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Stories from the edge: slow violence, and the cruel optimism of suicide prevention

The ‘First Thursday’ seminar series engages with innovative, creative and radical conversations about counselling and psychotherapy research and practice.

All seminars will be from 4:30pm to 5:45pm. Some will be in person, some online only. We are hopeful that in-person seminars will also be available for online attendees to join us ‘live’. All seminars will be recorded. In person seminars will be held at the Lister Learning and Teaching Centre. Room details will be communicated following Eventbrite Registration. Registrations will open approx. 10 days prior to each seminar.

This event will be held in person and live online and will be recorded.

Those who are able to attend in person are welcome to join us socially after the seminar to keep the conversation going. We'll be going to the Pear Tree.

About the seminar

Amy is a sociologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Health in Social Science, at the University of Edinburgh. She leads a programme of research which draws on sociology and interdisciplinary social science to examine social, cultural and political contexts of suicide and self-harm. This work takes an intersectional approach – grappling with the complex ways that social factors such as gender, class, ethnicity and age shape diverse understandings and practices relating to self-harm and suicide. Her research centres on qualitative approaches – including ethnography, interviews and arts-based methods. She has published widely in sociology and suicide studies, including two books: Self-Injury, Medicine and Society: Authentic Bodies (2016) and Explaining Mental Illness: Sociological Perspectives (2022), co-authored with Baptiste Brossard.

This talk will draw on my long-term engagement in the sociology of suicide, using interpretive, qualitative and arts based methods. I will explore relationships between tales from the edge of life and death, and the broader sociocultural contexts in which they are told and lived. Informed by Avery Gordon’s haunted sociological imagination and Lauren Berlant’s concept of slow death, I seek to work between the structural realities of inequalities in suicide rates and the more (in)tangible affects of suicide as they are lived. These theoretical engagements are illustrated through an empirical case study which piloted collaborative, arts-based discussion groups about suicide. The groups were held with 14 people, all affected in different ways by suicide, and attending a community-based mental health centre in a semi-rural location in Scotland, UK. A narrative-informed analysis of data generated through these groups shows the creative potential of both arts-based methodologies, and interpretive sociologies, in deepening understanding of how inequalities in rates of suicide may be experienced and made sense of. I illustrate this via two related metaphors (‘the point’ and ‘the edge’) which recurred in the data. In closing, I reflect further on the tensions between these stories from the edge, and the 'cruel optimism' of suicide prevention; considering how common approaches to preventing suicide might ‘miss the point’.



Watch the seminar (Zoom recording)