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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2005 May;111(5):384-91.

Suicide in classical mythology: cues for prevention.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of Cagliari, Italy.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To compare well established antecedents and correlates of completed suicide with the motives and the mechanics reported in Greek mythology.

METHOD:

A well-known collection of Greek myths, the Book of fables by Hyginus, was explored to investigate the mechanics driving an individual to imagine, design and carry out a suicide attempt.

RESULTS:

Females outnumber males in the mythographer's list, their favourite methods to die being drowning, hanging, self-burning and throwing themselves down from on high. Some kind of familial recurrence of suicide was accounted for, and a large percentage of these suicides was connected to incest. Shame, sense of guilt and grief for the death of a loved one are the most frequently reported psychological correlates of the act, whereas defeat, failure or a catastrophic change in living conditions and, among females, an unfortunate love affair figure as the main antecedents of suicide.

CONCLUSION:

Negative life events and emotional reactions to the severing of social ties frequently occur as antecedents of suicide in Greek mythology.

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