to face the fact that they are ‘firmly stuck with their blindness for the rest of their lives’, deciding ‘there and then that life is not worth living. They will either retreat into a world of passivity and self-pity from which they may never emerge, or they may even initially panic and try to take their own lives’ (Dodds, 1993: 2). Indeed, the third of the studies concludes that the psychological autopsy findings suggest that ‘those with worsening sight and the prognosis of eventual blindness are at comparatively high risk of suicide’ (de Leo et al, 1999: 343).
The first study (Blank, 1957) refers to a thirty-five-year-old woman with newly impaired vision who becomes profoundly depressed and cannot tolerate the inevitability of remaining hopelessly dependent. Spending time in inactive hatred of herself and others, she angrily refuses to undertake the study of Braille and to associate with anyone who has impaired vision. She becomes useless at her job and eventually arranges an appointment with a psychoanalyst, several days before which she attempts suicide by swallowing a large number of barbiturate capsules. The second study (Caplan, 1981) relates to a thirty-year-old man who has undergone two unsuccessful eye operations. While awaiting a third operation he visits a friend in an unfamiliar area and attempts to navigate a dimly lit hallway. He trips over a low obstacle and falls down a flight of stairs, cutting his face in several places. A couple of days after the incident he commits suicide. The third study (de Leo et al, 1999) refers to twelve cases, one of which involves both hearing and sight loss, but is classified with the latter because the deceased had begun to lose his eyesight shortly before committing suicide. Another case involves an eighty-one-year- old woman who has no known psychopathology or recent traumatic life stressors, but commits suicide the day she is told that the prognosis of her condition’ is blindness.
Notwithstanding the assertion that actual attempts at suicide among people with impaired vision are very rare (Hine,