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Friedman, P. (1956). La Tentative De Suicide (Attempted Suicide): By Dr. Pierre-B. Schneider. Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Delachaux & Niestlé S.A., 1954. 291 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 25:273-275.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:273-275

La Tentative De Suicide (Attempted Suicide): By Dr. Pierre-B. Schneider. Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Delachaux & Niestlé S.A., 1954. 291 pp.

Review by:
Paul Friedman

This is an investigation by a Swiss psychiatrist of seven hundred thirty-one cases of attempted suicide, comprising one hundred thirty patients treated in 1948-1950 at the Psychiatric Outpatient Service (Polyclinic) of the University of Lausanne, thirty-eight cases from the Psychiatric Hospital Cery-Lausanne and one hundred ninety-one case histories from the files of the Psychiatric Outpatient Service (Polyclinic) of the University of Basel, all dating from the same period, which served for comparative study, and three hundred seventy-two cases treated in the years 1933-1940 in the Medical, Surgical, and Psychiatric Departments of the University of Lausanne, which were used for catamnestic studies.

The statistical data were computed with the assistance of the Mathematical Department of Lausanne Polytechnic. There are thirty-seven impressive tables in which the figures are presented in relation to 'extrinsic' factors, such as sex, age, marital status, religion, as well as seasonal frequency, method used, etc., special attention being given to the tabulation of psychiatric diagnostic findings.

The introductory chapter, intended to justify the limitation of this investigation to suicidal attempts only, is a mere exercise in semantics, a fact of which the author is partly aware. Adopting a definition of suicide by G. Deshaies that 'suicide is the act of killing oneself in a usually conscious way, having death as the means or as the goal', he stipulates certain criteria for such self-aggressive acts as may properly be termed suicidal. These criteria are tied to the respective methods. 'For poisoning, the subject must have swallowed the substance he considers to be toxic, or he must have turned on the gas. In the case of shooting, the shot must have been fired, whether it reached its target or not. As for hanging, we considered that it was not indispensable for the suicidal candidate to have thrown himself into the void' (p. 17). Elsewhere, however, it is explained that not even a lethal dose of sedatives would necessarily be evidence of self-aggression, since 'frequently women and more rarely men, who take sleeping drugs, seek above all the peace and calmness symbolized by sleep. They want to escape by this means, which has nothing sadistic in it, and they accept the risk of dying, of not waking up any more' (p. 259).

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