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- Attempted task of reconstructing history of western society's views of death
- Research included observations of burial practices, end of life rituals, literary works, etc.
- Based on research, identified 5 different overlapping stages, or Western attitudes toward death:
1. Tame death (early middle ages): death seen as inevitable; one calmly and willingly accepts the inevitability of death.
- Death is a natural and uncontrollable event
- Death is a public, or community event
- Usually took place at home, surrounded by family- customary for children to be present
- Death is a familiar, or common event
- Death is merely "sleep" until the second coming
2. Death of the self (late middle ages to 12th century)
- Individuals are seen as unique and distinct ("I will die my own death")
- Individuals experience great anxiety about what happens after death in terms of eternal judgment
- The hour of death becomes the most important hour of life (i.e. where one's soul's fate is decided)
- Death is seen as leading to reward or punishment
- The "Ars moreindi" (or "Art of Dying") is written as a guide to death and dying
3. Remote and imminent death (14th to 17th century)
- Because death is frightening, great effort is made to keep it at a distance (i.e. make it remote)
- Mourning customs are more strictly defined ex: family of deceased must wear particular mourning clothes; rules around expressions of emotions
- Tapophobia (fear of being buried alive) develops
4. Death of the other (18th to 19th century)
- Focus is on relationships broken by death
- Intolerable separation from the ones who die
- Mourners "lose control"- mourning becomes very emotional
- Death reunites deceased loved ones
- Séances become popular- attempts to communicate with deceased loved ones

• Up until end of 19th century, death seen as a visible part of life- not something to be hidden away from view- 20th century brought the outlook that success was everything- death was seen as a failure- deny death to a dying person
5. Invisible death, death denied (20th century on)
- Death is medicalized and banished from the home (i.e. removed from the general viewing of the public)
- Death is a failure of medical science
- Death is offensive and should occur in private
- Individuals fear dying alone in a hospital hooked up to machines
- Morticians create the illusion of life
1. Family- first of primary source of attitudes towards death
- Whether parents discuss death in front of their children (i.e. what they say or don't say)
- Parents who do talk about death with their children- children become much more comfortable with topics of death
- How parents handle death within the family
2. Peers
- Other children's and families' attitudes toward death
3. Religion
- Different religions have different beliefs surrounding death and dying and what funeral or burial rituals may be undertaken Ex: Hindus cremated because believe burning body releases spirit- Muslims regard cremation as a sign of disrespect
- May influence attitudes toward specific end-of-life issues (e.g. abortion)
4. Culture
- Every culture has its own ways of dealing with death
5. Language
- Replacing the words "dead" and "dying" with euphemisms
- Ex: passed on, bit the dust, kicked the bucket etc.
- Gives us distance from our discomfort with death
- Military (e.g. KIAs, collateral damage)
- Use death-related words to dramatize or intensify an expression (e.g. "I nearly died laughing")
6. Music
- Opera
- Folk ballads- Gordon Lightfoot
- Country- Live like you're dying
- Gospel
- Blues
- Rock
- Heavy metal
- Death metal
- Rap
- Religious compositions
7. Literature
- Children's stories (e.g. fairy tales)
- Adult literature (e.g. Shakespearean tragedies, murder mysteries, horror stories, true crime books)
8. Humor and laughter
- Jokes
- Funny epitaphs on tombstones
- Black or gallows humor
- Gives us a way to talk about a taboo topic
- Defuse our anxiety about death
- Provide relief from pain
- Brings people together
9. News Media (e.g. newspapers, internet, magazine)
- Accidents, murders, suicides, war zone stories, disasters
- Deaths of famous people
- "If it bleeds, it leads"
10. Entertainment media
- E.g. television, movies, internet, video games
- Death is a staple in television
- Children's cartoons ex: Wiley coyote
- Video games
- Media images of death tend to be mostly violent, unrealistic, and scary death
• Psychological problems: highly correlated with thoughts of suicide, and suicidal behavior
- Depression (especially feelings of hopelessness)
- Bipolar disorder
- Schizophrenia
- Personality disorders (especially borderline and antisocial personality disorder)
- Neuroticism
- Panic disorder
• Personality factors:
- Submissiveness
- Pessimism
- Easily upset
- Difficulty controlling and regulating emotions
- Anxious and depressed, but not enough to be classified as having a psychological disorder
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulties with intimate relationships
- Feelings of loneliness and despair
• Cognitive factors:
- Perfectionism
- Irrational
- Unable to generate alternative solutions to problems
- External locus of control
- Negative attitudes about the future
- Rigid and narrow thinking
- Thinking characterized by hopelessness and helplessness
• Environmental stress:
- History of physical or sexual abuse (or both)
- Highly dysfunctional family background
• Alcohol and drug abuse:
- Use more alcohol and drugs
- May use alcohol or drugs to relieve stress, depression and anxiety
- Alcohol and drug use lower inhibitions and impairs thinking
- Alienates people who are potential sources of social support
• Physical Illness
- Terminal or life-limiting illness involving chronic or unrelenting pain and suffering
• Behavioral indicators:
- Previous suicide attempts- the closer to success the previous attempt was, the more likely that it will happen again
- Verbalizing suicidal thoughts and feelings
1. Sociological explanation: Emile Durkheim
• Believed that suicide was greatly influenced by two things:
- Social integration (or sense of belonging): the degree to which individuals feel they are a part of their society
- Social regulation: the degree to which society is able to manage or regulate the behavior of its members
• Came up with 4 different types of suicide:
1. Egoistic Suicide- Occurs when people do not feel connected (or lack close ties) with other people in society. - Social integration is low
o Other people do not understand them, or relate to them
o Feel socially isolated and alienated from society
o Example: separated, divorced, and widowed people (especially men)- could be because of loss of support from their partner
2. Altruistic Suicide- Occurs when people commit suicide for the benefit of others
o Social integration is high
o Overly attached or connected to society
o Example: suicide bombers, 9/11 terrorists
3. Anomic Suicide- Occurs in people who once felt connected with the rest of society but now feel estranged (or let down) by society
o Experience anomie (i.e. a sense of confusion or normlessness)
o Social regulation is low
o Ex: an individual who has worked faithfully for the same company for his whole life is suddenly left without a job- the person's connection with society is now broken
o Ex: a person who has been sexually or physically abused
4. Fatalistic suicide- Occurs mainly in highly regulated, controlled, and restrictive societies; individuals feel oppressed by the society's stringent rules and regulations
o Ex: people in prisons; women in oppressive societies
o Social regulation is high

