Comprehending Suicide: Landmarks in 20th-Century Suicidology

Pages: 215
Item #: 431652A
ISBN: 978-1-55798-743-3
List Price: $19.95
Member/Affiliate Price: $19.95
Copyright: 2001
Format: Hardcover
Availability: In Stock
FREE Shipping

For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories


During the 20th century, hundreds of books were written on suicide, but only a few can be said to have stimulated their readers to a deeper and more practical understanding of the topic. Drawing on his more than 60 years of experience, Edwin S. Shneidman has gathered in one book 13 of the most thought-provoking works of the century that offer invaluable insights on suicide and on responses to it.

Comprehending Suicide begins with a brief history of the phenomenon. Engaging reviews of the landmark publications open each chapter, and together the chapters reflect historical and literary, sociological, biological, psychiatric and psychological, or survivor and helping points of view. Featured last is a lively discussion about Dr. Sheidman's key beliefs after a lifetime of study. This book serves a large audience, from those doing research, to those helping to prevent suicide through community intervention or clinical practice, to those who have touched suicide or who have been touched by it.

Table of Contents




I. Historical and Literary Insights

  1. History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture
    —Georges Minois
  2. The Savage God: A Study of Suicide
    —A. Alvarez

II. Sociological Insights

  1. Suicide: A Study in Sociology
    —Emile Durkheim
  2. Suicide: A Sociological and Statistical Study
    —Louis I. Dublin
  3. The Thorn in the Chrysanthemum: Suicide and Economic Success in Modern Japan
    —Mamoru Iga

III. Biological Insights

  1. The Neurobiology of Suicide: From the Bench to the Clinic
    —David M. Stoff and J. John Mann

IV. Psychiatric and Psychological Insights

  1. Man Against Himself
    —Karl A. Menninger
  2. Suicides
    —Jean Baechler
  3. The Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession
    —Daniel Aaron
  4. Essential Papers on Suicide
    —John T. Maltsberger and Mark J. Goldblatt

V. Insights on Survivors and Volunteers

  1. Survivors of Suicide
    —Albert C. Cain
  2. The Samaritans: Befriending the Suicidal
    —Chad Varah
  3. The Enigma of Suicide
    —George Howe Colt

Epilogue: This I Believe

Author Index

Subject Index

About the Author

Author Bio

Edwin S. Shneidman was born in York, Pennsylvania, in 1918. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He served in World War II, from the rank of private to captain. He received his PhD in 1948 from the University of Southern California under the G.I. Bill. He has held three main positions in his life. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was cofounder and codirector of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center. From 1966 to 1969, he was chief of the Center for Studies of Suicide Prevention, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bethesda, Maryland. While at the NIMH he founded the American Association of Suicidology. From 1970 to 1988, he was professor of thanatology—first in the world—at his alma mater, UCLA. He is currently professor of thanatology emeritus.

In addition, he has been visiting professor at Harvard University and at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; research associate at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; and a Fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service award from the American Psychological Association and of awards named for Bruno Klopfer, Harold M. Hildreth, Louis I. Dublin, and Henry A. Murray.

He has published 160 articles and chapters, edited 10 books on suicide and death, and authored Deaths of Man—nominated for a National Book Award; Voices of Death; Definition of Suicide; and The Suicidal Mind. Various books of his have been translated into French, German, Swedish, Russian, and Japanese.

He is married (since 1944) and has four children and six grandchildren.

Reviews & Awards
  • A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title!

Shneidman's scholarly examination of the thought-provoking works of the 20th century that offer invaluable insights on and therapeutic response to suicide is essential reading for students of the mind, social scientists, and clinicians. His book provides a fresh, comprehensive, rich, and integrated summary of the study of suicide; chapters illustrate facets of suicidal behavior that are worthy of detailed investigation. Chapters reflect the historical, literary, sociological, biological, psychiatric, psychological, survivor, and volunteer perspectives and highlight classic references and their contributions to understanding suicide. Opposing the popular tide of research that profiles a biological understanding of suicide and celebrates a quick biochemical fix with medications, Shneidman (UCLA) argues convincingly in the epilogue that suicide is a drama in the mind that is almost always driven by psychological pain, the pain of negative emotions--called 'psychache.' The rule for saving a life in the balance is to reduce this inner pain. Shneidman's anodyne therapy focuses on understanding and mollifying the inner pain by helping the person reconceptualize the firmly held position that he or she cannot or will not tolerate life and that suicide is the only solution. Shneidman inspires insights, intuition, and useful understandings of the mystery of suicide. All collections.