Across human history and across cultures, what has been the most stigmatized of human behaviors?
–Thomas Joiner - Myths about suicide - c. 2010 - pg. 1
What do you think when you hear that someone has committed suicide? Many probably wonder why? and then begin to speculate. Some will accuse the suicide victim of being selfish, or cowardly and not being able to live. But for Joiner these responses are not answers. They are myths. He has researched this topic at great lengths, and he also has personal experience, as his father committed suicide. As did his maternal grandfather. In this book he lists the main myths that people use to try and explain suicide, and then he debunks them.
This was a really fascinating book. If a morbid one. It is the sort of book I think I only would have come across working where I do, in a public library, where we get all sorts of books.
It did take me a long while to read. Once reason is that I was only reading it at lunch time, which is not the book’s issue. The other reason is that it is a non-fiction book on a serious topic, which means I was always going to read it at a slower pace. But honestly, while the topic is of course morbid, this is not a morbid book. Sure, it deals with death, but it is a lot more concerned with helping people. Both those who might be suicidal and those people who have to deal with losing someone to suicide. Because suicide carries with it a stigma that makes it an additional burden for thoe left behind. There can often be guilt, why didn’t I do something to stop this person committing suicide, not to mention anger and bitterness at the person who died. Joiner is at great pains to point out that he doesn’t believe that suicide is ever really a selfish choice. He argues that almost everyone who commits suicide does so after a mental break that means they see the world as being a better place without them. They do not see how their presence is of benefit to anyone, indeed theu often see it as detrimental to their loved ones.
He also argues, most strenously, for investment in barriers on bridges. The belief that if someone really wants to commit suicide then they will find a way is a “myth” he does not agree with. Instead he argues that preventing someone in the short-term can often lead to them reconsidering their actions and not actually committing suicide.
But I’m not about to list and explain all the myths that Joiner sees in today’s culture. I’ll just advise to you to read the book. On occasion Joiner comes across as a little too “I’m right” for my liking. He states things as though they were hard fact, when in reality, we don’t know. But at the same time, he always offers evidence for why he belives what he believes. And he writes with a great deal of sensitivity.
Surprisingly highly recommended.