Rehabilitating the Mind: The Use of Probation Sentences in Cases of Attempted Suicide in Britain, 1900–1960

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Päättyy kello

Pinni B building, lecture hall B1097, address: Kanslerinrinne 1

Speakers Series of the University of Tampere. Open lecture by Dr Louise Settle, IASR


Suicide was illegal in England and Wales until the 1961 Suicide Act.  The maximum sentence for attempting suicide was two years’ imprisonment, but it was more common that the person was admonished or placed on probation.  A probation sentence meant that the offender was placed under the supervision of a probation officer for a maximum of two years and could be required to follow certain conditions, such as abstaining from alcohol, receiving  medical treatment or residing in a particular location (including  in a ’mental asylum’).

This lecture examines the ways in which probation sentences were used in cases of attempted suicide to provide psychological treatment to people who had not legally been certified as insane. However, not all of the people placed on probation for attempting suicide necessarily received medical treatment, and some were instead provided with advice, guidance and assistance from probation officers who had varying levels of professional training.

The lecture therefore examines probation officers’  role as both the gatekeepers to psychiatric treatment, a task that relied on probation officers judging the probationer’s mental state, and as the providers of rehabilitation services which were based on a mixture of methods inspired by their professional training in psychology and social work, as well as by their background in religious philanthropic work.

Overall the lecture seeks to highlight the important role that the probation service played in shaping both the practical implementation of psychological theories and working-class families experiences of psychiatry.

The Speakers Series of the University of Tampere is a series of Studia Generalia Lectures in the Study of Society organized weekly by the University of Tampere Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) in cooperation with the New Social Research Programme (NSR). The lectures are given by the Research Fellows as well as the distinguished guests of the IASR and the NSR.

For the programme, please check the IASR website Most doctoral students can also get 2 ECTS for attending a minimum of six IASR Lectures, altogether 6 ECTS at the maximum. These 2 ECTS for attending 6 lectures can be earned during two successive terms.


Research Secretary Marjukka Virkajärvi,, 050 318 6697