1st Edition

Women and Attempted Suicide

By Raymond Jack Copyright 1992
    306 Pages
    by Routledge

    Attempted suicide began to increase inexorably in western societies following World War II. In Britain, it reached epidemic proportions in 1976 when 120,000 cases were reported. More accurately termed “self-poisoning” as the majority of cases involve deliberate, non-fatal overdosing on pills, this remarkable social-medical phenomenon remains without any generally accepted explanation. First published in 1992, Women and Attempted Suicide suggests that two factors have contributed to this failure – the neglect of gender issues and the influence of psychiatry on explanations of deviant behaviour.

    The book offers a new psycho-social explanation based on the theory of Casual Attribution. This suggests that as a result of their socialization, individuals differ in the causes to which they attribute their problems and that some casual attributions are more helpful than others in coping with problems. The volume argues that certain women – and others such as the unemployed and underprivileged who may have limited control over their lives – acquire a “helpless” attributional style. This renders them less able to cope with adversity, more likely to turn to doctors when it befalls them, and more likely to be prescribed psychotropic drugs. When pills fail to solve problems, helplessness may turn to hopelessness and self-poisoning.

    This book will be of interest to students and researchers in many disciplines and particularly of psychology, medical sociology, and women studies.

    Introduction: The Development of Theory and “Attempted Suicide” 1. Epidemiology and the Neglect of Meaning 2. Current Theories of Self-poisoning 3. A Social Psychology of Self-poisoning 4. Women and Sex Role Socialisation 5. Learned Helplessness and Casual Attribution 6. Casual Attribution and Female Self-poisoning 7. An Attributional Model of Female Self-poisoning 8. Intervention


    Raymond Jackspent much of his 30-year social work career in multi-disciplinary outreach teams providing psychiatric care in the community. Subsequently, he taught and researched in three UK universities and as Professor of Social Work at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge developed one of the first open learning routes to social work qualification in the UK.In addition to Women and Attempted Suicide, his publications include Residential Vs. Community Care (1998) and Empowerment in Community Care (1995) – all three remain salient to current debates in social Work and social policy.

    Reviews of the first publication:

    “The author is to be congratulated on writing a provoking, thoughtful and (above all) theoretically informed account of what is a neglected feature of the epidemiology of parasuicide, namely the gender bias.”

    Stephen Platt, MRC Medical Sociology Unit, Glasgow

    “…This is a rewarding text, setting out as it does a case for explaining why women “attempt suicide” more than men: the explanation is in terms of gender role, habitual attributional styles, support systems and relationship breakdown. The high vulnerability of social class V females is argued convincingly. The book will be of interest to both graduates and postgraduates in many disciplines, as it covers basic theory as well as detail.

    Professor H.G. Morgan, Department of Mental Health, University of Bristol