2. Psychological explanations:
Sigmund Freud
• Suicide was murder turned inward (or murder turned around 180 degrees)
• Individual who strongly identifies him/herself with the loss of a former relationship partner, and then they become angry, and they want to harm or kill their ex- according to Freud, because the person has identified themselves so strongly with the ex-relationship partner, they turn the anger inward, which manifests itself as depression, and then suicide
Edwin Shneidman
• Pioneering authority on the topic of suicide
• Wrote "Definition of Suicide"- commonalities among people contemplating suicide
• Cubic model of suicide: comprised of three factors that interact to predict suicide:
1. Press- refers to both internal and external events to which the individual reacts
o Negative events (e.g. rejection, humiliation, failure) move the individual toward suicidal behavior
2. Psychache (or psychological pain)
o Unendurable psychological pain (e.g. depression, sadness, despair) stemming from unfulfilled psychological needs (e.g. lack of belonging, lack of an intimate relationship)
o "Pain is the core of suicide... suicide is an exclusively human response to extreme psychological pain"
3. Perturbation
o The state of being emotionally upset, disturbed, or agitated
o Thinking becomes restricted, "tunnel vision"- thinking that suicide is the only option

3. Biological Explanation
• Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulse control disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims
1. College students and suicide
- Approximately 1,100 young adults kill themselves in U.S. colleges and universities each year
- Pressures:
o Living far away from home
o Heavy course load- academic demands
o Anxiety of what happens after graduation
o Financial- student loans, debt
o Stress of keeping balance between work and friends, etc.
o Relationship problems
- 15% of American college students reported having seriously considered attempting suicide
o More than 5% reported attempting suicide at least once
o Suicidal thinking usually intense and brief
o Reasons:
• Relief from emotional or physical pain
• Problems with romantic relationships
• The desire to end their life
• Problems with school or academics
• Most who commit suicide actually have greater grade point average than others- but below own expectations or parents' expectations
- 9.5% of Canadian university students said they had seriously considered taking their own lives in the past year
o 1.3% said they had attempted suicide
- Jack Project
o Support program for young university students
o Named after Jack Windeler- Queens university student who committed suicide during first year
o Parents started program to reach out to young people on campuses all over Canada to raise awareness of mental health issues
o Encourages young people to talk about mental health issues and reach out- admit that they have a problem
2. Seniors
- Passive Suicide- Some seniors have died because they stop taking medication- lost the will to live
- Chronic physical illness and pain, multiple losses of loved ones, desire to avoid being a burden to others, loneliness, depression, financial hardship
- Seniors that may need assistance in living, which sometimes cannot be obtained- feel like a burden
3. Gay men and lesbians
- Gay men 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight men- more likely during adolescent years
- Why?
o Difficulty in coming out or acknowledging sexuality
o Being rejected by family and friends
o Homophobia, bulling
- Lesbians 2 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight women
o More likely to happen at a later age
4. People who are transgender (or gender non-conforming)
- 41% have attempted suicide at some point in their lives
- Transgender people homeless people- 69% have said that they have tried to kill themselves
5. Victims of bullying, cyber bulling, and sexting (e.g. Amanda Todd)
- 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims