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Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide
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Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  3,583 ratings  ·  140 reviews
From the author of the best-selling memoir An Unquiet Mind, comes the first major book in a quarter century on suicide, and its terrible pull on the young in particular. Night Falls Fast is tragically timely: suicide has become one of the most common killers of Americans between the ages of fifteen and forty-five.

An internationally acknowledged authority on depressive illn
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ebook, 448 pages
Published January 12th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Kirsten
Jamison begins this excellent book by describing suicide in the same terms that one might describe a particularly awful disease: "Suicide is a particularly awful way to die: the mental suffering leading up to it is usually prolonged, intense, and unpalliated," she writes. "There is no morphine equivalent to ease the acute pain, and death not uncommonly is violent and grisly." This sets the tone for the book, which is unflinching and frequently painful to read, yet the author also infuses the inf ...more
stephanie
one of the best books i have seen on suicide, i should go back and read it once i finish the books i am working on now.

her prose is very accessible - i can't emphasize how important and rare this is in psychological writing - in that she doesn't get caught up in jargon or theory. she knows how to personalize the subject matter, and make it relevant.

the truth is, if you haven't had a suicidal impulse, then you know someone that has. this book does an excellent job of illustrating why that urge
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Mike
I'm reluctant to commit to "paper" the thoughts and feelings that Night Falls Fast evoked. It's - obviously - going to function as a triggering experience for many depressed people. And it will be very distressing for people who have either considered, romanticized, or settled on suicide. Chronicling my emotional engagement with the book here - going through all of that again - would be too exhausting. It's something, truth be told, I want to put behind me.

An important thing for sufferers of dep
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Amy
If you have ever been close to someone who has completed suicide, please consider reading this book. This is the definitive book on suicide and examines the topic through many different lenses (personal, psychological, sociological, historical, legal etc) with expertise and care. Dr. Kay Jamison, who is the world's leading expert on bipolar disorder, and is also a multiple suicide attempt survivor herself, does an excellent job at examining the subject in an easily accessible manner.
I read this
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Heather
Lots of good information abounds in this book. I appreciated the mixture of clinical information and artistic commentary on the subject. But as a sibling of someone who committed suicide I am left with one question/concern. What of all those out there who are mentally ill and tending towards suicide who can not get help. What of the men who can not hold steady jobs, who are in and out of jail, who end up in half-way houses or on the street. What of the ill who have no health insurance, who can n ...more
rachel
Suicide, both the completed act and ideation of, is a subject that I've had to deal with much more than I'd care to. I made the mistake of reading this book while on a bus back to college and what I remember most of the experience is how embarrassing it was to be sitting next to a stranger, making a deeply personal connection with a book and crying without restraint.

But, if you think of all of the smart, creative, generous people whose lives have been cut short by depression culminating in suic
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Jason
expertly examining a difficult subject The applicability of this book to my life is not appropriate. This book is far too academic for my CURRENT taste. I would have chewed this one up in seconds in graduate school, but alas that was two years ago and reading this just brought about stress. THAT SAID, its amazing, well written, well researched, and carefully constructed. It is by far the best book on suicide, and the most approachable that I have EVER read. it's a shame graduate school did not f ...more
Anne Jordan-Baker
In the epilogue, Kay Redfield Jamison writes, "I was naive to underestimate how disturbing it would be to write this book." I bet. It was disturbing to read, too. I love good nonfiction, and this is it: beautiful structure, sentences that I wish I could write, clarity, poetry. Breathtaking. On the other hand, the subject matter is a horror: suicide, which is an ugly and gritty reality that cannot be made pretty or ok. I loved this book, but it was definitely disorienting in its attention to such ...more
John E. Branch Jr.
Read as research for a play about suicide. There's much to value here, particularly the individual cases recounted.

On the other hand, there are problems. One of the book's annoyances is Jamison's excessive fondness for statistics. A greater shortcoming is that she writes confidently from one side of a still unsettled question about the relationship between the mind and the brain, assuming that what happens at a neurochemical level in the brain is the cause of what happens in the mind in terms of
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Anne
After several teen suicides and attempted suicides in my hometown this past year, I started to feel incredibly helpless. Despite the obvious sadness of young lives lost, I felt overwhelming frustration. It is often easy for people to dismiss teen suicide as the result of immaturity or a lack of perspective - heartbreak over unrequited love or a rejection letter from Harvard. What people ignore is the reality - that the majority of suicides, those of teenagers and adults - are the result of choni ...more
Emilio
Ugh. When I read this book, I hoped that the author would provide a context to, as the subtitle says, "understand suicide" - the psychology, or its background over history and age groups.

