*Istituto di Bioetica e Medical Humanities, Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore “A. Gemelli”, Roma - **Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche ed ambientali, Università del Salento, Lecce


This article examines the theme of suicide from a cultural-historical point of view, using art and literature as its sources, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Art and literature can be used as therapies and medications, as an excellent way of expressing existential distress that, in most cases, requires a symbolic and evocative language. The pain cannot be contained in a definition but rather in a story. So the truth of medical science needs another truth, one that includes the whole person, her psyche and her physicality. The theme of death and suicide concerns the essential questions of human life, issues which statistics, clinical and experimental researches do not address. The art and literature lay bare what a person feels, allowing immediate access to his experience. They can be a response to the suffering and be salvation and medicine, place of disclosure of the human labour on the disease, be it physical, psychological or existential. The modern age is dominated by a medical approach that explains the suicide as a result of a pathological derangement. For Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), suicide was the product of a mental illness. The author's aim is to underline how the artistic-literary language is a privileged instrument to study mankind's mood and existential status.


suicide, medicine, history, art, literature, anthropology.