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parents, that they may accomplish much by encouraging, in their little ones, a spirit of curiosity and a habit of comprehension. Whether the fire of intellect shall blaze, or smoulder, will depend, in many cases, upon the manner in which it is kindled; and this kindling is among the things that can be done, most effectually, under the mild influences of Home.
ART. III.-THE METHOD AND STATISTICS OF SUICIDE.
It was formerly customary in this country to regard the northern portion of a churchyard as uphallowed, and to bury in it the bodies of suicides, of the executed and excommunicated, and of unbaptised infants. The more fortunate dead were interred in the southern, eastern, or western portions of the burial-ground, and headstones, or more pretentious monuments, and simple grave-mounds, freshly heaped up from year to year by the careful hands of relatives or of the sexton, marked the position of each grave; but in the northern portion of the burial-ground, the grave-mounds, disregarded, were quickly hidden amidst a rank growth of weeds, and could scarcely be distinguished if sought for, or wasting beneath the wind and the rain, they were early destroyed altogether. At any time we might readily count the graves of the fortunate dead, but few traces of the graves of the unfortunate dead would ever be found.
Much in the same fashion as the bodies of suicides were once dealt with in churchyards have the statistics of suicides been treated in the mortality records of the kingdom. Buried without distinction, within the class of deaths from external causes, these records have been hidden from the sight of the observer, except at rare and irregular intervals, when (thanks to Dr. Farr) the Registrar-General has turned aside from the well. tended figures of the legitimately dead, and brought to light those which tell of the illegitimately dead. A recent instance of this kind is to be found in the last (the 19th) Annual Report of the Registrar-General. This report contains a tabular account of the suicides which have been committed in England and Wales during the five years 1852-56, the age and the sex of the individuals who have destroyed themselves, and the mode in which the destruction was effected, being shown. According to the Registrar-General's Tables, 1045 suicides were committed in 1852 ; 1031 in 1853 ; 1081 in 1864; 1076 in 1855; and 1182 in 1850; making a total number of 5415 suicides during the five years.
The number of suicides in the mortality returns made to the Registrar-General is, according to Dr. Farr, probably less by onetenth than the number actually ascertained to have occurred. In 1866, the suicides noted in the registers amounted to 1182, but the coroners' returns for that year, contained in Mr. Redgrave's Tables (Judicial Statistics, p. 11), make the number 1314, from which, however, Dr. Farr remarks, “a few should be deducted for the duplicate return." The difference between the number of suicides returned by the coroners and the number occurring in the registers of mortality, may be owing to obscurities in the verdicts.
Of the individuals who committed suicide during the period included in the Registrar-General's Tables, 3886 were males, and 1529 females, making an average annual mortality from this mode of death of 85'1 of the former sex, and 32:5 of the latter, in every 1,000,000 individuals living from ten years and upwards of each sex respectively,
In both sexes, suicide first occurs between the 10th and 15th years of age, and from this period the gross number of suicides in each sex increases until the decennium 45–55, when a maximum is reached ; after which the number steadily declines until the decennium 85—95. Subsequent to the 95th year no suicides are recorded.
If the proportion of suicides be calculated upon every 1,000,000 individuals living of each sex at different periods of life from the age of ten years, the maximum number of suicides is found to have occurred among males within the decennium 55-65; and among females, within the decennium 65-75. In the male sex the decrement of the mortality from suicide was more gradual than the increment, the number of suicides in the three decenniums succeeding the maximum, being considerably in excess of the number occurring in the three decenniums immediately preceding it. In the female sex, the proportion of suicides which occurred between the 45th and 65th years (83:6) differed but slightly from the maximum (84.0) between the 65th and 75th years, and in the intermediate decennium, 55-65, the proportion was 80'2. The decrement of the number of suicides was, moreover, less regular than among males—the number occurring in the decennium immediately succeeding the maximum falling to 43.8, while in the terminal decennium 85. 95, the proportion increased to 50.9.
It would seem then, from these returns, that the greatest tendency to suicide, in this country, is manifested in the male sex from the 55th to the 66th year, in the female sex from the 65th to the 75th year, and that in both sexes the tendency to suicide is greater during middle age and the decline of life than during the earlier periods of life.
The returns of suicides for 1838-39, contained in the RegistrarGeneral's Third Annual Report, also indicate that the tendency to suicide is greatest in the decline of life; the figures showing that, in proportion to every 100,000 individuals living at different ages, of both sexes, the maximum number of suicides occurred in the decennium 50-60, and that the proportion occurring in the three decenniums subsequent to the maximum exceeded that occurring in the three preceding it.
The following table shows the actual number of the suicides which happened at different periods of life, in each sex, during the years 1852-56, and the proportionate number to every 1,000,000 individuals living, of both the one sex and the other, in the same period, Deaths at different Ages returned as having occurred from
Suicide, in England, during the Five Years 1852-56.