What I found instead is a book that deals not with suicide in any comprehensive sense, but only youth suicide, which is literally acknowledged only in a footnote. Likewise, it presents the usual emotive portrait of suicide as a (mental) illness that must be stamped out, which tells little about how any particula
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Lisa
Really opened my eyes to the complexity of this issue and how much research is being done. It helped me understand my bi-polar family member in greater detail. A powerful book I'd recommend to anyone whose loved one(s) suffer from depression and/or bi-polar.
Sue
After losing a cousin to suicide this summer, I thought I would try (too late) to understand. I found nothing astonishing in this book, though it is beautifully written. My cousin, at age 54, did not fall within the parameters of this book, which the author states is a study of suicide in the young (defined as under age 45). I wish Ms. Jamison would write another book focusing on suicide among those older than 45, which would include my cousin and, more famously, Robin Williams. Have those who h ...more
Pat spain
It was a phenomenal book...but much like "Requiem for a Dream"...it will kil your day / week.

I still hate Joe for suggesting I take this on a greyhound bus-trip for some, in his words "light reading". Asshole.

There is a chapter in this book which contains actual suicide notes from people from various time periods and walks of life, some sad, some angry, some strangely happy, all intent on ending their own lives. It's the most disturbing chapter of any book I have ever read.
Geneva
I first want to preface my review by mentioning that the young man who recommended this book, in the wake of Robin Williams' suicide, warned me and others that it had been a difficult (emotionally) read and that he'd caution others against picking it up lightly, as many might find it to be triggering or damaging to their own emotional states. I had no such problems, but I have also not yet been faced with less than two degrees of separation from suicide (extended family that I either did not kno ...more
Jiunwen Wang
A great coverage of the anguish that people face when they contemplate and / or act on suicide. The book is a lovely blend of scientific facts and literary gems drawn from great writers of poetry and literature. While the book tries to bring people into the world of the suicidal, I kind of wished that the book complemented this darkness by offering hope and light in how people can overcome and transcend their suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Personally, this book is a good reminder for me to co ...more
Katie
brilliant and heartbreaking
Adam Wolfe
Honestly, this is a hard book. As someone who has never known a suicide, reading it was a little like eating my vegetables. I'd still consider reading more of Jamison's work even it was slightly textbook-ish. It's the kind of book you enjoy much more when you're quoting it's statistics to your friend than in the moment you are reading them.

It was a bit of a slog, and that comes from someone who has read, and liked, Jamison's two memoirs. Understandably. It would be odd if a book about so fibrous
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Kelly
4.5 stars.

I can't in good conscience review this book without first stating some very important qualifications (the actual review starts in the next paragraph). This book is NOT meant to provide therapeutic-type "understanding" to the acutely suicidal. If you are severely depressed or seriously suicidal, DO NOT read this book. If you know someone who is depressed or suicidal, DO NOT give them this book to read (though it may very well be helpful for you to read as a friend or caregiver). The fra
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Shannon
Jamison gives a wise and comprehensive examination on the difficult subject and reality of suicide. As someone who is an expert in the mental health field, as well as someone who has attempted suicide herself and lost loved ones to suicide, she is able to give insight on the subject from various perspectives. This book is written without judgement and is full of extensive research, history, and personal stories which helps provide the proper context. So many people mistakenly believe that those ...more
Christopher Raffa
This book was well researched and masterfully written. In the uncovering of the massive tragedy that suicide inflicts on life, these pages provided the reader with much to contemplate and treasure.

In the epilogue, however, Jamison recounts that a few weeks after a failed suicide attempt she tries to discover, if any, the vital signs of her “relationship with God.” Having prayed the prayer she only really cared about, she felt a “convulsive sense of shame and sadness.” Out of this emotional uphe
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Nicol
This book investigating suicide through history, literature, and interviews begins to paint an in depth picture of the culture, pathology, and biology of suicide. Jamison is able to get to the heart of suicidal thinking and in part I believe her own experiences with suicide give her another facet of understanding. One of my favorite quotes: "In short, when people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness perme ...more
Hellen
Night Falls Fast is a work of non-fiction about suicide.

