Free «Suicide as a Sociological Phenomenon According to Emile Durkheim» Essay Sample


The World Health Organization estimates that about one million individuals commit suicide on an annual basis. Suicide is a social problem, which should be handled with great care and concern. Part of the management or intervention measures aimed at eliminating this problem in America must involve identifying the causes, or social activities, which force individuals to commit suicide or attempt to do it. It must also provide the emerging trends or indicators in order to help the society tackle suicide rates, especially among the youth with the required serious approach and deep concern (Leenaars, 2011). Apart from the social dilemma in general, specific issues like social isolation and discrimination within the society belong to the factors that play a major role in the increasing suicide rates among the youths within the society. The paper analyzes suicide rates among the American youths basing on Emile Durkheim’s views on the reasons why people commit suicide. Besides, the paper investigates whether suicide is the result of psychological reasons or is a social phenomenon, as Durkheim argues.

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Emile Durkheim’s Views on Suicide

Having researched the suicide rates in France and England, Durkheim held the view that, even though suicide was a solitary act, its causes had vital links to some social factors. Durkheim wanted to understand what factors can influence a high or low rate of suicide in different countries (Kuczynski, 2012). He was not concerned with an individual’s personality traits but wanted to analyze each of the country’s values, norms, and values as well as traditions in order to understand whether such social factors had an effect on the rates of suicide. While analyzing suicide rates in England France, and Denmark, Durkheim first took into consideration the number of suicides per million inhabitants. His results indicated that, in England, 67 in one million inhabitants committed suicides, while France and Denmark had 135 and 227 per million respectively.

Durkheim defines suicide as all cases that result directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim, which she/he knows will produce the ending result of death. Suicide exists when a victim, at the moment of committing the fatal act, is conscious of both the act and the outcome (Kuczynski, 2012).

After the results, Durkheim questioned why Denmark had high suicide rates as compared to the other countries, and this prompted him to analyze the beliefs, norms, and values that may influence a person in Denmark to commit suicide. He mainly focused on the levels of cohesiveness in the Danish society, the positions people occupied, and their standing within social, religious, and occupational groups (Leenaars, 2011). The analysis revealed that, while the act of committing suicide may be an individual act, it was directly connected to the social life and group of the individual.

People’s Categories and the Rates of Suicide

The findings of Durkheim demonstrate that the following factors had an effect on the suicidal rates:

  • Integration – refers to the level in which an individual feels connected to or accepted by the society or a group. When a person has high acceptance levels in the society or feels loved by a specific group, then he/she has low chances of committing suicide. On the other hand, when one feels that his/her levels of acceptance are low or he/she does not feel loved, in such a case, the chances of committing suicide increase (Joiner, 2007).
  • Religion – it was proved that a person without any religious affiliation has high suicidal rates as compared to those who have certain religious beliefs. In his study, Durkheim also concluded that Protestants had high rates of committing suicide as compared to Jews or Catholics.
  • Marriage – the researches showed that unmarried people tended to have high suicide rates when compared to their married counterparts.
  • Military – many soldiers, more so who had been involved in war, had a higher rate of suicide when compared to others.
  • Times of peace and war – what is contradicting in this finding is that it was revealed that the rate of suicide was high in times of peace as opposed to times of conflicts and war.
  • Economy – in the period of economic stability, the rate of suicide is low as opposed to times of recession or economic turmoil.
  • Wealth – it was discovered that there is a high suicide rate among wealthy people as compared to modest or poor individuals.
  • Sex ‑ as expected, males had higher rates of committing suicide as compared to women.

Why Is Suicide a Sociological Problem in America Especially Among the Youth

Since the problem of suicide involves the youths in America, it is clear that this issue requires massive involvement of the society and organizations, which are expected to provide support and assistance to victims of attempted and completed youth suicide cases. Support and assistance to the victims of the attempted cases involve program counseling, which will help turn them into ambassadors against youth suicide (Joiner, 2007). Just as the society quickly responds to the other societal issues like accidents, it is essential that effective response mechanisms are designed in order to deal with the problem of suicide (Kuczynski, 2012).

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The increasing rates of suicide in America are a major social problem, which requires better understanding of individuals’ needs. It is essential to note that excessive sensitivity of the youth is one of the reasons that make them vulnerable to the factors leading to youth suicide within the country and others around the globe. It is important to note that such issues like peer pressure, hurried decisions, and the lack of accurate advice are some of the many leading causes of suicide. Some of the decisions or activities undertaken by the youths tend to leave them very disappointed and helpless. These are the situations when the youths need both professional and psychological advice (Leenaars, 2011). Based on this, it is clear that at some point of life, the lack of good structures for decision-making and advice could be the reason for social dilemmas leading to the hurried and hazardous decisions, which throw the youths out of the normal way of life. To realize the underlying causes of youth suicide as a social and global problem, it is important to analyze social components that are believed to play a major role in promoting the act.

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Is Youth Suicide in America a Social Dilemma?

