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Why People Die by Suicide
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Why People Die by Suicide

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  505 ratings  ·  50 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 the clearest account ever given of why some people choose to die. Drawing on extensive clinical a ...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published December 5th 2005 by Harvard University Press (first published January 15th 2005)
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Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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.

Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 ac
Tori Miller
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.
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psycho, e-book
notes: meaningless comments on Derrida and Lacan; superficial treatment of sociological and psychoanalytical explanations. so discouraging to read, after chp.1
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a good read for anyone trying to understand suicide. Joiner takes a very personal approach as his father committed suicide. He revisits that throughout the book. He also reflects on his experience as a clinician and researcher. He presents what he thinks is a more compelling model for the causes of suicide, or at least what contributes to someone completing a suicide. From Harvard press, “he finds three factors that mark those most at risk of death: the feeling of being a burden on loved ...more
Corin Wenger
Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, suicide
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
Feb 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jeniffer Abdullah
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ever since I heard about Dr. Thomas Joiner's research background, I knew I wanted to read more of his work. Suicide has touched my life personally, and reading through this book gave me a glimpse into my friends' and my own life. He articulates many logical points but brings them together in a manner that makes suicide comprehensible.
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
This book had been on my to-read list for a while. I love psychology and I've been through a brief suicidal phase in high school. It wasn't until one of my best friends was diagnosed with depression and battled daily suicide thoughts that I knew I had to read this book.

Why People Die By Suicide is an informative look at a problem that kills about a million people each year. I'm sure that most people have at least flirted with the thought of suicide at one point in their lifetime. However, most people
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is wonderful for people trying to understand suicide. I have a sister with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and recently a BIL who died by suicide via VSED, and it has had a significant impact on my family. When I heard about this book, I was looking for ways to understand and cope with my sister's suicidal behaviour and attempts. It was mentioned in a Dr. Phil episode that dealt with The Bridge, a documentary about people who have died by suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge. (The ...more
Kathleen O'Neal
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the 15-29 age population (according to WHO); this epidemic needs to be marched into the limelight. Dr. Joiner is very well-versed in suicide, and has conducted many studies on the topic. He theorizes that there are logical reasons why individuals take the decision to commit suicide, which boil down to feelings of perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness (always a mouthful and a handful to write those). The book feels like it was desig ...more
Jack Davenport
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My personal and professional admiration for Thomas Joiner is immense. The interpersonal theory of suicide is a foundational component of my own doctoral research into suicide risk assessment procedures in the school setting. I am inspired by his work and highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of suicide and suicide prevention.
Nicole Hughes
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lot of what I work with on mobile crisis seems based on the ideas in this book. It’s interesting to see where they developed from.

Also gave me new perspectives on different strategies that we use and ways to approach things.
Stewart Hudson
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books on suicide. Joiner has done his homework. An easy read in regard to language, but difficult at times for those of us who have lost someone to suicide. This is a great in-class textbook and a benefit to the study of suicide.
Jane Naillon
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me by a trainer at the Idaho Suicide Prevention hotline. It is super clinical but also fascinating and very much worth the time.
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-books
This was an exceptionally hard read but it helped me understand my suicidal family members' behaviors.
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
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
Anne Jordan-Baker
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I am someone who attempted suicide, and I really disagree with a lot of Joiner's claims. Some of the things he said are true, like mental illness is real, but everything else he says is bullshit. It is sad that he lost his dad, but at the same time I don't think it is right to force someone to stay alive even if there is a chance at recovery for the person who is sick.
Jan 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: suicidology
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
steve chun
Mar 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A complete sour source on suicide

It took months to get through this. I really just wanted to learn how to better help my suicidal patients. It was information overload. Well-defined and comprehensive. I made notes. I used the information daily in my practice. I could have used a cliff notes version.

I would recommend it to a newer clinician or for a graduate or post doc program. I'm not sorry I read it. I am recommending it. I never want to read it again. It was soooo cumbersome.

Ummia Gina
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: suicide
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
David Cook
May 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Patricia Boyle
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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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 th