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Animal suicides tell us about human behaviour

Animals could model human suicide, new studies suggest


 

Animals behave suicidally as humans do, according to new research that suggests they could be models for our own behaviour, whether it’s a depressed horse or a whale beaching itself inexplicably. “You begin to challenge the definition of suicide. The body and mind are so damaged by stress and so it leads to self destruction. It’s not necessarily even a choice,” Edmund Ramsden, one of the authors of the study published in the journal Endeavour, told Discovery News. In fact, it leads others to see suicides not as willful acts, but as responses to conditions. In one case, dating back to 1845, a Newfoundland dog was reported to be acting less lively, then threw himself in the water, keeping his limbs still and his head under until he eventually drowned. And pea aphids, when threatened by a lady bud, can explode themselves, protecting their families and sometimes killing the lady bug. Several organisms self-destruct, usually to protect their relatives or save their genes, but in modern humans, it can go wrong: millions of suicides around the world benefit no one, they say. This tells us that suicide is “a fatal consequence of biologically-based and extremely serious illness,” says psychologist Thomas Joiner of Florida State University.

Discovery


 
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Animal suicides tell us about human behaviour

  1. Pump the brakes!

  2. " This tells us that suicide is “a fatal consequence of biologically-based and extremely serious illness,” says psychologist Thomas Joiner of Florida State University."

    If true, it calls into question the case for assisted suicide. If people who want suicide are necessarily suffering from a serious psychological illness, can it possibly be right to concede life-and-death authority to them?

    • Way to deliberately mix up two entirely different things.

    • Assisted-suicide debates are not about helping those who are in good physical health but in mental distress take their lives. As Iccyh says, you are mixing up two different things. I'm sure you well know that those who advocate for the legality of assisted suicide are talking about cases where someone is physically suffering from a TERMINAL illness with no hope of recovery and wish to end that suffering.

  3. Wow, and here we thought Gaunilon was mixing up two different things.

  4. I can't believe this stuff passes for science. People kill themselves for many reasons. Even if we define suicide exclusively as suicide from depression (practically the only kind we see in the West, apart from Gaunilon's assisted suicide), the fact that they define individual behaviour in Darwinian terms tells you just how far many, many scientists are from understanding Darwin!

    • This is a lay article being "translated" from a scientific study. Scientific studies, if you have ever read them, are exceptionally dry, esoteric, and assume prior knowledge on the subject they are presenting. When general journalists report on these cases, they very often only write about the meat of the article and leave out the vast majority of facts that back up the study's claims. Moreover, lay articles are very often prone to exagerration, as the general public does not respond well to the "mays", "coulds" and "perhaps's" of a genuine scientific article.

      I also question what a psychologist's role plays in a scientific article about suicide in the animal kingdom. There is some kind of linkage to the superior beings (humans), without which many humans would not be interested in such a study, but I'm not sure that the scientist's goal was to contrast human suicide with animal suicide. This is the bigger problem with accomodating science to the public.

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