Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves

Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves

Theories abound, but few conclusions are reached in the interesting, but ultimately disappointing, Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves.

Recently, there has been a spate of celebrity suicides: Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and Avicii (Tim Bergling). Despite having an outwardly successful life, these people, and many others over the years felt that suicide was the best choice. Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves attempts to answer that question using scientific studies and the author’s own suicidal tendencies as a roadmap.

The statistics and studies are fascinating.  For example, 43% of suicides are caused by genetics, and 57% are caused by environment. 90% of the genetic issues are mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder. The worst risk is when a person genetically predisposed to suicide runs into one of the environmental issues like the death of a loved one or loss of a job. The risks stack rather than run concurrently. However, the book’s episodic nature jumps from the police’s difficulty of determining suicidal intent conclusively to whether animals commit suicide to pure scientific research about brain chemistry.

Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves attempts to answer the “why are people suicidal” question. However, the presentation of a multitude of theories, many of them conflicting, fails to provide a clear answer. The conclusion presents some interesting facts about prevention, which answers only the “how are suicides done” question. The why remains a mystery.

Readers interested in how to prevent suicide rather than why suicide occurs will enjoy this book. Also, therapists or police officers interested in learning the results of studies of suicides would appreciate it. However, it is not recommended for families dealing with a suicide that has already occurred as it will generate more questions than answers. Also, anyone contemplating suicide would be better served by reading one of the many self-help or therapeutic books on the subject. 3 stars.

Thanks to University of Chicago Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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