Globally and at many times in history, instances and rates of suicide have been hugely symbolic resources for making statements about society. The key goal of this symposium is to investigate the links between suicide and socio-political crisis, at macro and micro levels. We seek to test psychological, psychiatric, sociological and historical theories about how dramatic socio-political change is internalised by individuals. In particular, we will explore how moments of ‘crisis’ —a term which must itself be problematised— determine how suicides are recorded, represented and perceived, and whether the incidence and nature of personal crisis can be linked to broader, national events. Our research questions include but are not limited to:
•What kind of correlations have been made, past and present, between public and personal crisis?
•Do suicide statistics (which should themselves be carefully scrutinised) vary in times of socio-political crisis, and, if so, why?
•How do psychiatrists and pathologists, historians and social scientists, jurists and coroners, politicians, the media and the public understand suicide epidemics as symptomatic of instability and of collective crises?
A deeper understanding of historical and sociological patterns in suicide epidemiology can be achieved by pooling research findings, synergizing methods, and jointly developing interdisciplinary conceptual models. These understandings should also inform policy and practice, and we aim to develop strategies to raise public awareness and inform mental health policy-makers and practitioners. The symposium provides us with the opportunity to make new connections between scholars from across the disciplines, charities and third sector organizations, the media and policy-makers, and to plan ahead for collaborative projects and follow-on funding.
This two-day international symposium has been made possible by a Wellcome Seed Award supporting Dr Julie V. Gottlieb’s project ‘Suicide, Society and Crisis’, and it is supported by Medical Humanities Sheffield. Dr Gottlieb is working on a case study of an apparent suicide epidemic triggered by war fear during the Munich Crisis and its fallout (1938-39). This and other historical examples strongly resonate with contemporary suicide epidemics linked to dramatic social change: suicide and PTSD in the Iraq Wars; increase in suicides since the 2008 Financial Crisis; mental health issues in refugee communities; right up to the psychological fallout of Britain’s EU referendum.
We therefore welcome proposals for papers, panels or posters that consider various aspects of the relationship between mental health crises (and suicide more specifically) and social, political, economic and international crises from both historical and contemporary perspectives.
We are delighted to welcome Prof Mathew Thomson (University of Warwick) as our keynote speaker. Plenary speakers include Dr Maria Teresa Brancaccio, Dr Sarah Chaney, Dr Moritz Föllmer, Dr Christian Goeschel, Dr Julie Gottlieb, Dr Laura King, Dr David Lederer, Prof Ian March, Prof Janet Miron, Dr Chris Millard, Dr China Mills, Prof Sarah Waters, and Prof Phil Withington.
Please send paper proposals of approximately 250 words and a short bio to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, by 9 March 2018. Those selected to participate will be notified by the end of March. There will be no conference fee, and some funding is available to cover speakers’ travel (within the UK) and accommodation in Sheffield.