Turecki and Brent defined suicide as the act of causing one’s death (1228). The action counts as one of the sensitive topics in sociology. Emile Durkheim, a renowned French sociologist, studied the matter to establish its significance in a society. His arguments, however, leaned on his sociological background. The scholar established several inferences from the types to the causes of suicide. This paper seeks to explore Durkheim’s view on suicide about contemporary social life, highlighting his shortcomings using psychological perspective.
Durkheim’s approach generally spared individuals' decision to commit suicide and placed the blame on the type of environment surrounding an individual. One best example of such environment is a community’s culture and norms. Through what he referred to social currents, the author places the responsibility of causing or preventing suicide on the whole community. Using his background in sociologist, the scholar regarded exploring individuals’ role as a psychologists approach, and decided to examine the rates of suicide among different social organizations, or within a single social organization but in different timeframes. He trusted in the use of social facts to explain the variations in suicide rate among different settings. In highlighting the four types of suicide, the author blamed societal states of integration and regulation as the primary contributor to suicide cases. The disintegration leads to depression and disillusionment that fuel life-taking missions amongst people. The author added that in a socially disintegrated groups, senses of futility dominate politics, morals becomes personal choices, and most philosophies paint life as meaningless.
The first and most common type is egoistic suicide. According to Durkheim, egoistic suicide stalks from incurable weariness and sad depressions. In the contemporary world, we regularly hear of college and university graduates who take away their lives due to their inability to leave up to society's expectations (Barreira at al 3). This case matches with Durkheim’s definition of egoistic suicide. The author believed that much pressure from the social currents causes most of the suicide cases in the graduates. The scholar dismissed factors like alcoholism, race, psychopathology, climate, genetics, and Tarde’s theory of imitation as some of the causes of suicide.
The second type is the altruistic suicide. The author wrote that altruistic suicide is most likely to recur when an environment has high social integration. The driving force behind this type of death is the benefits that individuals think they would accrue if they took away their lives in accordance to the interests of their mystical superiors. These types of deaths are common in establishments like terrorist groups (“History.com Editors”). A system brainwashes the subjects into believing in the existence of some fate that only happened when the victim commits suicide. For instance, the September 11 attack on America's Twin Towers was executed by part of the terror group which believed in rewards after destroying who they considered an enemy. Altruistic suicides spring from the allusions of belief in rewards beyond life (“History.com Editors”).
The third type that Durkheim highlighted is anomic suicide. This category of suicides occurs due to interruptions of the regulative powers of the society. Due to lack of control over passions, the interference in the regulating systems leaves individuals dissatisfied with their life. The author added that anomic suicide can occur both during positive and negative disruptions like economic booms and depressions, respectively. Such disturbances result in anomies like rootlessness and normlessness (Shermer). In real life, once a company lays an employee off, the individual becomes vulnerable to the effects of anomic economic currents (“Suicide.”). If the individuals fails to get timely psychological advice, they are likely to commit suicide. Higher success also comes with its anomic economic currents. Success can make people quit their jobs and also move to a new social setting. The free or self-employed individuals turn into slaves to their passions. The emerging slavery leads to numerous destructive acts like killing themselves.
The last type of suicide that Durkheim mentioned is fatalistic suicide. This type of suicide occurs when the regulations controlling the desires of individuals are excess. People whose prospects and passions are under immense undermining forces from severe regulations are likely to commit suicide (Turecki and Brent defined 1232-34). Such people opt death as the only way to relieve themselves. In the current cooperate world, when employees feel that their bosses are intentionally abusing their rights using oppressive regulations and fail to get solutions from the management, the workers are likely to commit suicide if the pressure piles beyond their containment (“Suicide.”).
Critique of Durkheim’s Approach
Durkheim's works gives a background of his approach to the issue. The author studied about how he hoped societies should view suicide, and exemplify his approach to the problem at hand. The author believed that understanding the role of sociology in explaining the ostensibly individualistic act would promote sociological domains in analyzing societal issues. Despite him taking the stand as a sociologist, his approach does not efficiently serve the need to control suicide. Heisel et al. indicated that since the ultimate owner of a decision to commit suicide is an individual, a good sociological proposal need to also consider one's mental and psychological ability to withstand the social currents (197).
Durkheim’s work indicates that since integration comes with many social currents, it is the main pointer of suicide in. According to the author, suicide in unmarried people is higher due to their socially disillusioned life. He also wrote that in politically unstable environment like during wars and revolutions, suicide rates are usually low. This assertion is debatable since other scholars indicate prevalence of suicide among unmarried youths resulting from drug abuse (Barreira at al 3-5, Farrell et al. 60). Fear of one's fate, especially in charismatic but vulnerable politicians can also increase their chances of committing suicide.
The author’s indications about the effect of social currents to suicide enable the determination of the rates of suicide in any particular society. Durkheim believed that the root cause of suicide rests within the societal arrangements that individuals identify with, and thus socialist should view the deaths as a normal. Contrary to Durkheim’s indications, the acceptance of suicide as a norm in societies in not welcome. Since the texts have revealed the causes of suicide, sociologists should purpose to reduce suicide cases in communities. Sociologists should advice stakeholders in designing mechanisms of balancing the social currents in the society (Farrell et al. 62).
In conclusion, despite that all attempts to relate Durkheim’s view on suicide to contemporary social life depicts some shortcomings, the scholar extensively explained the causes of suicide and approaches that can help in reducing this social problems in communities. Therefore, there is a need to integrate psychology and sociology principles and highlight the role of individuals and society in combating suicide cases.
Barreira, Paul, Matthew Basilico, and Valentin Bolotnyy. "Graduate student mental health: Lessons from American economics departments." Harvard Univ (2018).
Farrell, C. Thomas, John M. Bolland, and William C. Cockerham. "The role of social support and social context on the incidence of attempted suicide among adolescents living in extremely impoverished communities." Journal of Adolescent Health 56.1 (2015): 59-63. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1054139X14003474.
History.com Editors. “September 11 Attacks.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, February 17. 2010, www.history.com/topics/21st-century/9-11-attacks. Accessed June 24 2020.
Heisel, Marnin J., Eva Neufeld, and Gordon L. Flett. "Reasons for living, meaning in life, and suicide ideation: investigating the roles of key positive psychological factors in reducing suicide risk in community-residing older adults." Aging & Mental Health 20.2 (2016): 195-207. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13607863.2015.1078279
“Suicide.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide. Accessed 24 June 2020.
Shermer, Michael. “Why Do People Kill Themselves?” Scientific American, Scientific American, October 1 2018, www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-people-kill-themselves/. Accessed June 24 2020.
Turecki, Gustavo, and David A. Brent. "Suicide and suicidal behaviour." The Lancet 387.10024 (2016): 1227-1239.
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