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January 31, 1977

Suicide: Inside and Out

JAMA. 1977;237(5):485. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270320063034

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As part of a strategy to understand the phenomenon of suicide in mental hospitals, Reynolds, a cultural anthropologist, after a period of careful preparation and rehearsal, was admitted to a Veterans Administration hospital as a depressed, suicidal patient. The book discusses his own reactions and his perception of the hospital milieu and staff during his two-week stay. He describes his hospital experiences in a journal that recollects each day of the stay.

The first section of the book offers a brief and incomplete review of the literature on suicides occurring in mental hospitals. The author declares that much needs to be learned on the subject and that the majority of such patients who kill themselves in mental hospitals are considered severely disorganized or schizophrenic. Since Reynolds has mimicked a nonschizophrenic depressive disorder, his generalizations are evidently limited, as he readily admits. On the other hand, as a view of the