Suicide Cultures

Suicide Cultures Events

Suicide Cultures events - seminars, conferences and more.

Suicide Cultures Seminar Series 2023 

Seminars will feature a diverse range of speakers, each addressing suicide from different disciplinary and methodological perspectives. All seminars will last 1 hour, and be held on Zoom.

For future events, please click the links to register your place in order to attend.

18th May, 16:00-17:00 :'Promiscuous care: relating suicide in Orlando von Einsidel’s Evelyn' 

Anne Whitehead is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature in the School of English at Newcastle University UK. She has recently published the monograph Relating Suicide: A Personal and Critical Perspective (Bloomsbury Academic, 2023), which is one of the first publications in the Critical interventions in the Medical and Health Humanities series. Anne authored the monograph Medicine and Empathy in Contemporary British Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) and was a co-editor of the Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities (Edinburgh University Press, 2017). She sits on the advisory board of the Edinburgh University Press monograph series Contemporary Cultural Studies of Illness, Health and Medicine.   

This paper counters the understanding of suicide as a solitary act by tracing how it ripples out through a diverse range of bodies, institutions, and objects, conceiving of it as relational in the ways that its dispersion connects lives, which are otherwise unrelated. Anne reads Orlando von Einsiedel’s 2018 documentary Evelyn as enacting a version of ‘promiscuous care’ (The Care Collective, The Care Manifesto, 2020), generating community and solidarity around suicide by harnessing the potential of the local and the relational.  

20th of April, 16:00-17:00 BST: 'Cultural scripts of gender and suicide'.

Girls and women have higher rates of suicidal ideation and behavior but lower rates of suicide mortality than boys and men. This is a dominant but not a universal pattern--which suggests that suicidal behavior is influenced by cultural factors. In this presentation I examine suicidal behavior from gender and cultural perspectives. I analyze the diversity of patterns and meanings of gender and suicidal behavior across cultures and countries, and question prevailing myths--including the ideas that women and men are “opposites” in terms of suicide motives and that this presumed motives-difference is universal. I then describe my cultural-scripts of-gender-and-suicidality theory. Its tenets are that everywhere suicide is a cultural act; and that a culture’s scripts of gender and suicidal behavior influence women’s and men’s suicidal behaviors--from whether they engage in it to the suicidal-behavior circumstances and method.

Silvia Sara Canetto is Professor at Colorado State University, USA, where she holds appointments in the Psychology Department, the School of Public Health, and Women's Studies Program. She has graduate degrees from the University of Padova, Italy; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and Northwestern University, Chicago, USA. She authored over 200 publications, mostly on gender, culture and suicidality, including “The gender paradox in suicide,” the third most-cited article in Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. She received the American Association of Suicidology’s Shneidman and Dublin awards, and is “Fellow” of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Gerontological Society of America.

13th of March, 15:30-16:30 GMT: 'Couch talks: A fearless conversation about death and life outside of the borders of pathology.'

Tisha X: I am many things, for the purposes of this project I wish to introduce myself as someone who is uninterested in life, someone who has been held on an involuntary psychiatric hold at the age of seventeen, someone who has experienced being pitied and feared by those that knew of my Darwinian failure to want to end my God given life. I also wish to introduce myself as someone who holds anger towards the therapeutic world, as a client and as a therapist, for not being allowed to explore life and death in a way that is true to my experiences without having to fear the repercussions. This muted experience translates into a silent rage that makes me want to run as far away from the academic as I can–while at the same time acknowledging that it is a world I choose to belong to everyday as an associate of marriage and family therapy. So why am I here? Well because who else needs to hear this if not the people sitting across from people, who like me, are calling into question their desire to take-on another shift in the 9 to 5 that is life. To my communities I am also a daughter of immigrants, a granddaughter of the clouds–which speaks to my grandparents indigenous connections to the Zapoteco people of México. A Spanglish, Spanish, and English speaking Xicana (USA born Mexican women), a non-heterosexual cis-woman, a lover of stories, a curious thinker, a disliker of unresolved questions, to my friends a contradictory gemini, and someone whose death will have unkind ripple effects on those she shared her life with.  