The most interesting portion of the Registrar-General's Tables, perhaps, consists in the curious and suggestive information they contain upon the method of suicide. The returns made under this head, although confessedly imperfect, are still the most comprehensive that have yet been published in reference to this country. The modes in which suicide was effected are arranged in five classes. The first class contains the suicides connected with railways, the act of destruction having been effected by leaping from one of the carriages or from the engine of a train in motion, or by taking up a position in front of an approaching train and being run over. In this class ten instances, all males, are found. The second class contains suicides connected with mines, the individuals having cast themselves down the shafts. In this class are found 13 instances, nine males and four females, the former number being in the proportion of 0:23 per cent. of the total male suicides, and the latter number 0·26 per cent. of the total female, thus showing a slight excess among females in having recourse to this method of destruction. The third class contains the suicides effected by mechanical injuries, the individuals having destroyed themselves by leaping from windows, heights, or conveyances ; by cutting the throat, by gun-shot wounds, or by wounds otherwise produced. In this class are found 1424 instances, 1128 males and 296 females, the former constituting 29:02 per cent. of the total male suicides and the latter 19:35 per cent. of the total female. The fourth class contains the suicides effected by chemical injuries, the individuals having destroyed themselves by fire or by poison. In this class are found 561 instances, 302 males and 259 females, the former constituting 777 per cent. of the total male suicides, the latter 16:93 of the total female. The fifth class contains suicides effected by suspension of the respiration, the individuals having destroyed themselves by drowning, hanging, or in some other manner causing cessation of breathing. In this class are found 3212 instances, 2285 males and 927 females, the former constituting 58.02 per cent. of the total male suicides, and the latter 60:62 per cent. of the total female. The method of suicide is not stated in 195 instances, 152 (3:91 per cent.) males, and 41 (2.81 per cent.) females.
Of the particular modes of effecting suicide among males, hanging is the commonest, this being the fashion in which death was caused in 1745 instances (44.90 per cent. of the total number), and if the number of suicides by strangulation (99) be added, the percentage would be raised to 47:45. Next in order of frequency is cut-throat, this being the mode in which life was destroyed in 810 instances (20.84 per cent.). Drowning stands third in the list and poisoning fourth, the former being the method of destruction in 434 instances (11:16 per cent.) the latter in 221 instances (5.68 per cent.).
Among females, hanging is also the most frequent method of suicide, this being the form of destruction had recourse to in 510 instances (33-35 per cent. of the total number), and the suicides by strangulation (28) being added, the per centage is raised to 35:18. Drowning has the second place in the order of frequency, this being the mode of death in 385 instances (25:17 per cent), Poisoning stands third in order, and cut-throat fourth, there being 267 instances (16'80 per cent.) of suicide among females by the former method, and 240 (15:06 per cent.) by the latter.
While, therefore, in both sexes hanging is the commonest method of suicide, the female has recourse to it one-third less frequently than the male. On the other hand, drowning is very much more common among females than males. Suicide by cut-throat is not so frequent by one-third among the former sex as the latter, and while the former counts only a total number of two suicides from gun-shot wounds, the latter counts 215. If suicides from wounds the character of which is not defined be added to those arising from gun-shot wounds, a sub-class would be formed numbering 263 males, but only 12 females. In another form of suicide from mechanical injury the number of the male sex sinks below the female, for although the total number of suicides occasioned by leaping from a window or height was in the former sex 53 and in the latter 41, the per centage upon the total num. ber of suicides in the different sexes was 1.36 males and 2.64 females.
The number of suicides by poisoning among females not only exceeded by more than one-third those among males from the same method, but the poisons made use of by the former sex were more varied in character than those used by the latter. The female sex had recourse most frequently to opium and its preparations as the agents of destruction. Laudanum was the poison used in 29-4 per cent of the suicides by poisoning (in which the kind of poison used is stated) among females, and if the instances in which opium was used be added, the per centage is raised to 36:1 per cent. Laudanum was the poison used by 28.8 per cent. of the male suicides, and the instances of suicide by opium and morphia (there being one instance only in which the last mentioned drug was made use of being added, the per centage is raised to 34.0. But among males prussic acid was used in the same proportion of suicides by poison as laudanum (28.8 per cent.) and the essential oil of almonds was the destructive agent made use of in 142 per cent., these poisons together forming a per centage of 43:1. Thus prussic acid in its ordinary form, or as it exists in the essential oil of almonds, was the poison most frequently used among males, opium and its preparations holding the second place in order of frequency. Arsenic and oxalic acid hold the second place in commonness of use among the poisons used by female suicides, the per centage of each poison being the same, 18:8; but the first named poison, arsenic, stands third in the list of frequency among males, the per centage of its use in the