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Why People Die by Suicide
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Why People Die by Suicide

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  275 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In the wake of a suicide, the most troubling questions are invariably the most difficult to answer: How could we have known? What could we have done? And always, unremittingly: why? Written by a clinical psychologist whose own life has been touched by suicide, this book offers an account of why some people choose to die.
Paperback, 276 pages
Published September 28th 2007 by Harvard University Press (first published January 15th 2005)
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Community Reviews

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An interesting look at what, exactly, are the distinguishing characteristics of those who die by suicide, according to the author's theory. (If you wanted to make this book into a drinking game, you could take a shot every time he writes "my theory", but then you'd be so drunk after the first chapter you'd never finish the book.)

This book sort of crosses, and recrosses again, the fine line between overly scientific and oriented towards the layperson. At times I found the book very accessible, an
A suicide book. Yes it's a subject I claim to know a lot about, and this book is written by my often enemy: a psychologist. In my personal experience I am continually disappointed by the stupidity of both psychologists and psychiatrists, and this book is no exception.
There are some interesting anecdotes in this book, which I was not aware of before, which made the book worth reading. But Thomas Joiner's annoying habit of stating things like, "In my model" and "my interpretation", is extremely a
Gerri Alexander
Mar 08, 2011 Gerri Alexander rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: caretakers of depressed people
Last year my friend was diagnosed with a deadly form of ovarian cancer. She had lost her parents at 10 years old, which meant she had to quit school in 5th grade and became a maid. She eventually came to America, has a husband and several young children who depend on her.

At the same time we knew a young man who also had lost both parent by the time he was 17, but he was stong and healthy, had graduated from high school and had a house and car he'd inherited from his grandparents.

Which one is st
I read this book at a watershed in my relationship with my personal history. Joiner's theories, after years of research, meta analysis, and lived experience (his father died by suicide), prove to be both simple enough to understand, logical enough to make sense, and almost heartening to those of us who live in the wake of suicide. Suicide, so often seen as selfish or inexplicable, has long been stigmatized more than almost any other cause of death which results in both a failure to help suicidal ...more
Corin Wenger
I am only about 1/3 into this book. It is an empathetic discussion of suicide, from the point of view of a family member (Joiners's father killed himself).

Joiner begins the book by discussing his experience as a survivor. He makes a profound comment that it is not necessary to understand suicide in order to be compassionate about it. Likewise, trying to prioritize understanding suicide can interfere with one's compassion. Maybe it is true, in other words, that there is an accurate psychoanalyti
This is the best -that is, most persuasive- book I've found on the subject. The author's thesis, buttressed by a great deal of research, has the benefit of simplicity: people kill themselves when they feel they don't belong to another person; feel they are not effective in their own lives; and have habituated themselves to the thought of death by "practicing" suicide -that is, by harming themselves or repeatedly putting themselves in harm's way or by attempting, in ever more rigorous fashion, su ...more
Anne Jordan-Baker
I wasn't planning on writing a review of this book or even including it in my Goodreads list, but I ended up liking it so much that wanted to write about it. The author, Thomas Joiner, lost his father to suicide, so he has both a personal and professional interest in the topic. Joiner's compassion for everyone affected by suicide (the deceased, the family, friends) is a constant throughout the book and makes the hard subject matter easier to take.

One of Joiner's aims in writing the book stems f
9 - I am halfway through this book, and not sure if I will finish it. I have read a lot on this subject, and this book is really slow reading for me. A lot of it is pretty technical. The author talks about prior theories about why people commit suicide and then his own theory. I was interested in reading it as I was going through the "why's". I think this book might be better for psychologists than for S.O.S.
Not the best book on suicide I have read (I prefer Kay Redfield Jameson's) but he does propose a theory that is used in clinical practice. Its a quick read and pretty interesting.
notes: meaningless comments on Derrida and Lacan; superficial treatment of sociological and psychoanalytical explanations. so discouraging to read, after chp.1
Not a great book. More like "I have a theory. I am going to repeat it until you believe it." But I didn't believe it.
This book, far from being an all encompassing book on the various theories of why people commit suicide, is actually a book used by the author to promote his own theory. I was sort of turned off by this as most of the book was dedicated to proving his theory and his theory alone. However, I suppose the book is needed. Each theory should have it's day in the sun. I just wish it had been more impartial and read less like a dissertation defense.

Also, as a psychology major in college and a BA degre
I was inspired to read this after learning that more active duty soldiers are dying by suicide than in combat. @)$*)#*!?!!?

Joiner is a researcher in the field, so he is as much an expert as there is -- although of course standard experimental designs aren't possible (pesky ethics and all that). And sadly, he has personal expertise. His father committed suicide. His research is particularly relevant to military suicides, more below.

He starts with an entertaining survey of the ideas about why peop
Lynn Tolson
Sep 04, 2010 Lynn Tolson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sociologists, psychologists
The author of Why People Die by Suicide has both a personal and professional passion for the topic. Thomas Joiner is a professor of psychology at Florida State University, and is the son of a man who committed suicide. He uses his scientific training to develop a theory to determine why people die by suicide.