Candea Mosley: I received my M.S. in Counseling with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy at San Diego State University. I received training at a local non-profit agency that serves Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees who have experienced trauma and domestic violence. I am currently a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT #120796) working in private practice. I also teach in the Counseling and Social Change minor at San Diego State. I am a Black-American woman who is a wife, mom, partner, friend, grandparent, and so many other things to different people. My approach to therapy is collaborative, fun, and engaging, with a genuine interest in helping people live the life they prefer. I do this through a poststructuralist lens while using solution-focused, collaborative, and narrative frameworks to underpin my work. It is my honor to participate in meaningful conversations with clients while meeting them separately from their problems. My work does not shy away from challenging discussions surrounding race, suicide, homicide, sexual assault, or abuse. When these “hard” topics come up, we (therapists) must check all the boxes due to the bureaucracy in the work. These moments are hard to navigate relationally and sometimes can take the client's autonomy and voices away as we (therapists) are now both attending to the gaze of the systems, which shifts us away from being near the client’s experience. My hopes is to begin conversations that destigmatize and decriminalize conversations regarding suicidal ideations that allows for me to do work with clients without the fear of the gaze. However, even with the gaze, my ethic is to always privilege clients’ values, strengths, skill sets, and resources outside the dominant stories that may impact their lives. 

marcela polanco: I was raised in unceded and exploited territories of the Muisca peoples in the Nation-State Colombia. Colonially speaking, my flesh is racially marked and ranked as a brown cis woman, middle class, heterosexual, able bodied, with no religious affiliations. My ancestry is Southern European by colonization; as well as Muisca, Pijao, and Black. I speak two imperial languages, Español Colombiano and immigrant English as well as borderland Spanglish. I live an advantageous urban life in the unceded territories of the Kumeyaay peoples in San Diego, California, a border city connected to Tijuana, México. I actively participate in the exploitation and consumption of the earth. My earnings come from institutional systems of oppression dedicated to the legitimation of the production of knowledge on suicide in standard English, through patriarchal science, and racialized and gendered professional education. I profit from my scholarly work on decoloniality and social justice that seeks to question and delink from the very same racists and capitalist’s systems that kill and my livelihood depends on. I am a faculty member of the family therapy program at San Diego State University.  

Inspired by the "Statement of Ethics" (2019) of the Critical Suicide Studies network, we, Tisha and Candea utilize our lived experiences with suicidality and as marriage and family therapists as our gateway to consider the possibilities of what suicide is and what our responses to it could be outside of academic borders. We will engage in a conversation about life and death outside the walls of what we experience as academic fear. This conversation is a window into one of the many conversations we have shared about life and death on Candea’s couch. We invite you to join us with the hope of making palpable a sense of normality while discussing the topic of wanting to end one's life. A normality made possible through the delinking of the pathological, the use of humor, fearless curiosity, unedited thoughts, and an interest in exploring possibilities outside the borders of research-based best-practices. Additionally, we seek to question how we as therapists conceptualize our role and responsibilities to the people sitting across from us outside the borders of pathology. Following, I, marcela, will accompany Tisha and Candea’s conversation as an accomplice of the colonial, hence violent systems that produce and distribute “the suicidal” category. 

13th of February, 16:00-17:00 GMT: 'Rethinking (Assisted) Suicide through Suicidism: A Trans, Queer, Crip Approach.'

Alexandre Baril is Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa. His work is situated at the crossroads of gender, queer, trans, disability/crip/Mad studies, critical gerontology and critical suicidology. His forthcoming book is entitled Undoing Suicidism: A Trans, Queer, Crip Approach to Rethinking (Assisted) Suicide. His commitment to equity has earned him awards for his involvement in queer, trans and disabled communities, including the Canadian Disability Studies Association Tanis Doe Francophone Award (2020), and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion President’s Award at the University of Ottawa (2021). A prolific author, he has given over 185 presentations and has over 75 publications.

