Year: 1998 Source: Transcultural Psychiatry, v.35, no.2, (June 1998), p.291-306 SIEC No: 20010446

This review summarizes reports on suicide in small-scale societies, especially the Pacific islands & Papua New Guinea, & shows how Durkheim’s theory does not fit contemporary data. Suicide existed long before radical acculturation & its relationship to social change is complex. Contagion seems to play a role at the village level. Suicide in small-scale societies is not associated with a process of social alienation as in urbanized societies & the presence of psychiatric illness is less evident. In these settings suicidal behaviour is more often characterized by a process of reparation, & its implicit goal is often to regain personal or family dignity rather than a simple act of revenge. (31 refs.)