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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Steve C. Lee, MD (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: This ambitious presentation of Thomas Joiner's theory on suicide contains ample citations of the current literature as well as personal insights.
Purpose: The author's aim is to provide a unifying theory explaining why certain people die by suicide. He highlights the pressing need for a deeper understanding of suicide by referring to known epidemiological data and also by sharing the personal toll of losing his father to suicide.
Audience: This book will appeal to both mental health professionals and lay persons who have a personal interest in the topic of suicide. It is clear that the book is a product of the author's passionate life work. His expertise is evident through his own studies in addition to his knowledge of the available body of literature.
Features: The introduction draws one into the aftermath of the suicide of the author's father. It proceeds to survey the current state of knowledge regarding suicide. He then synthesizes a theory whereby completed suicide is the product of an interaction between perceived burdensomeness, failed sense of belonging, and the acquired ability to enact lethal self-injury. This theory is subjected to testing by examples in the real world. His theory is a psychological one and he does a commendable job summarizing what is known genetically and biologically from the psychiatric literature. He also presents practical implications for further research and screening and treatment options.
Assessment: Thomas Joiner has produced an impressive book that can engage professional and lay person alike. Intellectual prowess merges with an impeccable writing style unlike anything I've seen in the mental health literature. It is worthy of nonfiction bestseller status. But more importantly, it may provide windows of opportunity to prevent suicides by enlightening one's intuitive sense of the motivation and experience of suicidal people.