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Why People Die by Suicide Paperback – 28 Sep 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (28 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674025490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674025493
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.9 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 108,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


The Florida State University psych professor, who grew up here and endured the suicide of his father not far from their Atlanta home, asserts that suicide is not simply an act but a process. Joiner describes how a person works up to suicide by overcoming the fear of death and the instinct for self-preservation. In accessible, somber prose, he also explains the conditions under which a person becomes suicidal.--Lawrence Wright "Atlanta Journal-Constitution "

Taking one's own life goes against one of our strongest urges--the instinct of self-preservation. The deterioration of this instinct, says Thomas Joiner, should be regarded as a symptom of disease...His theory, outlined in "Why People Die by Suicide" is that it happens when severely depressed people acquire fearlessness. How do people become fearless? Through practice and learning, he says. This explains the bouts of self-harm or failed suicide attempts that are not cries for help so much as rehearsals for a deadly finale.--Anjana Ahuja"The Times" (01/30/2006)

Mr. Joiner's book is a useful guide to suicidal behavior...Mr. Joiner draws on many scientific fields--genetics, neuroscience, psychiatry, evolutionary psychology--all of which, he thinks, have something to offer the study of suicide. The major lesson of his book is the necessity of keeping the ability to commit suicide from coinciding with the desire for death...His book is a practical study, full of up-to-the-minute research.--Thomas Meaney"Wall Street Journal" (04/20/2006)

[Joiner's] theory is the most comprehensive yet put forth to explain why some people end their lives. Joiner offers a dizzying array of studies to shore up his argument, and some of the evidence he offers is quite novel for the lay reader.--Philip Connors"Newsday" (02/05/2006)

It is the synergy and tension between Joiner's dual identity as suicide survivor and academic that imbues this book with both its power and a certain logical grandiosity...Joiner is to be commended for a powerful effort to integrate science and personal tragedy. In an easily digestible style, he reviews the breadth of modern suicide scholarship--biological, psychological, and social, and presents his integration clearly and forcefully.--J. Michael Bostwick"Boston Globe" (07/12/2006)

The change in the way I now look at my dad's death comes because of [this] compelling book.--Steve Martin"The Times" (06/08/2007)

Many researchers and clinicians have tried to explain why people commit suicide. The majority of studies that have been conducted to date have examined correlates and risk factors for suicidal behavior. However, many of these risk factors are found throughout the general population, and the vast majority of people do not engage in suicidal behavior. Dr. Joiner's theory is one of the first that integrates many of these risk factors into an explanatory model. His model makes sense both intuitively and empirically. What makes Dr. Joiner's theory particularly credible is the research that he and his students have done to support his model. Additionally, he is able to use his theory to explain such diverse behaviors as the suicide attacks on 9/11 and Kurt Cobain's suicide. What makes this book particularly interesting is that it begins with a prologue detailing Dr. Joiner's personal account of loss by suicide...This book is a must-read for clinicians and researchers who are involved with suicidal patients. Dr. Joiner's model highlights the acute risk factors for serious suicidal behavior thus providing tangible targets for assessment and treatment. Additionally this volume is an excellent resource for family members who have lost a loved one to suicide...Based upon the book's combination of sound scientific research with thoughtful personal reflections and examples it is given a strong recommendation.--Elizabeth L. Jeglic "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Book Reviews "

In a book both personal and scientific, Thomas Joiner gives us the deepest understanding of suicide that has yet been written. He reminds us that to go on living we need to feel that we belong to someone and that we are effective. But he adds a surprising third factor--we must not break down our fear of death. Joiner offers wise guidance not only to professionals, but to those who must live on after this kind of death in the family.--Pauline Boss, author of "Ambiguous Loss"

As a survivor, I find this book to be illuminating, informative, and, most of all, healing. Joiner searches for the "why" of suicide as both a scientist and a survivor himself, and his research and insights help us to make sense of the pain and confusion that led our loved ones to end their lives.--Carla Fine, author of "No Time To Say Goodbye: Surviving The Suicide Of A Loved One"