Sacrificing correctness of statements for readability is often a trap for this kind of non-fiction, but I thought this book had very little problems with that. I appreciated the quoting of authors who attempted/committed suicide and the mention of the context, simply because I like reading and found this interesting (I didn't know about many of the ones mentioned, such as Ernest Hemingway).

In this time and progress in neuroscience I think i
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Kathleen O'Neal
Kay Redfield Jamison's "Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide" is a beautifully written book about a serious social and personal problem. The book has many strengths - Jamison is a good writer who has an obviously strong grasp of the relevant psychiatric literature about this topic and an obviously deep and sincere desire to help those who are either suicidal or are living with the aftermath of a suicide. However, the book suffers from three fatal flaws that unfortunately cause it to fall sho ...more
Jessica Land
I picked this book up at the library yesterday. My therapist told me it's the best book she's ever read on the subject of suicide.

I had checked this out from the library, but more promising books came my way, and I decided to return it. I did read a little and it was very interesting. It's definitely a book I will return to, and would like to own.

description from wikipedia.org:
"Her seminal works amongst laypeople are her memoir An Unquiet Mind, which details the agony of severe mania and depre
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Bree
I am a big fan of Dr. Jamison's other works, and Night Falls Fast was not a disappointment. She brings her usual mix of clinical accuracy and human empathy to this book, and I can't imagine any reader not having at least one moment of deep self reflection as a result. Of course she's also devilishly funny at times.

She clearly describes the magnitude of the problem, and I spent much of the book thinking to myself that the saddest aspect of these diseases is how alone and isolated the sufferers ca
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Shazia
This is a profound exploration of what drives people to take their own lives. Jamison is a psychiatrist and has also dealt with her own suicidal tendencies.

Jamison employs a multi-faceted approach to her investigation of suicide and avoids making any reductionist assumptions about the reasons why, such as thinking the person killed him/herself because of financial woes. What Jamison does is offer the reader an opportunity to understand how our minds work when we are battling rigorous ailments s
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Peacegal
I've long thought that those people who claim that they have never considered suicide, and that there are no circumstances under which they would commit suicide, are liars.

Night Falls Fast wasn't quite as intriguing as the similarly-themed Savage God, but there is still a lot to learn here. Throughout the book, Jamison describes experiments upon animals to create conditions of stress and depression. Such experiments seem to be exemplary of the wastefulness of vivisection, as stress, depression,
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Judy Churchill
This book is textbook like with facts and current research by a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. The author weaves in stories that emphasizes human aspects of those touched by suicide and mental illness. This is very well researched and documented with an extensive list of resources. The relationship of mental illness and suicide is supported anecdotally and by multitudes of research. Only by understanding the precipitants and causes of suicide, will we be able to eliminate it.
Histteach24
I understood that this would be a depressing book by the nature of it. As an educator I was drawn to reading it because it promised to examine suicide among the young. Yet there was little mention of teens and modern cases, nor was there tips for educators to use to help suicidal teens. Instead, we heard story after story of poets and writers, etc who died in the 1800's/early 1900's. I think there was one modern day case in the entire book. The use of poetry and quotations made the readings even ...more
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Kay Redfield Jamison (born June 22, 1946) is an American clinical psychologist an American clinical psychologist and writer who is one of the foremost experts on bipolar disorder. She is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is an Honorary Professor of English at the University of St Andrews.
More about Kay Redfield Jamison...
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament Nothing Was the Same Exuberance: The Passion for Life Sōutsubyō O Ikiru: Watashi Wa Kono Zankoku De Miwakutekina Byōki O Aiseruka

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“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.” 162 likes
“It is tempting when looking at the life of anyone who has committed suicide to read into the decision to die a vastly complex web of reasons; and, of course, such complexity is warranted. No one illness or event causes suicide; and certainly no one knows all, or perhaps even most, of the motivations behind the killing of the self. But psychopathology is almost always there, and its deadliness is fierce. Love, success, and friendship are not always enough to counter the pain and destructiveness of severe mental illness ” 87 likes
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