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Suicide Movies

Social Patterns 1900-2009

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How is suicide portrayed in the cinema and what does it mean for suicide prevention?The first-ever comprehensive study of film suicide analyzes more than 1,500film suicides.

The portrayal of suicide in cinema can impact public understanding and effectiveprevention of suicide. This book presents the first-ever comprehensive analysis ofhow suicide has been portrayed in films over 110 years, based on a thorough evaluationof more than 1,500 film suicides – 1,377 in American films, 135 in British films.

One striking finding is that while the research literature generally attributes suicideto individual psychiatric or mental health issues, cinema and film solidly endorsemore social causes.

In a compelling blend of social science and humanities approaches, the authorsuse quantitative methods, as well as the voices of scriptwriters, directors, actors,and actresses, dozens of illustrative frame-grabs, and numerous case examples toanswer core questions such as: Are we guilty of over-neglecting social factors insuicide prevention and research? Do cinematic portrayals distort or accurately reflectthe nature of suicide in the real world? Has film presentation of suicide changedover 110 years? What are the literary roots of cinema portrayals?

This unique book makes fascinating reading for all concerned with suicide prevention,as well as areas such as sociology, film and media studies, and mass communication.

From the Reviews

"The authors clearly have a passion and interest for both cinema and the social factors associated with suicide. [...] For the suicide researcher or for those with a passion for film, the book is a very nice, and remarkably thorough, resource."
Timothy W. Lineberry, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 1/2012

"This book sheds light on the complexity of suicidal behavior, and although the study covers decades of film, the analysis is fine-grained using the best research approaches. The researchers are sensitive to how film distorts rather than mirrors the phenomenon. They successfully pull off a massive undertaking: the detailed analysis of 1,273 movies containing over 1,500 suicides, spanning the entire 20th century and into the 21st."
Thomas Joiner, PhD, Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL Editor of Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior

"As Steven Stack and Barbara Bowman note, almost all of us love movies, and this book provides a fascinating analysis of the way in which movies have depicted suicide over the last 100 years. Who knew that there were over one thousand movies that portrayed suicides? But not only does this book intrigue us with the stories (and I loved the frames from the movies), but Stack and Bowman show that this topic has important social implications. Does society shape the way in which suicide is portrayed in the movies or do the movies shape our attitudes toward suicide, our lay theories of suicide, and even our own suicidal behavior? It is rare that a scholarly book is a "page-turner," but I loved reading Stack and Bowman's thoughts on the suicides in movies that I had seen. This book is a "must buy" for movie buffs and scholars."
David Lester, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Pomona, NJ

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