Suicide Prevention: Thomas Joiner and Other Resources

Suicide prevention services are needed now more than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Suicide rates increased 33% between 1999 and 2019, with a small decline in 2019. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.”

Moreover, worldwide statistics from World Health Organization (WHO) indicate, “More than 700 000 people die by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.”

Leading suicidologist Thomas Joiner, Ph.D. has written, among many other books, Why People Die by Suicide (2005) and Myths About Suicide (2010). His answer to why people die by suicide, after intense research, “Because they want to. Because they can.”

It’s a little more complex than that, of course. In an interview with Tony Dokoupil, Newsweek, Joiner identified “three overlapping conditions that combine to create a dark alley of the soul”:

  1. “Low Belonging,” or a deep loneliness
  2. “Burdensomeness”–a feeling of liability to others
  3. “Fearlessness”–basically, “the ability to die”

The conclusion to Dokoupil’s article focuses on what needs to change to increase suicide prevention:

If he’s right about suicide, the ability to foil one of the three variables is the ability to save a life. Smart clinicians can do it, but it’s not easy to get people into treatment. There’s the cost, for one thing, but more than that, there’s the shame and the stigma. Suicide is the rare killer that fails to inspire celebrity PSAs, 5K fun runs, and shiny new university centers for study and treatment. That has to change, says Joiner. ‘We need to get it in our heads that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful, self-masterful, or rash,’ he says. ‘And once we get all that in our heads at last, we need to let it lead our hearts.’

Another resource on the topic of suicide prevention is a powerful TED Talk by J.D. Schramm. In this  popular talk Schramm outs himself as a survivor of a suicide attempt. His survival, moreover, led him to a better place.

The American Association of Suicidology also aims to lower the rate of suicide. Its website is loaded with helpful info for concerned loved ones, suicide attempt survivors, anyone seriously concerned about their own depression or state of mind, and suicide prevention.

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