Suicide can be one of the most difficult experiences to comprehend. Understanding why or how a loved one could choose to end their life may be a long and arduous process. Here are five candid, insightful books that may help, by authors who have been affected by depression and suicide.
If you or anyone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, we encourage you to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-CHAT for free and confidential support.
Adam Cayton-Holland is a hilarious stand-up comedian. Variety called him one of the “10 Comics to Watch.” So why on earth would he delve into such a serious subject matter? In TRAGEDY PLUS TIME, his heartbreaking but often funny memoir, Cayton-Holland grapples with his younger sister’s depression and eventual decision to take her own life. He begins to navigate life without her just as his career is taking off. And in the end, he chooses hope to propel him forward. This is a brilliant book for anyone struggling to move on after a tragedy.
When John Brooks’s teenage daughter jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge, he is left with many questions. In a pragmatic and determined journey, Brooks speaks to everyone around him—friends, teachers, counselors, therapists, specialists—to try to find the underlying cause of his daughter’s suicide. He researches her early days in a Polish orphanage and the first fourteen months of her life that she spent there. Ultimately, he believes that she had attachment issues from birth that led to deep depression later in her life. This is a story of finding reason in unthinkable hardship to help the surviving parent move on.
One night when 14-year-old Chris Forhan went to sleep, his father went to their carport and killed himself. At 44, Chris sets out to unravel the secrets and emotions surrounding his father’s choice. What he discovers is a deep family secret and that the man who came home in crisp suits and with perfectly gelled hair had been harboring something within him that led to his demise. But this is not only a story of a family. It is also a story of America in a certain time. Forhan skillfully encapsulates the picture-perfect suburbs of America in the 1970s and the pressures that could fall onto its citizens to lead seemingly trouble-free lives.
In this National Book Award–winning, bestselling work of nonfiction, Andrew Solomon skillfully examines what depression looks like from all angles. Drawing on his own personal struggle with depression as well as interviews and Immense amounts of research, Solomon opens up the world of treatments, science, and biology behind depression. With a rare wit and tenderness, he reveals family secrets and draws a map of what living with depression can look like. This is a wonderful book to remind anyone who is struggling with the disease that they are not alone. And it may be the thing that provides hope that one can get through depression eventually.
In 1990, Jill Bialosky’s 21-year-old sister committed suicide after fighting with her boyfriend. Twenty years later, Jill still feels like she has questions that are unanswered. In a stunning work, Bialosky recreates her sister’s inner life in order to make sense of it. By doing this, she also begins to weave a larger tapestry of what suicide looks like in other families and what it has meant culturally. She researches public figures from Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson to Sylvia Plath and Wallace Stevens and expands on their own struggles with suicide. This is the kind of book that starts with a simple seed and blossoms into an expansive and encompassing look at what suicide means on a large scale. It is the ultimate survivor’s guide.