[Skip to Navigation]
February 1936


Arch NeurPsych. 1936;35(2):270-291. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1936.02260020064005

Prevailing views on suicide have been transmitted with comparatively little change from generation to generation for the past one hundred and fifty years. Viewed with awe and a certain psychologic embarassment, suicide appears to the present-day psychiatrist as it did in the past, as an abnormality of mental reactions, or more specifically as an aberration of the instinct of self-preservation, arising from what it has become customary to call undue depressive affects. This point of view, while couched in present-day terms, differs little from that expressed by several generations of medical psychologists, who in turn inherited it from the tradition originated by Saint Augustine.

Saint Augustine was one of the first, if not the first, to postulate that suicide is a sin!1 And sin in those days was a voluntary surrender of one's reason to the pressure of evil, i. e., a sort of intellectual aberration of one's will.