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Psychol Rep. 2005 Oct;97(2):547-58.

Suicide among animals: clues from folklore that may prevent suicidal behaviour in human beings.

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Genneruxi Medical Center, Cagliari, Italy.


Knowing the most likely reasons for suicide might increase the chances to identify the early signs of suicide. Folkloric tales on suicide among animals are a possible source of such information, since people probably explain animal suicide using the same reasons they would apply to their kin. Modern naturalistic studies ave found little evidence of self-harming conduct among nonhuman species. Nevertheless, mythological accounts often report suicidal behaviour among animals. Claudius Aelian's De natura animalium, a classic in its genre, written in the 2nd century AD, reports 21 cases of suicide among animals. In Aelian's tales, the severing of social ties emerges as an important motive for suicide, together with incest and rage caused by adultery. Paying attention to the mechanisms leading to suicide described in ancient mythology may help us understand unusual and uncommon motives for suicide and the reasons people feel suicidal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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