A coherent, relevant look at the psychological secrets of suicide.
“The catchall mental illness explanation only takes us so far,” writes science writer Bering (Science Communication/Univ. of Otago, New Zealand; Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, 2013, etc.) in this fascinating study featuring some startling real-time facts and perspectives on a sadly enduring phenomenon. The author lays bare the possible root causes and outward complications when someone with periodic depression or a fleetingly sporadic compulsion ends their life. For such a fiercely complex subject with varying nuances, viewpoints, and interpretations, Bering imparts accessible information through an affable, conversational tone. Supplementing his research material are chapters detailing the author’s own private struggle. Bering, 43, openly admits to being haunted by suicidal feelings. Being outed as gay in his teens and then weathering chronic employment and career burnout as an adult continued to push “those despairing buttons.” The author probes ethics and rationales, the mysteries of animal suicides, the opposing viewpoints on “suicidal thinking,” and the daunting task of loved ones and forensic investigators to re-create what victims felt prior to committing the act since the “why” often proves just as harrowing as the “how.” Bering also shares stories of families ripped apart by suicide as they struggle to reconnect through the haze of devastating emotional pain. Bering concedes that having dark impulses is more commonplace than people would like to believe, and he highlights theories held by neuropsychiatrists and suicidologists who have isolated a specific neuron possibly responsible for suicidal intent. He also analyzes less esoteric, more “common currents” while openly admitting that his own suicidal ideation “flares up like a sore tooth at the whims of bad fortune, subsides for a while, yet always threatens to throb again.” This important book arms readers with contemporary insight to help “short-circuit the powerful impetus to die when things look calamitous.”
Bering illuminates a murky, misunderstood human quandary with compassion, confessional honesty, and academic perception.