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Minerva Psichiatrica 2007 March;48(1):99-118


language: Italian

Suicide and suicidology: a look ahead

Pompili M. 1, 2, Tatarelli R. 2

1 McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School Boston, MA, USA 2 Ospedale Sant’Andrea Sapienza Università degli Studi di Roma, Roma


Suicide is a serious public health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO), recognizing the growing problem of suicide worldwide, urged member nations to address the phenomenon. During the past decade, there have also been dramatic and disturbing increases in reports of suicide among youths. Suicide remains a serious public health problem at the other end of the age spectrum, too. Suicide risk and protective factors and their interaction form the empirical base for suicide prevention. Risk factors are associated with the greater potential for suicide and suicidal behavior. Suicidology is a science dedicated to the understanding and prevention of suicide. Many fields of study are brought together under suicidology, including psychology, psychiatry, physiology and sociology. In the United States, large-scale efforts to prevent suicide began in 1958, through funds from the U.S. Public Health Service to establish the first suicide prevention center. Based in Los Angeles, Shneidman, Farberow, and Litman studied suicide in the context of providing community service and crisis intervention. Understanding risk factors can help dispel the myths that suicide is a random act or results from stress alone. Mental disorders, previous suicide attempt, hopelessness and psychological pain associated with easy access to lethal methods constitute important elements in the precipitation of suicide. Some lists of warning signs for suicide have been created in an effort to identify and increase the referral of person at risk. This paper overviews major areas of interest in suicide research, including assessment and intervention, risk factors in various mental disorders, treatments that reduce suicide risk and survivors of suicide. The authors look ahead toward the efforts made so far in suicide research.

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