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Minerva Medica 2010 October;101(5):353-62


language: English

Suicide on my mind. A look back and ahead at suicide prevention in Italy

Pompili M.

1 Department of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Functions, Suicide Prevention Center Sant’Andrea Hospital, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy; 2 McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard, MA, USA


Suicide is a serious public health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO), recognizing the growing problem of suicide worldwide and urged member nations to address the phenomenon. Since the time of Enrico Morselli, the suicide rate the changed dramatically in some Italian areas whereas it has remained approximately the same in other regions. During the period 1980–2006, about 4000 suicide deaths among Italian residents were certified on average each year. For each suicide there are probably about twenty suicide attempts resulting in a great burden for individuals, their families and society. Suicidal individuals often talk about suicide, death, and/or having no reason to live. Most suicidal individuals give definite warnings of their suicidal intentions, but significant others are either unaware of the significance of these warnings or do not know how to respond to them. The assumption that these individuals want to die because they suffer from a psychiatric disorder must be substituted by a phenomenological approach to suicide. An approach centred on the intersubjectivity allows recognition an unbearable psychological pain for which the suicide is perceived as the best solution. Suicide is best understood not so much as a movement toward death as it is a movement away from something and that something is always the same: intolerable emotion, unendurable, or unacceptable anguish. If the level of suffering is reduced the individual will choose to live. The author looks back and ahead for preventing suicide in the Italian territory and reflects on the many suicide activities across Italy in which he was involved over the past two years.

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