Suicidology expert comes to campus

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Thomas Joiner in Suicide prevention5 by CC


Thomas Joiner speaks about “Why People Die By Suicide” during Safety Week


Kimberly Bojorquez | Staff Writer
Photo credit: Collin Cooper | Photo Senior Staff | @coop.97


On September 16, as part of Campus Safety Week, the author of Why People Die By Suicide, Thomas Joiner, shared his new theory on what drives people to commit suicide.

Joiner’s theory involves three factors that cause an increased desire for death. According to Joiner, perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness may lead to people risking their lives. Perceived burdensomeness is the idea that you believe your death will be worth more than your life to others. Thwarted belongingness is feeling socially disconnected and lonely.

“If people get in these intractable states they will develop the desire for death, however even if that desire is desperate you can’t act on it until you develop fearlessness,” Joiner said.

The fearlessness concept is developed when an individual is unafraid of hurting his or herself or ending his or her life. Cutting and hurting oneself could lead to fearlessness. Joiner said that regardless of high incomes and accessibility to healthcare, physicians tend to have high suicide rates because of their fearlessness of bodies and death.

Joiner emphasized the importance of feeling belongingness and gave the example of the 9/11 attacks in New York City and the nation’s suicide rates.

“People rallied together on 9/11. Suicide rates went down so much that we are unlikely to ever see that again. Anytime belongingness goes up, suicide rates go down,” Joiner said.

He also shared some insights on the behavior of people who were about to commit suicide. He noted that alcoholics who have been high all their lives show an absence of blood alcohol levels when they attempt suicide.

Joiner is one of the nation’s top researchers in suicidology, the scientific study of suicidal behavior and suicide prevention. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Texas after attending Princeton University. He has written over 500 peer-reviewed publications on the matter.

If you or anyone you know has thoughts of suicide contact 1 (800) 273-8255. Joiner also recommends visiting a doctor or physician.