Suicide and its PreventionBy: Professor John Snowden (Feb 26 2005)
The guest speaker at MAG on Saturday 26th February was Professor John Snowden. The back room was filled to overflowing. He said he wished to speak on Suicide and its Prevention rather than the advertised – on maintaining joy in old age. He began by telling us that as a clinical psychiatrist he had undertaken some research upon which he was basing his conclusions. He and his team studied the cases of all suicide held by the Glebe Coroner’s Court during a period of recent five years. There were two hundred and ten suicide cases, and from which eighty files they studied in depth. Extreme cases requiring medical intervention were not included.
In recent years there is evidence of an alarming increase in older men men’s suicides, extending from the late sixties upwards. Two categories were identified by Professor Snowden of particular relevance to us, and both of them treatable. There are those committed as a result of anger, which is generally committed by a narcissistic personality. The professor emphasised, rarely if ever, do they achieved their purpose – to gain sympathy for the perpetrator. He gave the example of a bi-sexual who has been disadvantageously ‘outed’ by his partner.
The other preventable category – suicides committed in a depressive state of mind – might be exemplified by a feeling of being an intolerable burden on a particular person or on society in general. He emphasised that with appropriate counselling both these states of mind are treatable.
More research into causes and prevention of suicides in older men is clearly needed. With mental health issues currently in the public arena, now is the time to buy into the debate with our particular issues.