Joiner provides an elegant description of what leads people to commit suicide and what professionals, families, and friends can do to prevent the crisis that this tragedy creates for everyone involved.--Aaron T. Beck, M.D., University Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania

Joiner provides a fascinating contribution to psychological literature that is certain to join the ranks of Emile Durkheim's "Suicide" and Karl Menninger's "Man Against Himself." Not only has Joiner established professional prominence in suicidology, but he also has a profound personal relationship with the subject: his own father died by suicide. Drawing on the pain of this experience as well as on clinical and epidemiological evidence, Joiner has managed to conduct significant research into why some people die by suicide, while others survive their attempts at self-annihilation. His persuasive thesis is that practice, mental and physical, is what separates the completers from the attempters. In particular, those who have become desensitized to physical pain are most likely to orchestrate their own deaths successfully. Joiner also identifies perceived burdensomeness, little sense of belonging, genetics, neurobiology, and mental disorders as contributors to suicidality and completion.--Lynne F. Maxwell"Library Journal" (12/01/2005)"

About the Author

Thomas Joiner is Bright-Burton Professor of Psychology at Florida State University.

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Format: Paperback
Professor Joiner has successfully used the experience of his father's suicide to provide a personal and compassionate framework onto which to hang an accessible and compelling academic model for why people die by suicide.

Well written and wide reaching in scope, learning and reference this book provides insight into the minds of those who die by suicide and proposes a model for mapping and assessing the factors that contribute to suicide.

It is academically vigorous and clinically useful. For the clinician it provides many original ideas and aids to the management of suicidal and peri-suicidal people and risk assessment is addressed. My own clinical practice has been challenged and changed by this book.

It would be, by increasing understanding, perhaps, comforting to the layperson seeking to grieve a loved one who died by suicide. As someone affected personally and professionally by suicide I certainly found it to be so.

Hopefully, by addressing the misconceptions that surround suicide and challenging stereotypical responses, (Such as suicide is cowardly act) this book will help to de-stigmatise the subject and the people affected by it.

I whole heartedly recommend this book and commend Professor Joiner for writing it, it must have been a hard book to write. I have no doubt that this book will help many.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This academic look at the epidemiology of suicide is an important contribution to the question of why some people die by suicide and others don't. Joiner, who lost his father to suicide, explores what he believes to be the three main pre-requisite that enable someone to take their own life.

The book is well written but some readers may find it too clinical and if you were looking for answers as to what may have caused someone to consider suicide, you may find the book falls quite short of that. Instead Joiner compares international studies in an effort to demonstrate that clinicians may be able to predict which of their patients will be most likely to complete suicide.

What Joiner fails to do is address the reasons why most people at risk of suicide don't talk about how bad they are feeling, even when there is widespread evidence that most desperately want to. Joiner also fails to address the important fact that prediction can only be based on knowing that someone is at risk in the first place, that his model is limited to predicting likelihood of completed suicide and does nothing to predict attempts (which are just as important) or the critical fact that clinicians rarely know their patients well enough to be able to explore the true answers to the 3 fold model that would enable such a risk assessment to be in any way accurate.

Joiner's book is interesting and important, however it could not be considered a practical guide and I doubt would give any solace to someone who has been bereaved by suicide. It does however highlight the importance of previous experience of self-harming behaviours and how these experiences may make the difference between life and death for someone at risk. Clinicians would do well to take note of this critical point.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very rigorous overview answering the question of why people commit suicide. It takes quite a behavioural approach in regards to focusing quite heavily on what behaviours are exhibited by suicidal individuals as opposed to what cognitive or neural processes drive suicidal tendencies. I don't think this detracts from the quality of the book but it's worth taking in mind that you might want to read a few other books or articles in order to get a more complete picture of what drives suicide. For example, it might also be worth getting Night Falls Fast by Kay Refield Jamison to fill the gaps.
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