More people die by suicide each year than by homicide, wars, and terrorist attacks combined. Witnesses and survivors are left perplexed and troubled. Doctors, clinical psychologists, and social workers try to deal with it through their professional routines; sociologists and psychiatrists attempt to provide theoretical explanations of it. In a study of nearly 7000 suicides from 1900 to 1950 in New Zealand and Queensland, Australia, John Weaver documents the challenges that ordinary people experienced during turbulent times and, using witnesses' testimony, death bed statements, and suicide notes, reconstructs individuals' thoughts as they decide whether to endure their suffering. Bridging social and medical history, Weaver presents an intellectual and political history of suicide studies, a revealing construction and deconstruction of suicide rates, a discussion of gender, life stages, and socio-economic circumstances in relation to suicide patterns, reflections on reasoning processes and intent, and society's reactions to suicide, including medical intervention.
A Sadly Troubled History marshals thousands of suicide inquests, replete with observations on the anxieties of unemployment, the heartbreak of romantic disappointment, the pain of domestic turmoil, and the torments of mental illness, to demonstrate that history - although, like biochemistry, sociology, psychology, and psychiatry, reliant on remarkable yet imperfect information - can contribute to a better understanding of the suicidal act and its motives.
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