In this presentation I argue that suicidal people are oppressed by structural suicidism. Suicidism and its preventionist script cause additional harm and death through forms of incarceration, discrimination, stigmatization and pathologization. This is particularly true for marginalized groups, such as trans people, for whom suicidist interventions increase cisgenderist violence. I therefore question the idea that the best way to help (trans) suicidal people is through prevention. I put forth the argument that supporting assisted suicide for suicidal people could more effectively prevent deaths. By offering a new queercrip model of (assisted) suicide, I invite us to imagine what could happen if we started thinking about (assisted) suicide from an anti-suicidist and intersectional framework.

Suicide Cultures Autumn 2022 Seminar Series

15th of December, 14:30-15:30 GMT: ' Migration, anomic disaffection, and suicide among the British Alevi Community'

Dr Umit Cetin is a senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Westminster. He obtained his PhD from the University of Essex with his research on Suicide amongst the Alevi Kurds in the UK. Since 2010, he has been working with the British Alevi Federation to help raise the profile of the Alevi Community and tackle youth related problems and has published his research on Alevi youth, suicide, religion, identity and migration.   

Alevis migrated from Turkey to the UK and settled down in London in the 1980s. From 2000s onwards, second generation young male suicides has been one of the biggest public issues for the community. Based on ethnographic data, this presentation aims to provide a sociological explanation of the social causation of these suicides in the UK Alevi community. I argue that an understanding of suicide among Alevi men requires an intersectional analysis of the social organisation of the Alevi community, taking account of their migration contexts on a transnational level and pressures of settlement, generation, masculinity and belonging within and external to the community. This problem first manifested in the form of second-generation young men and the community took steps to address the marginalisation of Alevi youth through introducing lessons about Alevism into the RE curriculum at schools. This raised the visibility of Alevi youth and contributed to a sense of belonging in schools but recently suicide has also materialised amongst the first-generation Alevi men too raising further questions about the pressures of change within the community and the impact of age and masculinity, which I will explore further in this presentation.  

23rd of November, 16:00-17:00 GMT: ' Knowledge Production on Suicide: Between Social and Psychological Pathologies'

Zohreh BayatRizi is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Alberta. Her main interests are the history of sociological concepts as well as the sociology of death and dying. Currently, she is working on a project focused on conceptualizing a critical, transnational concept of grief. Her most recent publication is 'Risk, Mourning, Politics: Toward a Critical, Transnational Conception of Grief for COVID-19 Deaths in Iran' (2021). She has also published Life Sentences: The Modern Ordering of Mortality and 'From Fate to Risk: The Quantification of Mortality in Early Modern Statistics'. 

Knowledge Production on Suicide: Between Social and Psychological Pathologies   Relying on an analysis of 19th century literature on suicide in Western Europe (U.K. France, Italy, Austro-Hungarian Empire), this talk will explore how suicide was transformed from a symbolic act of definace into a pathological behaviour. In particular, it will examine how social and psychological debates took over and replaced religious debates and by doing so nullified the question of agency and the free will in the suicide act. The talk will end with a consideration of the contemporary implications of this historical shift. 

Previous Seminars

25th of October, 14:30-15:30 GMT: 'Weaponising time in the war on welfare: slow violence and welfare-related deaths'

China Mills leads the Deaths by Welfare project at Healing Justice Ldn (and has co-created the timeline with John Pring, at Disability News Service)

Project info:

Public consultation on the Deaths by Welfare timeline

Twitter: @DeathsbyWelfare @HJusticeLdn @chinatmills

The Deaths by Welfare Project is an investigation into deaths (including suicides) linked to or caused by the UK welfare system, and co-designed and produced by a team of people, including disabled people, and those with lived experience of the welfare system.  

Key to our work of tracking the gradual causalities of welfare reform has been the co-production of a timeline documenting evidence of the links between welfare reform and people’s deaths and tracking the slow bureaucratic violence of welfare reform, through making visible the delay between policies and their harmful effects.   

