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SOCIOCULTURAL MODELS of self-killing

These models state that society can have a direct or indirect influence on those whoare depressed or suicidal. Media coverage of famous suicides can spark an increasein suicide attempts, far more than coverage of non-celebrities. Mediareports of natural deaths of famous people do not spark an increase in suicideattempts. These finding suggest that there are societal influences at work.

émile Durkheim (1858–1917) was a seminal thinker in relation to the analysisof suicide. He looked at such questions as ‘Why do people kill themselves?’ and‘What sort of people kill themselves?’ and ‘In what circumstances do they do this?’He developed a theory of three distinct categories of suicide:

• Egoistic: This is where people with no or little ties to family, society or thecommunity generally kill themselves.

• Altruistic: This is where people kill themselves, or put themselves in the wayof great danger, for the good of others. Examples of this are those who sacrificethemselves to save their children, or other people, from burning buildings, honourself-killing such as ritualised self-killing amongst Japanese people and otherswho follow their example.

• Anomic: This is where suicide is triggered by some form of sudden change ina person’s personal circumstances and their relation to society. An example ofthis is the higher-than-normal suicide rate in post-Second World War Germanyand in Russia after the fall of communism. A more up-to-date example is that ofthe higher rates of suicide in rural China. China has one of the fastest-growingeconomies in the world, and this has resulted in mass migration to the citiesfrom rural areas. In these rural areas, suicide has become one of the main causesof death.

When considering these issues, we must remember that these theories do notaccount for how individuals react to changing events; the majority of people whogo through major life-changing events do not kill themselves.

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