Is Suicide a Psychiatric Problem?

24 April 2018 - 13:00-14:30

Lecture: Hane Maung, Lancaster University

Room 4.16 Henriette Raphael House, Guy’s Campus

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Video Recording


Suicide is understood as being a complex outcome of multiple interacting factors at multiple levels of organisation, including diverse processes at individual, interpersonal, and environmental levels. Despite this complexity, suicide is commonly framed in contemporary health discourse as primarily being the causal outcome of mental disorder. Accordingly, mental health professionals are granted responsibilities for suicide prevention and can even be held legally liable when suicides occur. This selective emphasis on mental disorder raises philosophical problems. How do we make sense of the messy and murky interactions of factors that are involved in suicide causation? What accounts for our privileging of mental disorder over other factors as the primary cause of suicide? Is the connection between mental disorder and suicide wholly causal or partly the result of how mental disorder is defined? These questions are important, because they call attention to implicit assumptions involved in the way the issue of suicide causation is framed in contemporary health policy. In this talk, I draw on theory from the philosophy of science to unpack some of these assumptions and to explore the extent to which the contemporary view of suicide as being primarily a causal outcome of mental disorder can be sustained.