Youth suicide among the American population is becoming a problem as many young people commit suicide because of numerous reasons. The rate of suicide continues to increase, which causes a dilemma among the American population. This implies that the social success or dilemma has great impacts on the well-being of an individual. To understand the impacts of social dilemma towards the problem of youth suicide in America, it is necessary to acknowledge the fact that individual activities or practices form part of the society, and thus cannot be separated from it. Most situations that are described as a social dilemma entail points or situations when the collective interest is in conflict with individual interest. These are dangerous points for fragile groups like the youth, who need support and emotional assistance in order to cope with such conditions. Such situations result from wrong prioritization by members of the society including the youths (Joiner, 2007). In most cases, it is the prioritization of short-term and selfish interest or long-term interest of a group or society. As a result, many are excluded of the prioritization list, therefore feeling disappointed and not belonging to the society, which, in turn, leads to dangerous acts of attempted or completed suicide.

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Prioritizing of interests in areas or issues involving the youth within the society should be undertaken with high levels of. It is necessary to recognize the fact that, at the youth stage, most people have many expectations and would love their interest to be incorporated in most societal and national plans. Apart from the incorporation of the societal and national levels, it is also an issue involving the family unit. The issue of wrong priority of interests at the family level is the major problem with youths. The failure to address the youths’ interests at the family level makes them view the others self-centered or selfish or caring less about the well-being of the youths, which can also lead to their loss of patience (Tullock & Rowley 2005, pp. 23-28).

The social dilemma in family and society is also fueled by the peer pressure or influence from peers. Many young people tend to copy or follow what others do without considering the difference in environments. This has made some settle for decisions, which cause differences in families, thus leading to family conflicts. Because of such conflicts, many youths in America are prone to senseless actions of attempting suicide. From the above analysis, it is evident that the society structure has a great role in the eradication of youth suicide rates (Nock, 2014).

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To eliminate levels of youth suicide in America resulting from such social dilemmas, it is important to encourage an all-inclusive society, where this all-inclusiveness aspect should start from the family level. This kind of society or family structure must involve youths in many programs of decision-making, society building. Consequently, this will make them feel part of the society at all times. It is also necessary to make youths understand the variance in different society environments (Leenaars, 2011). This is important on the way towards eradicating social dilemmas caused by peer pressure. Dealing with the youths has never been easy due to the high hopes or expectations held by them. It therefore refers to the family’s responsibility to play the role of a role model and advisor in regards to such issues like professions, social life, marriages, etc. (Nock, 2014). This will help the youth develop the necessary perception of life as a process with necessary stages, which must be given much consideration.

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Durkheim’s Social Factors Leading to Suicides Nowadays (Youth Suicide)

Social Isolation

Any society is expected to incorporate all representatives of age groups into its activities. This is because the society has many activities and procedures, which cannot be achieved by one age group or a particular group within the society. This forms the first part of social isolation. It is important note that, in some families and organization in America, youths are left to play the role of accepting or receiving already made decisions. This makes them feel isolated from family and organization social matters, thus leading to disappointments and feelings of being less important and unwanted in the society (Nock, 2014). This kind of disappointment and the bad feeling is always unbearable for them due to their fragile nature, and it may often lead to such dangerous acts like suicide.

The other part of social isolation concerns the environment young people belong to. It is essential to note that, at youth stages, people tend to form groupings of interest and convenience. As much as the other members of the society might view these groupings as meaningless or less productive to the society, they play a major role in shaping youths when it comes to association. Most of these groupings relate to social activities like sports, retreats, and tours. Youths who engage in this kind of groupings tend to grow together with the spirit of love and concern for each other (Kuczynski, 2012). Based on the expectations from these kinds of youth groupings, it is clear that every adolescent within the society would love to join or be associated with one. However, when a person fails to find this kind of grouping or associations, he/she is left disappointed with numerous questions on what the problem might be (Early, 2013). Some of them tend to blame themselves for some unpleasant experiences, which leads to feelings of isolation and, consequently, suicidal predisposition.

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Social Discrimination

Discrimination is another factor that influences youth suicide. It is experienced among the youths as well as the other members of the society. It is a natural fact that people are never equal or same in all aspects. However, the society is composed of people who are convinced that everybody is the same and should understand and do things the same way.

Apart from discrimination among the youths, parents and the other family members with less understanding of different nature in people have discriminated underperforming or less active youths within the society. In most cases, this has led to disappointments with some youths feeling the sense of favor over others who are considered more active or successful. This has been the source of conflict between youths and parents, since such youths get frustrated, grow impatient, and try seeking consolation in many areas (Nock, 2014). The lack of consolation leaves them with no option but end their lives due to the lack of understanding from family members.

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One of the best solutions towards reducing the number of suicide-related cases among the youths in America is to include self-development as the main subject at all levels of education. This discipline should be introduced at the pre-primary, primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education. In this case, the advent of self-development encompassed in the education curriculum tends to ensure that the young generation acquires knowledge and skills on how to say no, find good companionship, and communicate better. Young people should learn to understand that a failure should not be perceived as the end of the world but rather a learning opportunity that tends to offer various self-development traits and leadership skills. Introducing self-development as the subject in school curriculum will ensure that all youths are able to know themselves while they try to define their own limits of what to do or not.


Although suicide has been identified as a social problem in America and the other parts of the world, it is necessary to take note of the fact that some of its causes are social dilemmas. According to Durkheim, the society provides a considerable impact on an individual and all his/her spheres of life. Social facts are thus determinants of human behavior and actions. As analyzed in the paper, it can be concluded that suicide is a sociological phenomenon as factors that cause suicide are socially related. Social discrimination and isolation are the major causes of suicide among the youths in America. The paper thus agrees with Durkheim’s views that suicide is the result of psychological issues and is a sociological phenomenon.

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