For over 150 years, instances and rates of suicide have been a hugely symbolic resource for making statements about society. The key goal of this project was to investigate the links between suicide and political and social crisis, at macro and micro levels.
Do suicide rates increase in times of socio-political crisis, and, if so, why? How do psychiatrists, pathologists, jurists, coroners, politicians, and the public understand suicide epidemics as symptomatic of instability?
These questions were brought to bear on a case study of the suicide epidemic triggered by war fear during the Munich Crisis (1938-39), and documented in the Wellcome collections, Coroners records and Press representation.
Together with key collaborators in the medical humanities and the cross-disciplinary field of suicidology, in two conferences we have tested psychological, psychiatric, sociological and historical theories about how internalisation of dramatic socio-political change effects incidents, methods, and attitudes towards suicide.
Our preliminary findings were disseminated through journal articles, History and Policy, and blogs. We offered historical insight into recent suicide epidemics connected to PTSD and veterans of the Iraq Wars, the increase in suicides during the 2008 Financial Crisis, mental health in refugee communities, up to the psychological fallout of Brexit.