Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves

Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves

For much of his thirties, Jesse Bering thought he was probably going to kill himself. He was a successful psychologist and writer, with books to his name and bylines in major magazines. But none of that mattered. The impulse to take his own life remained. At times it felt all but inescapable.   Bering survived. And in addition to relief, the fading of his suicidal thoughts...

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Title:Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves
Author:Jesse Bering
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Edition Language:English

Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves Reviews

  • Mrs. Europaea

    In Suicidal, Bering discusses the risk factors of suicide via psychological, sociological, and biological theories. The psychological theories focused on the functioning of the human mind by examining thoughts, emotions, behaviors, etc., while his research on biological theories of suicide are derived from the understanding of suicide behaviors and attempts as they relate to the functioning of the human body was most intriguing as well.

    Bering discusses how the importance of suicide theories cann

    In Suicidal, Bering discusses the risk factors of suicide via psychological, sociological, and biological theories. The psychological theories focused on the functioning of the human mind by examining thoughts, emotions, behaviors, etc., while his research on biological theories of suicide are derived from the understanding of suicide behaviors and attempts as they relate to the functioning of the human body was most intriguing as well.

    Bering discusses how the importance of suicide theories cannot be stressed enough and by gaining understanding of this taboo and controversial issue, potential suicides can be averted. He uses his own experience with suicidal ideation to bring home his points and revelations.

  • Aimee

    Have you thought about suicide? Have you been affected by suicide? Are you just interested in what causes suicide and what makes some people more susceptible than others? If so, this is an excellent book for you. The book covers:

    • A brief overview of how genetics and differences in VENs (contributing to our ability to think about what others think of us) in the brain contribute to suicidal ideation.

    • Parasuicide and theory of mind (attempting to figure out what the individual was thinking prior

    Have you thought about suicide? Have you been affected by suicide? Are you just interested in what causes suicide and what makes some people more susceptible than others? If so, this is an excellent book for you. The book covers:

    • A brief overview of how genetics and differences in VENs (contributing to our ability to think about what others think of us) in the brain contribute to suicidal ideation.

    • Parasuicide and theory of mind (attempting to figure out what the individual was thinking prior to death).

    • Theories for how suicide works with survival of the fittest

    • The social contagion of suicide and what makes some suicides more contagious than others and also what part the internet has played.

    • The six phases in thinking that suicidal people go through when suicidal and how our minds can be tricked into making a fatal decision.

    • A historical look at changing perspectives of suicide and social/religious forces surrounding the issue now. Also, how the sometimes-irrational stigma we place on suicide a can actually be a protective force (causing people to be less likely to act on those impulses).

    • How mental health experts can be very bad at deciphering if someone is suicidal and what tools are much more effective.

    The author beautifully and compassionately unfolds the story and factors that contribute to suicide. He weaves his own personal struggle with suicidal ideation along with the struggles of others who suffer from those same issues or have lost a loved one to suicide. The most powerful example of this was using Victoria McLeod’s diary to take the abstract concepts of the six phases of suicidal thinking and make them tangible and concrete.

    The author takes a very dark taboo subject and actually makes it more entertaining and easier to read about than you would think possible while still retaining the respect for the subject matter. While he is a bit wordy at times and has a tendency to go off on tangents sometimes, this is a thoughtful, informative book and an excellent read to boot.

    Thanks so much to Netgalley, the publishers, and the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review.

  • Joseph

    Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves by Jesse Bering is a study of suicide and with explanations and theories. Bering is an award-winning science writer specializing in evolutionary psychology and human behavior. His “Bering in Mind” column at Scientific American was a 2010 Webby Award Honoree for the Blog-Cultural category by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Bering’s first book, The Belief Instinct (2011), was included on the American Library Association’s Top 25 Books of the

    Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves by Jesse Bering is a study of suicide and with explanations and theories. Bering is an award-winning science writer specializing in evolutionary psychology and human behavior. His “Bering in Mind” column at Scientific American was a 2010 Webby Award Honoree for the Blog-Cultural category by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Bering’s first book, The Belief Instinct (2011), was included on the American Library Association’s Top 25 Books of the Year. This was followed by a collection of his previously published essays, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? (2012), and Perv (2013), a taboo-breaking work that received widespread critical acclaim and was named as a New York Times Editor’s Choice.

    Bering holds a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology and uses his expertise and personal experience to create a very readable and informative book on the topic of suicide. Real-world examples as well as theory lift the taboo from the subject. Humans are the only animals that commit suicide (animal "suicide" is explained in the book). When did suicide become a human action? How far back does one have to go to find the first suicide? Dawkins brings up the point of suicide in primitive man and relates it to an artificial action of society. Suicide is new and seems to be a side effect of civilization. Every animal's primary instinct is to live to reproduce as often as possible. Colony insects offer a challenge on the basis that they will die for the colony but, there, in the case of ants the workers are essentially clones of each other and do not reproduce.

