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Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  5,642 ratings  ·  238 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 i
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 10th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Apr 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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 sufferer
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Suicide is a particularly awful way to die: the mental suffering leading up to it is usually prolonged, intense, and unpalliated. There is no morphine equivalent to ease the acute pain, and death not uncommonly is violent and grisly. The suffering of the suicidal is private and inexpressible, leaving family members, friends, and colleagues to deal with an almost unfathomable kind of loss, as well as guilt. Suicide carries in its aftermath a level of confusion and devastation that is, for the mo ...more
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
Apr 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Amy Bruestle
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a great book! I can’t tell you how much I learned just from reading this book alone! There were so many different subjects, all relating to suicide in one way or another, and from all different kinds of places, time periods, etc. it was actually surprisingly readable and interesting! I wanted to give it a chance, but I really didn’t think that I would eead the whole thing...but I did! It even touches on Lewis and Clark! I’ve truly learned so much from this text! This is probably one of ...more
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Shelby Kollin
"Shortly before he killed himself, D.C. Council Chairman John Wilson spoke to the Mental Health Association about suicide and mental illness in the black community. 'Suicide,' he said, 'is the number one killer among young black people, but we call it gunfire. . . . We don't even like to talk about it. We've got to change the way America feels about depression.' He was right, as usual."

"A young chemist, before committing suicide, put it succinctly: 'The question of suicide and selfis
Jul 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Anne Jordan-Baker
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 caregiv
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide or was considering ending their own life.
This was one of the books that helped me out of a very dangerous frame of mind. Reading about other people in despair helped me realize I was stronger than I thought, that things could get better, and that I could seek help if I needed it.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a really difficult book to read. Jamison offers a unique perspective on mental illness and suicide- both as a psychiatrist and someone suffering from mental illness. Parts of this book are harrowing.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is very poignant, all I could think was wow there are people who can put these feelings into words. I read this while severely depressed and while not depressed. its interesting for me to contrast my mental state while reading this. I'd like for more neural typical people to read this to grasp an understanding and hopefully break the taboo.
John 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
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
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
Nov 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
It was a phenomenal book...but much like "Requiem for a Dream" 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.
Nathan Sharpe
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this book is not for the faint of heart. it is extremly heavy. however it does discuss a subject that is extremly misunderstood and kills as many people as many of the major physical diseases and for that reason required my reading.
Carri Anderson
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carri by: Several docters in the field of Mental Heatlh
Shelves: dymamic-truths
This is by far the best and most truthful book describing the suicidal mind and thoughts. Not only does this book bluntly let you see what drives many people and types to suicide, it also gives in depth description of how it effects each family member and friend. I have read this book 3 times.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Finally. My least favorite we've read for the NASW book club so far. Didn't engage me, felt like I didn't get much new info.
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Juniper Shore
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology, nonfiction
I've read this book several times. It's one of very few I've ever found that actually made me feel better in the grip of hopelessness. It works because the author not only studied her subject from the outside but lives within it as well.

Jamison is one of those rare academics who can actually write. Her descriptions of the suicidal state of mind are as moving and accurate as it is possible for language to be. This is not a self-help book, that fatuously tells you everything will be all righ
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bought, psychology
This book took me MONTHS to get through, and for good reason. Ironically (that doesn't seem like the right word?), my uncle passed away in February after a long battle with depression, alcoholism, and several other debilitating struggles-- soon after I started Night Falls Fast. The research findings published here are incredibly fascinating (though likely rather outdated now), and Jamison puts so many things "to words" in this book. Thoughts I've had, feelings I've experienced, etc. The entire t ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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, and add
Jun 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Once again Jamison publishes yet another beautiful book (well as recent as 1999.) Night Falls Fast is a comprehensive book about suicide. It’s research heavy and it focuses on explaining the act to those in sorrow, objectively. It also laces beautiful poetry within the chapters.

The most important thing one should know about suicide, is that it’s not a decision made from reason but the extent of a terrible illness. It is neither a selfish act or selfless act, but a symptom of an illness that thi
Aug 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
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 a
Lisa Smith
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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Kay Redfield Jamison (born June 22, 1946) is 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.
“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.” 266 likes
“Suicide is not a blot on anyone’s name; it is a tragedy ” 124 likes
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