Dr. Joiner explores what reasons people may have to deliberately die, an act that goes against the universal instinct to preserve life. The most accepted view of suicide from those who study
steve chun
i thought this was a very good, readable, insightful book about suicide. starting with an anecdote of his father's death by suicide when he was a teenarger, joiner attempts to explain the reason for suicide in a concise way encompassing almost every reason for suicide, which is a first attempt (in his opinion after surveying the literature throughout almost 200 years); and i think he does it successfully. he explains suicide as developing from three traits of the victim: (1) the victim feels use ...more
Paul V.
This is a book more for therapists and psychologists than laymen, but it makes a few interesting points in a lot of pages. People are likely to die by suicide if they have previously inflicted physical pain on themselves, such as cutters, and if they lack a sense of belongingness or feel they are a burden on people. I think the author could have said it in fewer words, but it IS a valuable book to therapists and counselors, no doubt.
David Cook
VERY interesting. Self-preservation is the most basic instinct of any living creature. How does one overcome it? Practice! At least, that's Joiner's hypothesis. A failed attempt at suicide, at its core, is a rehearsal for lethal self injury. What are the root causes of suicidality? Perceptions or feelings of low belongingness and burdensomeness, i.e. loss of effectiveness. A sound theory. Hence, to protect the mind, one must submit being a part of a community, among other things. Also, drug use, ...more
Ummia Gina
This Book was pretty good. Having just read several other books on the topic over the past couple of months I appreciated that even though it was written academically it still had a very conversational tone to it that made it a light read in contrast. I really appreciated the part that describes how people who are suicidal often experiment with hurting themselves and pain to experiment with overcoming their own survival instincts. Many of the incidences that society simply refer to as “cries for ...more
Patricia Boyle
The author explains his theory of suicide based on three premises: the perception of burdensomness, the propensity to enact lethal self-injury, and the sense ofr disconnectedness. The book is a serious study of why a person chooses to commit suicide; it is not a layperson's type of book but an academic study. I enjoyed reading about the author's theories since it broadened my previous views on suicide. I have a degree in psychology and a close connection to suicide; my grandfather shot himself a ...more
Read this book for personal research and I also hoped to find some answers to some very difficult questions. This book was interesting and Joiner compiled some very useful facts and statistics, but in the end his underwhelming answer to the question (title of the book) kept pointing to a mental disorder. While I do agree that this is the case in most suicides, I just don't think this answer is sufficient in a general sense. I didn't find the book very readable as well, read like a textbook. But ...more
Informative about the theories of suicide, and he himself has a compelling theory. However, the book becomes pretty repetitive by the middle to the end. The book really does focus completely on developing the ways in which his theory, though including new, fresh ideas, still aligns well with all of the past theories. This devolves into a repetitious recycling of his explanation of his own theory and then a listing of how it matches or is reinforced by this study and this study and this study. Af ...more
Moira Clunie
i'm grateful that this was one of the first things i read when trying to make sense of suicide prevention research. rather than running off a comprehensive list of 'risk factors' for suicide that describe but don't illuminate, joiner attempts to bring together the huge range of evidence and experience in the field, proposing a simple model that is common to most suicide deaths: a failed sense of belongingness, perceived burdensomeness & an acquired ability to enact lethal self harm. these mi ...more
Paul Komarek
Hands down, the best and most accessible book on suicide and suicide prevention.
I read this while doing research for a fictional work. I would recommend it to anyone considering creating a suicidal character. I'm sure I will revisit the pages of notes I took.

Thankfully, though written by an expert, this book rarely is confusing for the layman. Joiner's personal connection to the subject matter aided in keeping it lively. It should also be noted that this is a level-headed theory that considers not only why people die by suicide, but also factors in the countless other peopl
Read for work. For a theory book on a pretty depressing subject, this was engaging and conversational in tone. Although at its core the theory make sense to the point of being slmost self evident, Joiner does a good job of breaking it down and examining it from many aspects, making sure it holds up and is understood in its various nuances by the reader. The only reason I didn't give the book 5 is that it gets very repetitive, especially in the last 2 or 3 chapters. I would recommend it to other ...more
this was a most excellent book.
it helped me conceptualize suicide in a completely different way. AND it gave me suggestions to outsmart my boss and upset her to all end. :)
anyways, the author's use of "thwarted belongingness" and "perceived burdonsomeness" as a conceptual framework were great.
i also enjoyed the forensic and neuropsych perspectives that were employed in the book.
lastly, the author's use of his personal experience with suicide helped clinch my attention.
thoroughly enjoyable.
Juliana davies
i read this book for my psychology class and gave it 3.5 stars. it starts out slow after the prolouge about joiners father. about a little over a quarter of the way through it picked up steam became really interesting.*joiner uses formal language and sophisticated wording (meaning big) would not recommend to someone with a limited vocabular/ unwilling to learn new vocabulary/ or the time to look up the words in a dictionary*
Jan 28, 2008 Cindy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of college type materials
Shelves: booksforhealing
A very scientific approach to the question "Why?" The author lost his father to suicide and is now a, psychologist, scientist and teacher involved in the suicide field at Florida State university. He outlines his theory of the question. This book is piled with a lot of facts and "experiments" that do make his theory a possibility. College reading material. A little more than I could understand
Greg Brown
A very good book on a difficult subject. Joiner is one of the few professionals responsible for furthering the understanding of life-ending self-injury. Joiner lost his own father to suicide in his teens and understanding what pushed his father to that event provides the foundation on which his studies and this book are built.
A very good account into the minds of people in the grip of suicide. Not just 1 persons "I believe" he has backed up his statements with research and by talking to many people who have experience or been close to a person who has or tried to die by suicide, as a survivor it was very helpful.
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Joiner, Thomas.
Joiner, Thomas E.
Joiner, Thomas E. Jr

Thomas Joiner is an American academic psychologist and leading expert on suicide. He is the Robert O. Lawton Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, where he operates his Laboratory for the Study of the Psychology and Neurobiology of Mood Disorders, Suicide, and Related Conditions. Joiner holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at
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