Tuesday July 24 5:37 PM ET
"Clues to Future Suicide Contained in Poets' Words
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The writings of poets of various nationalities who committed suicide contain words and language patterns that give clues about their eventual fate, researchers said on Tuesday.
Using a computer program that examines word usage in written texts, the researchers analyzed 156 poems written by nine poets who committed suicide and 135 poems written by nine poets who did not. They found that the suicidal poets gravitated toward words indicating their detachment from other people and preoccupation with themselves.
``The key finding is that we were able to distinguish features of people's mental health by the language they use,'' said James Pennebaker, a University of Texas psychology professor who conducted the research along with University of Pennsylvania graduate student Shannon Wiltsey Stirman.
``The words we use, especially what often appear to be the unimportant words, say a lot about who we are, what we're thinking and how we're approaching the world,'' he added.
The study appears in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
The researchers looked at the works of John Berryman (1914-1972), Hart Crane (1899-1932), Sergei Esenin (1895-1925), Adam L. Gordon (1833-1870), Randall Jarrell (1914-1965), Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), Sarah Teasdale (1884-1933) and Anne Sexton (1928-1974), all of whom took their own lives."