History of Suicide Research

Suicide research has a long tradition in Austria, particularly so in Vienna. Apart from much earlier work, such as an account of Auenbrugger in 1783, suicide research gained more attention from 1910 onwards with topically relevant lectures held by the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society (e.g., concerning student suicide), being based on the ideas of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler.

In the interval between World Wars I and II, Viktor E. Frankl already engaged in this research topic. However, during World War II, suicide research lost attention and was off-limits. For these reasons, the now famous lectures on Suizid und Suizidversuch by Erwin Stengel, who was forced to emigrate in 1938, as well as the book Man Against Himself (published 1938) by Karl Menninger (an emigrant as well), gained in importance only later on (1969).

In the same year, Margarethe von Andics, in her book Über Sinn und Sinnlosigkeit des Lebens, offered a very personal access to individuals after a suicide attempt. In 1953, the Viennese Professor Erwin Ringel published his pioneering work Der Selbstmord: Abschluss einer krankhaften psychischen Entwicklung, in which he described the pre-suicidal syndrome for the first time. An important activity of internationalization was also due to Erwin Ringel, with the constitution of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) in 1965, which has been the largest international society of suicide researchers ever since. Following the foundation of the IASP as well as the International Academy for Suicide Research (IASR) with its official journal Archives of Suicide Research in 1995, the amount of suicide research increased considerably. In 1968, Die Abschätzung der Suizidalität by Walter Pöldinger was published, to be followed by many other publications, due to working groups located in Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck.

Prior to the foundation of the Wiener Werkstaette for Suicide Research (2007), suicide research in and around Vienna was foremost pushed forward due to cooperations between the Vienna Crisis Intervention Center with the Department of Crisis Research of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Social Psychiatry, Vienna, and with the Department of Medical Psychology at the Medical University of Vienna, especially in relation to crisis intervention techniques and research on imitation effects in suicidal behavior (Papageno effect).