Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves

This book is addressed “FOR THE SUICIDAL PERSON IN ALL OF US.”


This statement is rather alarming and comes across as even bizarre…


Certainly not everyone is suicidal. However, this book centers around the everyday individual rather than those who are typically discussed in this context (i.e. the severely depressed). Most people know that certain individuals [i.e. impulsive, mood-disordered] are at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors, but what about the average person? How does suicidality apply to them?

Here are 5 takeaways from this book:


#1: Lack of Answers

“The person who commits suicide puts his psychological skeleton in the survivor’s emotional closet.” -Edwin Shneidman

Throughout the book, Bering refers to humans as “natural psychologists.” When it comes to suicide, unfortunately, we often do not get the answer to why a life ended in this manner. The author states “we’re deprived of the explanatory catharsis we need so desperately.” Even with a “psychological autopsy” (retrospective dissection of victim’s behaviors leading up to death), the fact that we are seeing it through our own lens automatically creates bias.

When it comes to answering why, there is a lack of closure that no amount of analysis, researching, or thinking can ever truly fix.

#2: A Biological Perspective on Suicide

As odd as it sounds, there actually exists a “mathematical model of self-destruction and preservation”… a theory on suicide and its application to evolution. Automatically, it seems as if suicide is irrational in terms of Darwinian logic. Isn’t ending one’s life completely destroying the goal of passing on one’s genes?

Oddly enough, Denys’ theory offers an opposing view, essentially stating that in cases in which there are no evolutionary pressures preventing one’s suicide (i.e. not likely to reproduce), suicide would not eliminate any genes from the gene pool that were not already eliminated. Therefore, there may be no selective pressure to prevent it. It is an interesting concept, but I’m not sure if I really buy that “under such unfavorable circumstances… our best hope for our genetic survival can be, ironically, our death.”


#3: A Model of Suicidality

Social psychologist Roy Baumeister created a model of suicidality, one which has six “stages,” each successive one more dangerous. These “stages” can even overlap. Once an individual starts, they can “get off the path to suicide” at any step. It was interesting to read through this model which featured steps such as “Falling Short of Expectations.” The following chapter was perhaps even more interesting, given that it actually applied this model to a real life case study. This gives remarkable insight into the “suicidal mind.”


#4: Suicide Contagion

“The question of how and what to report in order to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide without promoting suicide behavior,” writes one research team, “while still providing information on risk and protective factors and coping strategies, including treatment resources, remains the foremost public health challenge regarding the media’s role in suicide prevention.”

From news coverage on celebrity suicides to Hannah Baker’s graphic suicide scene in “13 Reasons Why,” the influence of the media and entertainment industries is not something to dismiss. News coverage of suicides almost always leads to a notable spike in suicidal behaviors in the general public! Reporting on suicide methods can even lead to an increase in death by that specific method. There are reasons why reporters must be extremely cautious in how they report on suicide! On the other hand, suicide prevention efforts can unfortunately have the unintended effect of making suicide seem more acceptable. How to properly approach the topic of suicide is an ongoing topic of discussion in the field.


#5: As isolating as being suicidal can make someone feel, they are far from alone.

The book has diary entries, messages, suicide notes, and poems from all around the world who have one thing in common: suicidality. Even when this state makes someone feel as if they are completely alone, perhaps this book will show that many people have also walked in the darkness.


Perhaps, together, we can fight that darkness and make the future a little brighter.


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