    Bering does not include assisted suicide for those with terminal illnesses in the book but looks at phenomena of suicide contagion, the internet, and societal shame. The methods and evolution of suicide throughout history and the differences between the sexes are covered. Suicide among the religions is briefly discussed, and interestingly the Bible says little on the subject except that several people from Saul to Judas committed suicide without much backlash. When and how did suicide become a sin is discussed as well as how religion plays a role in the act --a religious couple dies together so they can go to a better place together. 

    Bering provides a detailed and informative study of suicide. Having thought of taking his own life, he is in a unique position to offer opinion and insight. Suicidal is a societal and theoretical look at suicide rather than a clinical study.  Despite the subject matter, it is not a depressing read, but rather informative. One cannot help but wonder how taking man out of the wild and creating civilization might have been the genesis of suicide. 

  • Rob Sica

    As an academic librarian with some familiarity with current scholarship on suicide (through both my research assistance and my recreational interest), I unreservedly and enthusiastically recommend this superbly written, scientifically informed, and richly insightful book accessible to a wide and varied readership. Whether you are fortunate enough to have only a casual or more distantly philosophical interest in the topic, or have been personally touched or harrowed by suicide in the various ways

    As an academic librarian with some familiarity with current scholarship on suicide (through both my research assistance and my recreational interest), I unreservedly and enthusiastically recommend this superbly written, scientifically informed, and richly insightful book accessible to a wide and varied readership. Whether you are fortunate enough to have only a casual or more distantly philosophical interest in the topic, or have been personally touched or harrowed by suicide in the various ways sensitively and masterfully illuminated by Bering, there is something of lasting value for nearly any possible reader. Bering's unique combination of (1) professional background in cognitive and evolutionary psychology, in which he has made substantial contributions, and in award-winning popular scientific writing, (2) longstanding personal experience contending with suicidal ideation, and (3) exquisitely fluent and dexterous writing skill -- this singular synthesis confers upon SUICIDAL an authority and pathos scarcely matched by any other book in recent years on this darkly enigmatic and perhaps uniquely human phenomenon which, according the the World Health Organization, on average claims a life every 40 seconds.

  • Neil H

    I half expected this book to be a frivolous read. I admit bias when the author confesses his literary work with such lurid names as Why Is a Penis Shaped Like That amongst others. But as one of many others who have a history of addiction, mental and suicidal thoughts. I thought this might come in handy with understanding the profundity of taking one's life. Jesse writes and I agree that aside from morality, religious or libertarian we have an immense history of self harm and for loads of fathoma

    I half expected this book to be a frivolous read. I admit bias when the author confesses his literary work with such lurid names as Why Is a Penis Shaped Like That amongst others. But as one of many others who have a history of addiction, mental and suicidal thoughts. I thought this might come in handy with understanding the profundity of taking one's life. Jesse writes and I agree that aside from morality, religious or libertarian we have an immense history of self harm and for loads of fathomable and mysterious reasons. Some quick to commit, some use it as an attention seeking tool. Whatever the flavors a person's descent into self non existence is. Nobody close to its action/actor is immune to its affects and effects. History and philosophical persuasion aside. Unless we are in their shoes, we will never understand the motivation. It's not a mind disease. It's not a survival or adaptive behaviour. It's a social affliction that persists.

  • Michelle

    As a gifted academic, research psychologist and professor at Otago University (New Zealand) Jesse Bering is a bestselling author, his books have been translated in several languages. In “Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves” Bering delves into what he calls the “specter of suicide”-- among the darkest moments of the human condition. With about one million deaths (globally) each year, it is important to understand suicidal ideation in its various forms and patterns, the heartbreak and grief of survivo

    As a gifted academic, research psychologist and professor at Otago University (New Zealand) Jesse Bering is a bestselling author, his books have been translated in several languages. In “Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves” Bering delves into what he calls the “specter of suicide”-- among the darkest moments of the human condition. With about one million deaths (globally) each year, it is important to understand suicidal ideation in its various forms and patterns, the heartbreak and grief of survivors, many are compelled to seek and search for answers to understand this deadly final act.

    Throughout the book, Bering shares his personal story: beginning as an anxious gay teen, Bering then had a rewarding grad school education, waves of accomplishment, excellence in combination with crushing academic disappointment and defeat; and later, more impressive success and authorship. In addition, Bering shares his deepest darkest moments and times with the “secrets” of suicidal impulses. Excellent research is combined with scientific and academic findings, literature, true stories from survivors and family members, also the subject of animal suicide make for some interesting and fascinating reading.

