History of Suicide Research

Suicide research has a long tradition in Austria, particularly in Vienna. Altough there was already earlier work back in the 18th century, such as an account of Auenbrugger in 1783, suicide research gained more attention from 1910 onwards with lectures held by the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society (e.g., related to student suicide), being based on the ideas of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler.

In the time span between World Wars I and II, particularly Viktor E. Frankl engaged in this research topic. During World War II, suicide research was seriously damaged, stopped, and many researchers were forced to emigrate. 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 gained 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. Erwin Ringel also co-founded the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) in 1965, which has been the largest international society of suicide prevention with its journal, Crisis, ever since. Following the foundation of IASP as well as the International Academy for Suicide Research (IASR) with its official journal Archives of Suicide Research suicide research gained momentum.

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).

The Wiener Werkstaette for Suicide Research has put a strong emphasis on population-based approaches and evidence-based policy using novel research methodologies both to assess aetiological aspexcts of suicide and self-harm, and to evaluate interventions. The activitiy of the group has, once again, propelled suicide research in Vienna to international recognition. Please check out the research section for an overview of current research.