I'm very glad to report that one of the most prestigious and oldest medical journals, The Lancet, (formed in 1823) has run a review of my book "Stay". It is written by Simon Wessely, who has been called the most important psychiatrist in Britain (more on him below) - and has been knighted for it! He balked a bit at my conviction on a few points about which he seems undecided, but it's a great little essay. "Preventing Suicide: Are the Best Barriers Physical or Philosophical?"
March 8, 2014
Simon Wessely, THE LANCET
Hecht’s starting point was the anguish she felt after the suicides of two friends But what she has written is less a plea from the heart, but one from the brain. She has produced an intellectual history of the morality of suicide…
She focuses on two themes. The first is the harm that suicide does to those left behind. She quotes a line from Arthur Miller’s After the Fall to telling effect – “a suicide kills two people Maggie, that’s what it’s for.” …Who knows but any clinical psychiatrist, let alone anyone who has been bereaved by suicide, will need no convincing of the profound and long lasting ghastly impact of a suicide.
As a society we now routinely endorse measures that seek to erect physical barriers to suicide – literally… “But what”, writes Hecht…”about a conceptual barrier, a secular argument for why suicide is morally wrong?...We need such an argument to counteract the belief that suicide is morally neutral, even the right of every individual.” ... Hecht assembles many scholarly references to support the notion of suicide contagion. Much of this is well known, but no less interesting for that.
[H]er discussion of the need for responsible media reporting is certainly persuasive. We should not write about successful or unsuccessful suicide, for example…instead let’s talk about completed or uncompleted. ...[When teaching] I tell the students that those who have by a random chance survived, an act that nine times out of ten would have been fatal, often are relieved to have survived… We usually conclude to give the patient the benefit of the doubt, and that whatever we do should assist in the preserving of life, not the opposite.
Simon Wessely is President Elect of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
"Wessely is Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London and Head of its department of psychological medicine, Vice Dean for Academic Psychiatry, Teaching and Training at the Institute of Psychiatry, as well as Director of the King's Centre for Military Health Research. He is also honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at King's College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital, as well as Civilian Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry to the British Army. He was knighted in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to military healthcare and to psychological medicine. In 2014 he was elected president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists." He is also involved in a heated controversy over the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which he argues is partly a matter of psychological coping mechanisms.