In this session, we’ll talk about the timeline, focusing on government investigations into, and lived experience campaigning about, welfare reform (or benefits related) deaths – or what the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) calls the ‘death of a customer’. We’ll show how Government investigations into the deaths of people claiming benefits reveal the way complexity, bureaucracy and time are weaponised by the DWP against people claiming, and trying to claim, benefits, and designed, and are carried out in a way that systemically invisiblises state responsibility and accountability.   

Suicide Cultures Spring 2022 Seminar Series

16th of June, 14:30-15:30 BST: 'Narratives of Male Suicide and Masculinity in 19th-Century Britain' 

Lyndsay Galpin completed her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2019, with a thesis exploring the cultural narratives of male suicide through nineteenth-century newspaper reports. Her book, which is based on her thesis and titled Male Suicide and Masculinity in 19th-century Britain: Stories of Self-Destruction, was published by Bloomsbury in May 2022.

Over the last decade, the male suicide rate, which is 3 times higher than that of women, has become a topic of public discourse. In these discussions, many have argued that the rise in male suicide is evidence of a crises of modern masculinity. Yet suicide statistics from the 19th century reveal a similar proportion of male suicides as the present day. This paper explores how the cultural expectations of masculinity were embedded in the narratives of male suicide in the 19th-century press, particularly as it pertained to the perceived motive - many of which still persist today. In analysing cultural perceptions of suicidal motive in the press, I move away from traditional Durkheimian categories of analysis and argue that suicide cannot be removed from the social context in which it occurs.

19th of May, 16:00-17:00 BST: 'Conceptualizing the Affective Language of Self-Immolation as Political Protest'

Sara Hassani is a Ph.D. Candidate and ACLS-Mellon Fellow in Politics at the New School for Social Research and incoming Assistant Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies at Providence College. Hassani’s research examines the steep and gendered rates of self-immolation plaguing the domestic sphere in the historical Persian belt countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and eastern Uzbekistan, and mounts a conceptual challenge to common distinctions between self-destructive acts of protest and suicide in the study of politics. She holds an M.Phil in Politics from the New School for Social Research, as well as an MA in Political Studies and BA in Political Science and Arabic from the University of Ottawa.

This presentation draws on semi-structured interviews with Tajik, Iranian, Afghan, and Uzbek survivors of self-immolation, their doctors, surgeons, nurses, families, advocates, and communities, as well as 176 qualitative surveys from across the region, to offer the first empirically grounded conceptualization of the “affective language” of self-immolation as a modality of political protest. Against the western, liberal, and androcentric binary that reserves political agency only for agents of self-destructive violence with rationalized motivations, declarative manifestos, or ties to an identifiable collectivity (Biggs 2005; Lankford 2011), I argue in favor of re-imagining the interplay between agency and structure, the individual and the political, both in our meditations on regional women and girls’ self-burnings, and in the study of self-inflicted death in the “private” sphere more broadly. By highlighting the patterned struggles, common understandings, and conceptual transfers that often inform women and girls’ deployments of self-immolation across the region, I venture a descent into the “meaning worlds” (Bargu 2013) of self-destructive agents as well as probe the received understandings of their communities and the broader regional imaginary to reveal the ways in which women and girls’ threats and deployments of self-immolation serve to instigate, communicate, and embody a constellation of power struggles that coalesce around gendered frontiers of the political while also drawing our attention to the symbolic, affective, and political agency of their self-regarded injuries.

5th May, 15.30-16.30 BST: Saartje Tack 'Destabilising the positionality of the living in approaches to suicide'

Suicide is commonly understood as something that must be prevented. Dominant approaches to suicide, then, are necessarily centred around those who want to die: it requires intervention in the lives of those who want to die and have died by those who want to live and who are committed to longevity. That such approach structures responses to suicide in research and practice remains largely unquestioned.

In this paper, I shift the focus away from the suicidal individual and highlight the ‘where’ from which suicide is read. I argue that acknowledging that suicide is read from the position of those who want to live, and highlighting it as a position, destabilises the presumed neutrality of this position. Furthermore, the imperative of prevention in suicide presumes that the will to live is a natural characteristic of bodies. I argue, however, that it is an embodied norm that is naturalised through performative repetition.

