Suicide: the ultimate selfish act?

Saturday 19 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Frobisher Auditorium 2 Private or public morality?

A dramatic rise in suicides in the UK in 2011 prompted the government’s new Suicide Prevention Strategy, with mental health campaigners emphasising the need to confront the stigma surrounding the subject. Yet there were also fears about ‘copycat suicides’ after a spate of incidents in Bridgend and Belfast, and there have been campaigns to censor websites that offer advice and encouragement on suicide. So is there something to be said for not talking openly about the issue?

For some, suicide is the irrational act of an unsound mind requiring medical intervention, but for others it can be a moral decision made by rational individuals, troubled or otherwise. Either way, does emphasising the role of external pressures (such as recession-fuelled hardship or bullying and harassment) risk undermining the individual’s responsibility for the act itself? Or is it possible to understand and explain suicide without condoning or even, however inadvertently, encouraging it? Given its social effects, can it even be understood as a genuinely private act? Should the stigma surrounding suicide be maintained in the interests of all concerned?

Dr Rina Dutta
MRC Research Fellow, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London

Rory O'Connor
professor of healthy psychology; director, Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, Glasgow University

Marjorie Wallace
chief executive, SANE; award-winning investigative journalist, author and broadcaster; Honorary fellow, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Dr Kevin Yuill
senior lecturer, history, University of Sunderland; author, Assisted Suicide: the liberal, humanist case against legalization

Dr Tiffany Jenkins
writer and broadcaster; author, Keeping Their Marbles: how treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there

Produced by
Dr Kevin Yuill senior lecturer, history, University of Sunderland; author, Assisted Suicide: the liberal, humanist case against legalization
Recommended readings
Preventing suicide in England

A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives

Department of Health, 2013

Stephen Fry Reveals 2012 Suicide Attempt

The comedian and QI presenter said he took a

Sky News, 6 June 2013

The uncomfortable truth: why do more men than women commit suicide?

The hangover of the

Holly Baxter, New Statesman, 2 May 2013

Suicide Rates Are On The Increase, Recession Possible Factor

More needs to be done to help mentally ill people, as the number who commit suicide is on the increase, figures suggest.

Huffington Post, 7 April 2013

When Suicides Come in Clusters

What can we do to prevent copycat suicides?

Romeo Vitelli, Psychology Today, 28 August 2012

The war on alcohol: new puritanism or healthy sobriety?

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