2 thoughts on “Now also at Mad in America

  1. I’ve just finished reading your post over at MIA and I have a question. How does conceptualising being suicidal/suicidal act as a spiritual emergency/emergence fare cross-culturally? I mean, not just here in the Western world, but elsewhere in Africa, Asia, America and Europe? In other words, is the conceptualisation of suicide as voiced by some of the representatives of Western (and mostly American) ex-patient/survivor/user (sub)culture transferable to other cultures? And also should it be?

  2. Hi Sarah – thanks for your question, it’s an important one because we so often fall into the trap of inappropriate and unjustified assumptions and generalizations. My ‘First Law of Suicidology’ is beware of generalizations! And I certainly don’t think we should presume my Western (white, male, middle-class, straight etc etc) perspectives are transferable to other cultures. But can I correct a slight misunderstanding in your comment. I don’t advocate (re-) conceptualising suicide as a spiritual emergency, even though this was the case for me. If you look around my website you’ll see that the general case that I argue for is that suicide is best understood as a crisis of the self. And from this starting point, to explore in what way is the self is in crisis for any particular individual. For some it may be trauma, abuse or bullying. For others it may be related to their sexual identity – e.g. suicide rates are higher among gay people, for pretty obvious reasons. Or it may be some other social/cultural circumstances that a person feels trapped in. Many possibilities, including my own experience of it as a spiritual crisis. I will say that if we look deeply into our sense of self, it seems to me that we’re likely at some stage to find ourselves in spiritual territory, in one way or another. I realise that this is just the starting point but, like Shneidman’s psychache, I reckon it’s a very much better – more real, more useful etc – starting point than blaming suicide on some artificial ‘mental illness’. I agree with you that cross-cultural perspectives on suicide is a tremendously important issue. But I don’t claim any special expertise in this. I do, however, think that re-conceptualizing suicide as a crisis of the self accommodates the very important cultural context of any suicidal experience.

    Thanks for raising this.

    Cheers – David

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