Thinking Differently About Suicide with Natalia Je and Sarah Roffey

Deaths by suicide tend to elicit very different responses to ‘natural’ or ‘involuntary’ deaths. Similarly, expressing one’s thoughts of suicide or wish to die is often met with fear, moral judgement and discomfort. Paraphrasing the words of philosopher David Webb, as a society, we are not very skilled at talking about suicide. In some ways this is can be explained, because suicide summons two of our greatest fears – the fear of death and the fear of madness.

In this workshop, we will open a space for dialogue and reflection on suicidal urges and acts that steps out beyond the dominant explanatory frameworks: the bio-medical, which assuredly connects suicide to ‘mental health issues’; and religious, linking it to sin and moral weakness.

We will approach the question of our own suicidal thoughts and fantasies: where do they come from? What do they mean? Is contemplating one’s suicide always negative and unwelcome? What is happening in the society that makes such thoughts and actions a necessity for some? Can suicides be prevented and do they need to be?

We will make an invitation to honour and respect one’s feelings and not fear them. And to develop one’s own ways of making meaning and rich language to speak of intense and despairing experiences. We will also make space for those bereaved by suicides of others.