Suicide prevention: a long-lasting Italian tradition. Toward understanding the suicidal mind

La prevenzione del suicidio: una tradizione italiana di lunga data. Verso la comprensione della mente suicida

M. Pompili

Department of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Functions, Suicide Prevention Center Sant'Andrea Hospital, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; McLean Hospital - Harvard Medical School, USA



Suicide is a serious public health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO), recognizing the growing problem of suicide worldwide, and urged member nations to address the phenomenon.


Since Enrico Morselli’s report, suicide rates have changed dramatically in some Italian areas, whereas the rates have remained approximately the same in other regions (Figs. 1, 2). Italy has a long-lasting tradition in the study of suicide and nowadays it is crucial to learn more about assessment and management of suicide risk. Suicidal individuals often talk about suicide, death, and/or having no reason to live.


Most suicidal individuals give definite warnings of their suicidal intentions, but significant others are either unaware of the significance of these warnings or do not know how to respond to them. The assumption that these individuals want to die because they suffer from a psychiatric disorder must be substituted by a phenomenological approach of suicide. An approach centred on intersubjectivity recognizes the unbearable psychological pain for which the suicide is perceived as the best solution. Suicide is best understood not so much as a movement toward death as it is a movement away from something and that something is always the same: intolerable emotion, unendurable, or unacceptable anguish. If the level of suffering is reduced the individual will choose to live.


The author discusses the drama occuring in the mind a comparison of suicide rates at the time of Morselli with the present ones and overviews the drama occurring in the mind of suicidal individuals and how to help them.

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