June 1970

Alternatives to the Suicide Prevention Approach to Mental Health

Author Affiliations

From the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Community Study Center (Dr. Hitchcock), and the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Community Mental Health Center (Dr. Wolford), the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1970;22(6):547-549. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1970.01740300067008

SUICIDE prevention facilities are appearing at a rapid rate in the United States—from 47 to 74 in less than a year.1

The purposes of this communication are to raise certain issues which we believe expose some of the theoretical and practical deficiencies in the suicide prevention service, and to suggest alternatives.

Review of the literature fails to reveal any indication that persons harboring self-destructive impulses share with each other any attribute other than the self-destructive impulse itself. Types of behavior described as "self-destructive" are diverse and range from the successful suicidal act to "accidents," and "chronic" suicidal conditions such as alcoholism, obesity, smoking, and even work or school performance.

A number of authors point out that individuals manifesting suicidal behavior show no significant concordance for genic material, personality or character structure, psychiatric diagnosis, socioeconomic status, life situation, age, or any other defined parameter. Litman says suicide is "an

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