Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Kay Redfield Jamison

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0375701478

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Kay Redfield Jamison

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0375701478

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From the author of the best-selling memoir An Unquiet Mind, comes the first major book in a quarter century on suicide, and its terrible pull on the young in particular. Night Falls Fast is tragically timely: suicide has become one of the most common killers of Americans between the ages of fifteen and forty-five.

An internationally acknowledged authority on depressive illnesses, Dr. Jamison has also known suicide firsthand: after years of struggling with manic-depression, she tried at age twenty-eight to kill herself. Weaving together a historical and scientific exploration of the subject with personal essays on individual suicides, she brings not only her remarkable compassion and literary skill but also all of her knowledge and research to bear on this devastating problem. This is a book that helps us to understand the suicidal mind, to recognize and come to the aid of those at risk, and to comprehend the profound effects on those left behind. It is critical reading for parents, educators, and anyone wanting to understand this tragic epidemic.

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a description of the victim’s last days and then presents its findings to the coroner or medical examiner. Often, in seemingly equivocal cases, the recommendation is a persuasive one for a verdict of suicide; in other instances, however, the evidence leads to a decision for accident. The following case, illustrative of the kinds of questions asked and the investigative work involved, is from the files of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center. When first presented to the Suicide Team, the

continuously in an asylum from 1922 until the time of his death in 1937. He took his pain into his poetry. “There is a dreadful hell within me,” he wrote in one of his asylum poems, “And nothing helps. . . . I am praying for death, death, death.” In another, he proclaimed, “There is one who all day wishes to die . . . has prayed for mercy of Death.” Schizophrenia is the most severe and frightening of the 116 ■ JAMI40145TC Alfred A. Knopf 396/Q-28A13310-069 anff$$1.qxd 10/26/00 21:06 Page 117

schizophrenia and those who do not.) These symptoms, although they overlap with those of depression, tend to be more permanent, less likely to remit over time. For many, mood is also affected: at least one in four schizophrenic patients suffers from serious depression, which in turn makes them far more likely to kill themselves. Schizophrenic patients who commit suicide, like those with mood disorders, are very likely to be depressed, intensely irritable, and restless. They are also more likely

the processes leading to suicide are rational, which may be untrue: depression in most suicides probably impairs the capacity for rational thought while at the same time inducing suicide impulses. We suggest that suicide may be a uniquely human attribute only because our definition of it makes it so; in other words, if suicide were to be defined as a destructive act inflicted on the self leading to death, then animal analogies do exist. However, even by this changed definition, man’s suicide and

death is an accident, murder, or suicide. Families need to know the truth about suicide, as best as that truth can be known, so that they can come to terms with it and so that they can have available to them medical and genetic information that may be important in making treatment decisions about other close blood relatives. Legal and financial issues may be at stake as well, such as property rights, mental competency determinations in disputed estates, life insurance policies, pensions, workers’

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