Drawing on queer and feminist theories of embodiment, I engage with the question of who gets to speak about suicide and how this speaking position is enabled and sustained. I, furthermore, investigate which kinds of responses to suicide this speaking position enables and disables. In other words, in this paper, I am interested in who can occupy a position from which they can speak about suicide, and how this informs what can be known about suicide. Indeed, if the positionality of the living disappears in its presumed neutrality, the normative character of the responses to suicide it enables is displaced from view. I thus aim to interrogate the ways in which the positionality of those who want to live is implicated in perpetuating binaries such as normal/abnormal and natural/unnatural. 

Saartje Tack is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Sociology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Saartje’s research interests include queer and feminist theories of embodiment, with a particular focus on questions of agency, identity, and subjectivity

28th April 2022, 2:30-3:30pm BST: Anisur Rahman Khan 'The social and cultural context of male suicide in Bangladesh'

Emile Durkheim’s classical work Le Suicide (1897) laid the theoretical and methodological foundation of the ‘sociology of suicide’. It still stands as a common source of reference both for sociology and beyond. Nonetheless, Durkheim’s positivist innovation has received criticisms in sociology on theoretical and methodological grounds. In particular, Jack Douglas in Social Meaning of Suicide (1967) emphasises that sociological analysis must uncover and interpret the range of motives and meanings associated with each act of suicide. 

Suicide is a serious but under-researched public health problem in Bangladesh. More upsettingly, sociological work (Durkheimeian and post-Durkheimian) on suicide is almost absent in Bangladesh. Against this backdrop, I have taken up sociologist Raewyn Connell’s seminal concept of hegemonic masculinity to explore the cultural and social meanings of male suicide in Bangladesh. I have interviewed 45 ‘significant others’ of 15 men who died by suicide from the rural settings of Jhenaidah district (one of most suicide-prone areas), Bangladesh. Findings of the research suggest that men who died by suicide failed to make a balance between the culturally and sonically imbued hegemonic masculine ideals and the harsh realities of life. In this way, society/culture forces men to escape from life.  

In radical contrast to the conventional/dominant view of suicide as linked to purely psychological and individualistic problems, works must be undertaken under the framework of sociology of suicide. In that case, Bangladesh can be considered as a test case for re-rejuvenating the methodological and epistemological aspects of sociology of suicide.   

Anisur Rahman Khan is an Associate Professor of Sociology at East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. His research interests concentrate on men and masculinity, sociology of suicide and social policy analysis. He is particularly interested in developing a theoretical and methodological base on the sociology of suicide in Bangladesh. In the same vein, he is currently working on exploring the social fact of suicide embedded in the cultural and social meanings and practices of men and masculinity.    

24th of February 2022, 4-5pm BST: “Once I step over the threshold….”: making sense of LGBT+ youth suicide. 

Despite well-established knowledge that LGBT+ young people are more likely than their cisgender, heterosexual peers to feel suicidal, little is known about why this is the case or how to prevent it. In this talk Hazel Marzetti will attempt to go beyond numbers, to qualitatively explore how LGBT+ young people  

make sense of suicidal distress themselves. As part of this narrative inquiry, she will call the established ‘neatness’ of language used to describe suicide into question, consider the ways that barrier to accessing support services shape the articulation of suicidal distress, and explore the multiple ways in which suicide can be understood both as resistance and as response. 

Dr Hazel Marzetti is a post-doctoral researcher working on the Suicide in/as Politics project. Hazel's research interests centre on critical suicide studies, LGBT+ mental health, the role of emotions in research practices, and qualitative approaches to health research. You can find her on Twitter @hazelmarzetti, contact her by email and find resources relating to research at 

21st January 2022, 4-5pm BST: Fiona Malpass and Jennifer White 'Critical Suicide Studies statement of ethics'

In this dialogue, Fiona Malpass and Jennifer White will be asking different kinds of questions about the ethics of suicide prevention. Rather than bringing answers, they will interrogate the implications of doing harm in the name of good, consider their positionalities as white saviours, and contribute to the critical conversation around suicide research and prevention with a feminist and relational ethics that celebrates the messy, the entangled, the collective.

The Critical Suicide Studies Network: Statement of Ethics can be found here and the speakers invite you to read it before the seminar

Fiona Malpass works at Mind in Camden as the Hearing Voices Project manager, working with young people, prisons, forensic settings and immigration removal centres, and the London Hearing Voices network. They are also studying Philosophy and Mental Health at UCLan. Fiona has personal experience of many forms of distress, including suicidality, and uses this in her work to build connections, as well as to challenge the status quo and provide provocations to ways of thinking and working.

Jennifer White is a professor and former director of the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, Canada. Jennifer has over twenty years' experience working as a practitioner and researcher in suicide prevention. Jennifer is one of the founders of the Critical Suicidology Network, a growing international network of scholars exploring alternatives to the biomedical approaches to suicide prevention we have inherited.

Suicide Cultures 2021 Seminar Series

For past events, please click the links to view a recording of the seminar. 

17th November, 2.30pm BST: Anna Mueller, Seth Abrutyn and Sarah Diefendorf "Building Effective Mental Health Saftey Nets in Schools: an Organizational Theory of Youth Suicide Clusters"

Despite decades of research, youth suicide remains difficult to understand and predict, and thus challenging to prevent. Drawing on the well-established literature on major industrial accident prevention – another notoriously difficult catastrophe to predict – and new data from an ethnography of suicide prevention in 4 schools in Colorado, we advance a new approach to understanding why youth suicide clusters form and persist. This approach recognizes the school as a formal organization facing competing demands, goals, and constituencies, all of which can compromise the school's ability to prevent suicide. We conclude (1) by setting a new agenda for research on suicide prevention in schools and (2) by offering new strategies to build effective school-based mental health safety systems.

Anna S. Mueller is a Luther Dana Waterman Associate Professor of Sociology. The primary strand of Mueller’s research agenda examines how social relationships and social contexts shape adolescent health and wellbeing over the transition to adulthood, with a focus on adolescent suicidality.

Sarah Diefendorf is a visiting scholar at Indiana University. Working as a sociologist in health care, Sarah has a particular focus on religion, gender, sexuality, and rural health.

Seth Abrutyn is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia whose theoretical interests lie at the intersections of many subfields including suicide/mental health, social psychology, emotions, cultural sociology, and organizations/institutions. His substantive interests center on youth suicide, and the why’s and how’s behind diffusion and clustering in schools and communities.

16th September, 4pm BST: Chris Dowrick "Not choose not to be: the 'terrible sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins''

Christopher Dowrick is Emeritus Professor in the University of Liverpool and a general practitioner in Aintree Park Group Practice, Liverpool. He is also Chair of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) working party for mental health. His research portfolio covers common mental health problems in primary care, with a focus on depression and medically unexplained symptoms, and the needs of people from marginalised communities. He has published five books and over 250 research papers. He is currently writing a book exploring the ways in which literary reading can enable people considering suicide to stay alive.

Created during a deeply unhappy period of Hopkins' life, these six poems arise from ‘a languishment of body and mind’. Yet they also give readers, including Christopher and his patient Frances, glimpses of Hopkins’ unimpeachable honesty, of the legitimacy of distress, and a sense of connection, of shared experience. They encourage us to observe our emotions rather than be overwhelmed by them, enable our determination to survive come what may, and the flowering of self-compassion.

19th August, 3pm BST: Kelly Stewart 'Challenging our well-rehearsed stories of suicide bereavement'

Kelly Stewart's lived experience of suicide bereavement underpins her work as a psychotherapist and her PhD research at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Health in Social Science. Her current research explores the intergenerational trauma of suicide in families, which builds on her published master's research on losing a mother to suicide.

Join our online seminar on 19th August to learn with PhD researcher Kelly Stewart as she invites us into the phenomenon of suicide running in families. We’ll explore the role of shame, stigma and silence in shaping how we (don’t) talk about suicide. In how we, perhaps, unknowingly reinforce the status quo of suicide running in families. We’ll think through the complexities of this phenomenon and our need to challenge well-rehearsed stories of suicide bereavement.