    During war time there is a considerable drop in suicidal deaths: the same statistical decline in America was noted following the assassination of JFK, the Challenger Space Shuttle, and the 9/11 attacks. “To be rooted” observed Simone Weil “is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

    Viktor Frankel attributed the Jewish survival rate and lack of suicide deaths from the horrific conditions of the Nazi concentration camps to the “innate human ability to find purpose in life.” In the book, “Suicide and the Holocaust” (2005) suicidologist David Lester reported that suicide deaths were high in the Jewish ghetto’s and concentration camps but either not reported or under reported by Nazi guards.

    The “Werther Effect”-- the phenomenon and contagion of copy-cat suicide was explored in length. Following the release of the Goethe classic novel “The Sorrows of the Young Werther” (1776) the book was banned in several European countries due to the increase of suicide deaths copied from the book. The controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why…” (2017) teen Hanna Barker committed suicide because she felt she was badly treated by others. The disturbing scenes of her death were compared to horror movies. The concern of prevention specialists raised alarms over the risk of the show being aimed at impressionable vulnerable teens. In order to show an “honest” portrayal television executives ignored scientific data. The online media, cyberbullying was covered briefly.

    A 17 year old teen, Victoria “Vic” McLeod, left behind a detailed journal of four months of her crippling anxiety and suicidal thought process. Vic ended her life after jumping from a 10 story building in Singapore (2014). The journal entries were indeed “extraordinary”. Vic’s parents wanted to share their daughters story in order to help others.

    There was no discussion of the Aokigahara Forest (a suicide “hot spot”) located at the base of Mt. Fuji. However, an Asian suicide epidemic began after the unusual “burning charcoal death” of Jessica Choi yuk-Chun, a Hong Kong engineering executive (1998).

    In New Zealand, (suicide was a crime until 1961) the rates of suicide deaths are high. Often, depressed missing individuals are last seen on beaches, relatives plead with the public for any information; when the bodies are found, “No foul play suspected” is listed on the official report. This is not to conceal evidence, but used as a proven tactic in suicide prevention.

    In the last part of the book, the methods used and detailed in suicide prevention clearly saved lives. However, if an individual is determined to conceal suicidal thoughts or intent to avoid intervention or hospitalization, even a skilled psychiatric mental health professional would be unable to detect a possible suicide attempt/death. In a large psychiatric clinic, The Implicit Association Test (IAT) a five minute computer program that flashed images and words across the screen was a more accurate predictor of people with suicidal risk over doctor interviews The development of new technologies are highly promising in suicide education and prevention. With thanks and appreciation to the University of Chicago Press via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.

  • Valerity (Val)

    – All the inconveniences in the world are not considerable enough that a man should die to evade them; and, besides, there being so many, so sudden and unexpected changes in human things, it is hard rightly to judge when we are at the end of our hope…

    Michel de Montaigne, A Custom of the Isle of Cea (1574)

    This is quite a good book on the topic of suicide, which seems to be a hot topic this year, with all of the people we have lost to it...think of all the big names that have taken their lives rec

    – All the inconveniences in the world are not considerable enough that a man should die to evade them; and, besides, there being so many, so sudden and unexpected changes in human things, it is hard rightly to judge when we are at the end of our hope…

    Michel de Montaigne, A Custom of the Isle of Cea (1574)

    This is quite a good book on the topic of suicide, which seems to be a hot topic this year, with all of the people we have lost to it...think of all the big names that have taken their lives recently, and maybe the people you know personally too. Written by an author who personally has had issues with it, so he knows whereof he speaks, and has also done his homework, so it makes for very interesting reading on this fascinating subject.

    The book takes on the question of whether non-human animals commit suicide, among many other issues. Think of the dog who lays by his master’s grave, refusing to eat or leave, brokenheartedly awaiting his return. It also discusses some unusual ways that people have used to commit suicide and delves into different studies and papers on suicide published by different scholars.

    There’s a bit of something for just about any interest in the subject, and it was worth a read. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Jesse Bering, and the publisher for my fair review.

    University of Chicago Press

    Pub: Oct 30th, 2018

    My BookZone blog:

  • Bart

    Bam, in your face. Wat een rit was dit boek zeg, van de psychologische benadering van zelfmoord tot zeer persoonlijke verhalen van mensen die zelfmoord pleegden. Nogmaals, verplichte kost voor psychologen, maar niet voor iedereen weggelegd.

  • Diane Hernandez

    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 tendenci

    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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