Edwin S. Shneidman, a psychologist who co-founded America’s first comprehensive suicide prevention center in Los Angeles, was born in York, Pennsylvania on this date in 1918. Shneidman was a pioneer in suicide prevention at a time when the topic was generally shunned. When he founded the Los Angeles center in 1958, there was no such thing as a suicide-prevention hotline or even significant research into the psychology of suicide. Within thirty years of the Center’s founding, the L.A. suicide rate had been cut in half. In 1966, Shneidman organized a national suicide prevention project that cultivated the growth of more than 100 centers, nationwide, in only three years. He also founded the American Association of Suicidology, served as the first professor of thanatology at UCLA, and wrote more than twenty books before dying in 2009 at age 91.
“Sociologists have shown that suicide rates vary with factors like war and unemployment; psychoanalysts argue that it is rage toward a loved one that is directed inward; psychiatrists see it as a biochemical imbalance. No one approach holds the answer: It’s all that and more.” —Edwin S. Shneidman