Norman Farberow, psychologist, died at 97

  Dead Famous

Dr. Norman L. Farberow. born February 12, 1918 and died September 10, 2015, he was an American psychologist, and one of the founding fathers of modern suicidology.

He was among the three founders in 1958 of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center, which became a base of research into the causes and prevention of suicide. Farberow served as a World War II Air Force Captain.

The war years were a time in the United States of relatively low suicide rates, a wartime phenomenon commonly observed when a nation’s armed forces and citizens unite under feelings of common purpose and mutual goals.

In 1958, Farberow and Shneidman launched the nation’s first center of its kind, the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center (LASPC) with the psychiatrist Robert E. Litman, M.D., as its director.

Farberow described Litman as, “a free spirit cloaked in psychoanalytic trappings, always intellectually adventuresome and inquisitive.”

Together, the three men developed a scientific, methodologically sound, and professionally conceived organization where a social and professional vacuum had once existed.

Farberow described this as a time of “attraction and excitement in the feeling that we were into a relatively unexplored area of vital community concern.”

The objective of the agency-to provide a center for the follow-up care of suicidal patients discharged after treatment in the Los Angeles County Hospital-changed in the first year as calls came in from people in crisis.

Capitalizing on the opportunity to intervene and avert a suicide attempt broadened the Center’s objective to include crisis intervention and 24-hour accessibility of professionals or rigorously trained non-professionals.

These efforts led to the development of the L.A. Scale for Assessment of Suicidal Potential and the crisis hotline.

As the LASPC’s reputation as an informed referral center grew, collaboration with the coroner’s office, mental health professionals, police, probation, schools, and other organizations created the awareness needed to demystify suicide’s taboo and give hope to those who were suffering.

Through writing, teaching, training, and publishing, LASPC directors disseminated their principles for the organization and functioning of a suicide prevention and crisis intervention community agency.

Their principles are still in use today and serve as models in community agencies around the world.

The LASPC is now part of a comprehensive mental health facility based in Culver City, California, known as Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. Norman Farberow died at age 97 on September 10, 2015.