At a Glance


  • Social Sciences

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP
  • University

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Solving problems
  • Analyzing
  • Reading

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Preparation & knowledge activation
  • Application & knowledge building


In this activity, students are presented with Durkheim’s perspective on suicide as a social fact as well as his four types of suicide. Students compare psychological perspectives on suicide, the types of suicide in Durkheim’s functionalist perspective, and suicide from functionalist and conflict theory perspectives.  

Students are given two readings presenting four kinds of suicide (indigenous on and off reserve and soldiers during times of war and peace). 

In class, students are asked to generate ideas about groups with higher rates of suicide in contemporary society and which of each ‘type’ Durkheim would argue they represent.  

In groups, students then classify the case studies from their readings into the categories identified by Durkheim, discussing the ways in which these categories are relevant or in some cases insufficient or murky. The relevance of Durkheim’s outlook from the functionalist perspective is discussed in the implied solutions he gives. Students are asked to reflect on the implications of these solutions and examples of ways this theory was enacted through institutions (e.g residential schools as a possible solution for social integration). 

Finally, students are asked to do the same activity from the perspective of a conflict theorist and then to compare and contrast the two conclusions and solutions. 

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Offer different solutions to suicide from the from the perspectives of sociology
  • Explain how solutions differ between disciplines (ex. psychology).
  • Explain Durkheim’s contribution to sociology, including functionalism, social facts, and his theory of suicide
  • Apply Durkheim’s theory of suicide to contemporary society
  • Articulate the implications of Durkheim’s theory for interpreting and addressing suicide as a social problem
  • Explain the difference between functionalist and conflict theory in their interpretation of and perspectives about social problems.

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

  • This activity opens students up to social problems, which create conditions that lead to higher rates of suicide in certain populations.  
  • The activity allows the students to learn to develop a understanding of how different these two macro-level perspectives see the world. 
  • Students are also able to apply the theory they learn in a more concrete way as they categorize. 
  • Suicide is a challenging topic and is sensitive for some students 
  • Some students find it challenging to translate older theories into the context of today (Durkheim’s theory is from the 19th century) 
  • Avoid personalizing suicide to make students more at ease. 


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