Precarious Lives: An Exploration of the Politics of Female Death by Suicide

Mallon, Sharon (2018). Precarious Lives: An Exploration of the Politics of Female Death by Suicide. In: Centre for Death & Society (CDAS) Conference 2018: The Politics of Death, 9 Jun 2018, Bath.


The gender based nature of suicide and suicide related behaviour is now largely accepted. Over the past two decades, studies have made a significant contribution to our understanding of issues relating masculinity and suicide. Theories exploring what is referred to as the ‘crisis of masculinity’ have linked the male gender to increased levels of suicidality in a variety of ways; including an increased biological fragility, increased levels of stress in men’s lives and reluctance to seek help. Furthermore, depictions of men as being reluctant to seek help for emotional distress have resulted in high profile campaigns which specifically target this gender.
By contrast, female only theories of death by suicide, and those which apply existing theories to female only cohorts, are harder to identify in the literature. In this paper, I will argue this lack of studies highlights how the significance and understanding of female suicide has stalled as male studies have increased. In particular, in contrast to male suicide little attention has been paid to issues relating to female identity or the particular issues facing women and how they contribute to female deaths.
Examples from the literature, supported by brief case study examples of female suicides, will be used to illustrate how the treatment of issues such as help seeking and suicide, allude to the notion that the behaviour of women in this regard is less meaningful than their male counter parts. I will demonstrate how these representations of female suicide persist in academic language and emerge into popular discourse. In concluding I will argue that the de-politicisation of female suicide is particularly concerning because a discourse which ‘others’ or ignores female suicidality reinforces the idea that it is less of an issue than male suicide at a time when levels of female suicide are also rising.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions