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Suicide in Different Ages from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

  • Dorothy Counts

Abstract

The advantage of an anthropological approach to understanding suicides that occur at different times in the life cycle and in different cultures is that anthropology offers an analytical perspective that is concerned with understanding the cultural context in which suicides occur. Anthropology seeks to explain suicide as being a culturally constructed act that is performed in the context of a system of meaning. The system of meaning communicates, in a variety of ways as we shall see below, the rules of suicide for those who would kill themselves and a code of understanding for the survivors who must interpret the message that the suicide was attempting to convey. These rules are part of culturally shared understanding about the meaning of death: They identify those who may legitimately commit suicide as well as why and how it is to be done. The rules specify, in effect, that under some circumstances it is appropriate for certain types of persons to commit suicide. They also provide a script that the actor should follow if he intends for his death to communicate an appropriate message to his survivors. This script establishes what steps precede the deed and what method the suicide should use. If he follows the rules, the suicide can expect relatives and friends to respond to his death in predictable ways. The person who is contemplating suicide will refer to these publicly shared understandings in planning his act for, by so doing, he can legitimize and give meaning to his death, both for himself and for others. He may also be able to control the consequences of his suicide and establish an agenda for his friends and kin to follow in response to his death.

Keywords

Suicide Rate Solomon Island Suicide Victim Assisted Suicide Adolescent Suicide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothy Counts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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