A blog about the Suicide Cultures research project

Category: Theorising suicide

Mapping Suicidescapes: A Socio-cultural, Geographic, and Politically Engaged Approach to Suicide

This is the Suicide Cultures research team’s audio-visual poster, originally presented at the Critical Suicide Studies Symposium, 21-22 October 2022.

SuicideCultures_CSS 2022 Poster

Reflecting on the release of ethnicity in ONS suicide reporting

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently published suicide data by ethnicity in England and Wales (not Scotland) by comparing  2012-2019 death registrations and  self-reported ethnicity from the 2011 Census (ONS 2021). Having previously reported only age and gender, this development casts a new light on the UK’s “male suicide crisis” for middle aged and young men (see Samaritans 2012; CALM 2019).

I have argued elsewhere that in light of the UK’s recent and historic immigration practice and policy which produces Britishness as synonymous with whiteness, that the paucity of ethnicity in suicide reporting and thus the prevention campaigns such statistics generate, translates to the male suicide crisis being a crisis for white men (Yue 2021b forthcoming). Like Cohen, Katona and Bhugra (2020), I have called for intersectional suicide reporting which includes ethnicity, in order to better reflect the reality of British people.

Migrant Suicide: summary of master’s dissertation

My father died by suicide when I was seven and for my Masters Dissertation I explored his death in relation to the UK’s mainstream suicide discourse(s) which foregrounded male suicide as a crisis of masculinity.

I had never thought of my father as a migrant before, because although he looked Chinese he was born and raised in Liverpool. However as part of a course led by Alyosxa Tudor I was introduced to the differentiation of migratism from racism which situates Europe in its Postcolonial relationship with migration (Tudor 2017). This unsettled my father’s narrative. His suicide had ‘made sense’ before, slotting perfectly into the NHS’s suicide journey: his death certificate inscribed ‘he took his own life whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed’; the NHS (2019) say clinical depression – the leading mental illness ending in suicide – is often triggered by stressful or upsetting life events, including “bereavement, divorce, redundancy and job or money worries” and might lead to suicide when a ‘downward spiral’ of events accumulates.

Researching suicide in a global pandemic

In May this year I was supposed to be launching the full ‘Suicide Cultures’ project, which was awarded 5 years of funding by the Wellcome Trust. However, not long after the award was confirmed, the UK was hit by 3 weeks of industrial action, and during that time, the Covid-19 crisis rapidly developed. I returned to my office in Edinburgh on Tuesday 17th March, and that day all staff who could work from home were told to do so; all classes were paused that week; all subsequent classes were to be held online. I spent the afternoon setting my computer up to let me work remotely, threw as many books as I could carry into bags, and left.

There never seemed to be a good time to announce the good news about the grant; and as the situation with the pandemic continued to increase rapidly in seriousness and impact on lives and livelihoods, it became clear that the project itself would be significantly affected. In light of this, I shifted the start date – provisionally – to September 2020, to build in time to think, plan, reflect and prepare.

In this blog I wanted to start sketching out some of the different ways that the study of suicide, and in particular the Suicide Cultures project, might be shifted and shaped by the extraordinary circumstances we are currently living through.


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