Suicide triggers in ancient and recent times

  • W. Pridmore | Medical School, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
  • S. Pridmore Saxby Pridmore MD, AM. Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Tasmania, Australia.


Background: Western medicine has insisted that suicide is always triggered by mental disorder. We have argued that is not the case. Plato (360 BCE) stated that suicide could occur as a response to various predicaments. Aims: To determine whether 1) non-medical suicide triggers could be identified in the stories of ancient times, 2) these suicide triggers remained operative in recent times, and 3) methods of transmission of these models over time (in representations in literature and visual arts) could be identified. Method: We examined history from ancient to the present time, using books, journals and the web, and arranged our findings consistent with our aims. Results: We identified nine (9) ancients who had died in response to non-medical suicide triggers. We were also able to identify at least one recent case, in which the suicide trigger was comparable to that of an ancient individual. Literary and visual art representations of the ancient suicide completer could be identified in every case. Conclusions: Non-medical suicide triggers could be identified in ancient and recent cases. These were various forms of loss, shame/guilt and unavoidable physical pain, reminiscent of the triggers of suicide which Plato found acceptable. It is possible that, consistent with a universal characteristic of life (the avoidance of distress/pain) suicide is an innate response to painful situations, and that the transmission of information about the responses of earlier members has a role in determining the different suicide rates of different cultures.



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Original Article(s)
suicide, suicide prevention, medical history
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How to Cite
Pridmore, W., & Pridmore, S. (2016). Suicide triggers in ancient and recent times. Working Paper of Public Health, 5(1).