

Self Harm

* Levenkron, Steven (1998). Cutting: Understanding and overcoming self-mutilation. New York/London: W.W. Norton & Co.

“Cutting takes the reader through the psychological experience of the person who seeks relief from mental anguish in self-inflicted physical pain … Written for self-mutilators, parents, friends and therapists, this book explains why the disorder manifests in self-harming behaviours and, most of all, describes how self-mutilators can be helped.”

* Miller, Dusty (1994). Women who hurt themselves: A book of hope and understanding. New York: Basic Books.

“Filled with moving stories, this powerful and compassionate book is the first to focus on women who harm themselves through self-mutilation, compulsive cosmetic surgeries, eating disorders, and other forms of chronic injury to the body.”

Steenkamp, Malinda & Harrison, James (2000). Suicide and hospitalised self-harm in Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare http://www.nisu.flinders.edu.au/pubs/reports/2001/suicide_injcat30.pdf

“This is a statistical report on suicide and hospitalised self harm in Australia. It provides the latest data available including data on age and sex distribution and methods used, and presents trends for suicide deaths. The report also includes information on suicide amongst Indigenous Australians and describes the shortcomings of the data and the implications for interpreting the data. It will be relevant to those interested in data on suicide or those working in the field, including community practitioners, health planners and administrators, academic researchers and the public.”

Therapeutic Interventions

* Corey, Gerald (2001). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy 6th Edition. USA: Brooks/Cole.

“…gives you a solid understanding of ten contemporary theories in counselling and psychotherapy [and] also helps you select wisely from among them to develop an integrative counseling style.”

* Crossley, Michele L. (2000). Introducing narrative psychology: Self, trauma and the construction of meaning. Buckingham: Open University Press.

“This introductory textbook presents a coherent overview of the theory, methodology and potential application of narrative psychological approaches. It compares narrative psychology with other social constructionist approaches and argues that the experience of self only takes on meaning through specific linguistic, historic and social structures.”

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

* Beck, Aaron T. (1989). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: Penguin.

“This classic describes the cognitive approach to psychopathology and psychotherapy and how to apply it”.

* Beck, Judith S. (1995). Cognitive therapy: Basics and beyond. New York: The Guilford Press.

“Judith Beck has written an uncommonly useful text both for therapists who want to learn about the concepts and procedures of cognitive therapy as well as for those involved in clinical teaching and supervision.”

* Dobson, Keith S. (Ed) (2001). Handbook of cognitive-behavioural therapies 2nd Edition. New York: The Guilford Press.

“This authoritative volume brings together established experts to review the theories, research, and treatment methodologies associated with the major cognitive-behavioural models … The goal is to provide a solid conceptual framework within which the clinician can make informed choices about which interventions to choose and apply with individual clients.”

* Kingdon, David & Turkington, Douglas (Eds) (2002).

The case study guide to cognitive behaviour therapy of psychosis. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. “There is a brief description of therapeutic methods at the start followed by the collection of case studies. At the end, a training, supervision and implementation section enables practitioners to move from contemplation to adoption of these remarkable developments in their own practice and service.”

Interpersonal psychotherapy

* Stuart, Scott & Robertson, Michael (2003). Interpersonal psychotherapy: A clinician’s guide. London: Arnold.

“This book highlights common clinical issues and covers an extensive range of interpersonal problems and psychopathology to which [Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)] is applicable. It draws on theoretical and research aspects in order to inform the therapist’s clinical choices in conducting IPT and other focal and structured psychotherapies in general.”

* Weissman, Myrna M., Markowitz, John C. & Klerman, Gerald L. (2000). Comprehensive guide to interpersonal psychotherapy. USA: Basic Books.

“[This text] covers the field comprehensively, and the jargon-free prose is a pleasure to read. It has the advantage of being simultaneously accessible to the beginning student and sufficiently advanced to be of interest to the experienced clinician.”

Family Therapy

*Bloch, Sidney & Kissane, David W. (2002). Family focused grief therapy. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Family focused grief therapy is an approach which is new, preventive, cost effective and with proven benefits to bereaved people… the book has been designed rather like a therapy manual, providing a step-by-step approach to assessment and intervention.”

* Denborough, David (Ed) (2001). Family therapy: Exploring the field’s past, present and possible futures. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications.

“In these personal and thoughtful interviews, influential family therapists from different parts of the world invite the reader into their worldview and the history that has shaped it.”

Narrative Therapy

* Monk, Gerald, Winslade, John, Crocket, Kathie & Epston, David (Eds) (1997). Narrative therapy in practice: The archaeology of hope. San Francisco: Wiley-Bass.

“In this clearly written book, the focus is not on ‘experts’ solving problems, it is on people becoming ‘consultants to themselves’ and dissolving their problems by discovering in dialogue, the new and better, but previously unrecognized possibilities they already contain within themselves.”

* Morgan, Alice (2000). What is narrative therapy? An easy-to-read introduction. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications.

“What is narrative therapy? This easy-to-read introduction seeks to answer this question through the use of accessible language, a concise structure and a wide range of practical examples.”

* White, Cheryl & Denborough, David (Eds) (1998). Introducing narrative therapy: A collection of practice-based writings. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications.

“Within [this book] we have gathered together a diversity of accessible, engaging, practice-based papers, which all received enthusiastic feedback when they were first published.”