David Webb

david-webb“I suppose I`ve always been a bit of a sad bugger”.
David Webb is the author of “the world’s first PhD on suicide by someone who has tried it”.

The PhD evolved into a book – Thinking About Suicide.

For a sad bugger who writes about suicide David Webb is pretty funny – as well as deeply insightful,  soulful and humble.

photo of David Webb at Banyu and Nillumby Weekly

Webb suggests we might well learn from the idea of  psyche-ache from one of the founding fathers of suicidology in the US, the amazing Edwin S  Shneidman, who sadly died in 2007 age 90. Psycheache  was Shneidman’s core concept and David Webb says, a good one. Shneidman himself lamented how it was being lost by  the current medicalisation of suicide by psychiatry.

The original meaning of the word psyche  is soul – so psycheache means aching soul, or a soul in pain.

Having determined he wanted to understand what had happened to him , Webb embarked upon a broad philosophical, almost spiritual, inquiry and came to understand the “depression” that he experienced as being his soul in pain;  his psyche aching.What he experienced was psycheache. He also learned how  meditative and yoga practice helped him  greatly to find his own peace in his mind,  his body and self.

Chemical imbalance? A hypothesis built on increasingly wobbly science

He talks lucidly of how current biomedical conceptualisation allows us little room for this sort of philosophical or spiritual  understanding. It’s not necessarily that the medical establishment have it all wrong – it’s simply that they might relax, stop pretending they have everything right and allow some space for others to contribute – to a broader, more useful,  more meaningful  understanding.

Webb offers us one of the best and funniest ways yet  to debunk the chemical imbalance hypothesis as a way of explaining distress , soul ache, psyche ache – “life is a chemical imbalance, falling in love is a chemical imbalance -perhaps the ultimate chemical imbalance –  even going to the toilet is a chemical imbalance! everything we do, everything we experience  results from  or causes some change in our brain chemicals.”

A cure from mental illness?

Webb does not argue for cure, nor talk of himself as “cured”. He rather believes that we can benefit from a broad inquiry to from many perspectives, to understand what is happening to us, how that came to be, and for exploring what it means and ways to live with it – and to live our lives.

‘‘I don’t use the word cured because I think that is dangerous,’’ he says.

Now, David Webb spends some of his days helping others to face their own darkest hours and travels all over the world to speak on the subject of suicide. His motto for anyone wrestling with depression is simple.

‘‘I tell people to live your life first,’’ he said once to a journalist, and it’s an idea that’s now taking on something of a life of it’s own.

Banyu and Nillumby Weekly, July 2011

David Webb lives in Australia.

more ….

David Webb: Life Less Ordinary

Article in Banyu and Nillumby Weekly , July 2011 http://www.banyuleandnillumbikweekly.com.au/news/local/news/general/david-webb-life-less-ordinary/2231586.aspx?storypage=2


with Natasha Mitchell on  All In the Mind on ABC Radio , Nov 2010


On Madness Radio


Mental Health Visions #9

David Webb on You Tube talking about his visions of mental health. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NpXlqvCNI4

David Webb’s Blog 


The Book

Thinking About Suicide: Contemplating and Comprehending the Urge to Die by David WebbThinking About Suicide by David Webb

Intro by Dr Helen Szoke, Commissioner – Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission at the launch of David Webb`s book :


buy the book…



We have been experiencing difficulty getting a copy of this wonderful book – even through Cavershams.

If you are interested contact us – if we can get enough people together we can purchase a bunch direct from the publisher.

Meanwhile, we tracked down one copy in Toronto: at UofT.

Borrow the book

Gerstein Science Library, King’s College Circle

 David Webb, Thinking about Suicide, RC569.W43

The Many Languages of Suicide.

Paper by David Webb, 2002


3 Responses to David Webb

  1. Nancy says:

    I ordered the book from the UK through amazon – arrived in less than a week and the overall price (including shipping and after currency conversion) was about $30

    He really captures a lot of what I was feeling for so long


    • Hi Nancy, welcome . Glad you like David Webb’s Book – me too. Thow tat’s three copiws I know of in Toronto. I have been badgering Toronto Library service asking them to stock it – maybe if enough of us ask for it they’ll buy a couple of copies.


    • I hope more and more people feel as Nancy does. For the past 25 years I have worked with over 16,000 suicidal inpatients on the voluntary, acute mental health unit of a major public hospital. After seeing that many suicidal persons in individual and group therapy, I started to recognize a common pattern, a ubiquitous “through-line” that was present in every suicidal case. Not everyone who is depressed is suicidal, and not everyone who is suicidal is depressed. In all of the 16,000 situations, something deeper down started to become clear — something deeper than “depression” or “mental illness.” David Webb is correct to recognize the work of Dr. Edwin Schneidman, the “father” of suicidology who, as David mentions speaks of “psyche ache” — the “soul in pain” — as the core “pain” that is driving the urge to suicide. For more information about my correlative 25 year experience, visit the Contextual-Conceptual Therapy (CCT) website at: http://www.ContextualConceptualTherapy.com


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