Hahnemann’s Sensitivity to Suicides
At a talk on suicide sponsored by a charity, the speaker, a consultant psychiatrist, stated that suicide is bigger than medicine and psychiatry, so medicine does not have answers to suicides.
Dr Samuel Hahnemann had one answer. He also advocated a kinder attitude to those who took their own lives – as well as the mentally ill – than was prevalent at the time. His short article explaining the need for a charitable attitude and understanding along with a proposed remedy for the suicidal disposition was published in his Lesser Writings (p. 695). The article, published in 1819 and reprinted below, is available at Archive.org. After reading this you may find other articles on homeopathy and psychiatry or suicide of use: psychiatry and suicide.
Different Remedies for Different Suicides
Gold, known in homeopathy as Aurum metallicum, isn’t the only remedy for a suicidal disposition. Homeopathy provides many remedies and each remedy can show a disposition to suicide by different methods. Examples of such remedies are listed in Kent’s repertory from 1910 under the rubric “Suicide, disposition to commit” (more remedies have been added since then). People needing Aurum will show a tendency to jump from a height. Those in need of Silica, a commonly used remedy, can desire death by drowning and Natrum sulph by shooting himself in the head, particularly following a head injury (Kent recounts such a cured case in his New remedies, clinical cases, lesser writings, aphorisms and precepts, pp. 609ff¹).
Homeopathy has elicited remedies for various would-be suicides and under different conditions as can be seen by browsing through the rubric. Other remedies have a simple desire for death as shown under the rubric “Death, desires”.
The Uncharitableness Towards Suicides²
The propensity to self-destruction always depends upon a disease which is to a certain extent endemic in England, but in many other countries it prevailed epidemically, so to speak, more some time since than now, but it by no means affected the very worst characters, but often otherwise honest, well-conducted individuals. It is generally the friends of the individual – who do not pay attention to his corporeal disease, that often passes rapidly into this mental disease – and his medical attendants, who know not how to cure the suicidal-malady, that are to blame for the catastrophe.
By their unsteady, shy, anxious look, by the despondency they display in their words and deeds, by their restlessness, that increases at certain times of the day, by their avoidance of things that were formerly most agreeable to them, and sometimes by their inconsolable lamentations over some slight corporeal ailments, the patients betray their internal malady. This most unnatural of all human purposes, this disorder of the mind that renders them weary of life, might always be with certainty cured if the medicinal powers of pure gold³ for the cure of this sad condition were known. The smallest dose of pulverized gold attenuated to the billionth degree, or the smallest part of a drop of an equally diluted solution of pure gold, which may be mixed in his drink without his knowledge, immediately and permanently removes this fearful state of the (body and) mind, and the unfortunate being is saved.
1. Kent’s case, entitled “Natrum sulph in Symptoms Arising After an Injury to the Head” is as follows:
This case, involving the most intense suffering, was the result of a violent accident, that of being trampled upon by a spirited horse. While visiting the farm of Chancellor Nicholson of Dover, Del., he invited my attention to his farmer who was suffering at that time from the following symptoms:
Rheumatism in left side, no pain elsewhere, worse in hands to wrists and knees to hips. Pain like a knife sticking in him, had not had such an attack for a long time. Aggravated in bed, can’t sleep for the pain. Does not feel sleepy, gets mad because he cannot sleep. Gets stiff all over when sits or lies down. Ameliorated from pressure or moving about.
Having learned that Mrs. Nicholson had given Rhus about the 30th potency after the accident, and that it had worked well, and the symptoms seeming to agree, I gave him one dose of Rhus. mm on Oct. 27, 1897. This had only a temporary effect, as will be seen by the following letter from the Chancellor:
SYMPTOMS OF R. R. E. Dec. 1, 1897
‘Since the days of his apprenticeship in a Vienna Brewery he has been a very poor sleeper.
Immediately after taking your last powder he slept for four or five nights, “better than in all his life,” say four or five hours of good sleep each night. Since then has not slept at all. Says positively that in the whole time, day and night put together, he has not been asleep two hours. His eyes wide open all night long except when he holds his hands over them. Has waking dreams all day. Sees and talks with his father, and with me. Sees what he reads all over the world, particularly military scenes, such as battles in Cuba, etc. (He served through Franco-Prussian War in the Bavarian cavalry.)
Is very nervous and startles at any sound during the night,—”not scared exactly, but nervous all over down to the tips of his fingers.” This is something very novel to him.
Has nearly the whole time what he calls a “zumming in his ears,” usually not very loud, “like a bumble-bee in a hollow board.” If he gets up very slowly and carefully he escapes this. With the loud “zumming” a pain comes across the top of his head from ear to ear running back to the point where the hair centers.
Pain in his head comes when he lies down, on the side he is lying on. On account of this he always lies on his back with his head propped high. This pain goes away when he sits up or stands. His forehead always feels very heavy, and frequently at the top of it, on the left hand side, he has sharp throbbing pain for a little while. About eighteen months ago my big colt trampled on his head about this place. His memory has been bad ever since then and he has had great suffering with his head at the injured point especially.
He sweats very easily and profusely, which makes him feel cold and take cold very frequently in his ordinary outdoor work.
His breast is now very sore to the touch in the region of the ribs and breast bones, the muscles apparently.
He seems tireless in his work, says he feels no fatigue when he works all day long and is full of restless energy. Have noticed frequently of late a wild look in his eyes.
The terrible sleeplessness in the one symptom upon which he himself dwells, and which he tells me “his wife says is driving him crazy.”
He drinks coffee three times a day, but says that if you direct him to stop it he will not miss it. Has very little appetite. Is habitually a small eater and the sight of any large quantities of food on the table is so repulsive to him that it makes it impossible for him to eat anything.
If these symptoms do not clearly indicate a remedy, please let me know and I will send him up to you, provided you think his condition serious.’
On these symptoms I sent, to be taken once, one powder of Natrum-sulph. 20m.
On December 28th the following report was received: “Effect of last powder is amazing; patient sleeps well and looks like another man. The wrinkles are smoothed out and his eyes are mild and youthful. Two days after the powder he was worse, but he later became sleepy and then sleep came normally.”
2. From the Allgem. Anzeig der Deutschen, No. 144. 1819.
3. The reasons pure gold – the remedy made from gold is Aurum metallicum – was found by Hahnemann in his experimenting with it (known as a “proving”) to be beneficial for suicides is because it causes a suicidal disposition. The proving details, with Hahnemann’s comments, are worth reading and are available in his Chronic Diseases (available to view here and here) and his Materia Medica Pura (here). A more prose-like version based on much experience by Dr Kent presented in Kent’s Lectures on Homeopathic Materia Medica is available here and here.
Dr David Lester is regarded as an expert on suicide. He might have something useful to offer at: http://www.drdavidlester.net/
One in 10,000 Irish 15 – 19 year-olds will die by suicide, Unicef’s Building the Future report says, as reported in The Irish Times, June 2017
Credits: Photo by D Ramey Logan: Wikipedia. The Golden Gate Bridge (here with a golden sunset) is a well-known location for suicides, so much so that Wikipedia has its own entry on it: Suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge