Background: In the West, beginning in the early 19th century, the belief
was published that suicide was always, or almost always, the result of a mental
disorder (a medical problem). This belief became established wisdom when psychological
autopsies commenced in mid-20th century. However, should this belief be
inaccurate, our suicide prevention strategies, which are currently medically orientated,
need to change.
Aim: To argue the case that metal disorder is not always, or almost
always, the cause of suicide, and that suicide may be triggered by a host of other
factors. Method. The scientific basis of psychological autopsies and the practice of
medicalization were explored. The opinions of non-medical experts were explored,
including philosophers, historians, sociologists, economists and ethicists, among
others. Epidemiology of rates in different countries and gender differences were
examined for evidence. Conclusion. Suicide is not exclusively a medical problem.
While suicide is more common in people who have a mental disorder than people
without a mental disorder, mental disorder is not a necessary condition. Thus, open
discussions about the nature and causes of suicide are required, with a view to
involving experts from a range of fields, and the general community, in developing
and funding suitable prevention strategies.