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Moving beyond psychocentric perspectives of suicide: Towards an ecological and social justice understanding

Suicide is a fundamentally political and deep moral concern within Aotearoa, New Zealand. The act of suicide is best understood as a complex phenomenon occurring within multiple biological, psychological, philosophical, moral, sociocultural, historical, anthropological and economic dimensions. While suicide is a complex phenomenon, the issue of suicide within an Anglocentric context such as Aotearoa is mainly understood from an individualistic, psychocentric conceptualisation that favours biological, medical, and psychological factors. This master’s thesis explored an alternative framework that aimed to go beyond an individualised, psychocentric perspective through using the social determinants of health and an ecological understanding of suicide. The theoretical framework for this research is informed by humanistic and community psychologies, narrative and phenomenology. The study involved an interpretative phenomenological analysis of six autobiographies written by authors who had survived a previous suicide attempt. First, thorough notes were taken through three readings of each book to supplement the interpretative phenomenological analysis approach of the six autobiographical works. The second part of analysis used Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory to extend the themes that were gathered from the interpretative phenomenological analysis and connect them to broader societal structures and social inequalities. The analysis is spread across three chapters. Chapter four discusses Brian’s rationality for suicide. His understanding of suicide challenges the mainstream understandings of suicide, which attribute suicide to being an act of irrationality and madness. Chapter five takes a look across all of authors’ accounts to see how societal inequalities and neoliberalism are intertwined with the complex and long process that can lead a person towards attempting suicide. Chapter six further discusses the authors’ accounts in relation to how social inequalities and social hierarchies foster violence and suicide. Chapter seven closes the thesis with a discussion of the analysis and how a theoretical framework from community psychology provides an understanding of suicide from a broader viewpoint. The discussion considers possible ways of reconceptualising suicide and advocates for an upstream approach to suicide prevention.
Type of thesis
Foley, S. (2021). Moving beyond psychocentric perspectives of suicide: Towards an ecological and social justice understanding (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14370
The University of Waikato
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