When It Is Darkest

When It Is Darkest: Review

“When It Is Darkest: Why People Die By Suicide and What We Can Do to Prevent It” is an incredible resource, combining personal anecdotes and research in a poignant and sensitive way.  

It can be very difficult to speak to several audiences in one book, but When It Is Darkest, does so beautifully. The author, Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow and President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention has drawn on decades of work in the field of suicide prevention, research and personal experiences. The book is divided into four easy to navigate parts which bring together decades of suicidology research, clinical and personal perspectives. It brings light to what is without doubt one of our greatest global challenges, and whilst the topic is complex, Rory’s narrative remains compassionate and easily accessible.  

The first part of the book explains Rory’s journey into suicidology, and how his own personal experiences have shaped his desire to understand and prevent suicide. It also gives a clear overview of the how, who and when of suicide and the lived experiences of suicidal pain. The second part tries to make sense of what suicide is, and, what it is not, and presents what we currently know about suicide within the context of his integrated motivational-volitional model of suicide. The third part brings together our knowledge on interventions to alleviate suicidal distress, whilst the final part describes the current evidence on how to support those individuals who are vulnerable to suicide, or who have been bereaved by suicide.  It finishes with an extensive resource section, which includes helpful organisations from across the globe.  

Importantly, the book tackles stigma, and highlights the complex interaction of different variables that might result in someone having suicidal thoughts, and why some, but not all, might go on to act on those thoughts. The language is accessible and thoughtful, and whilst every section is based on research evidence, the voices of those who have experienced a suicidal crisis are heard throughout, and this is what makes it a very special book. This book is a relevant and important read to anyone, irrespective of background and knowledge about or experiences with suicide because it focusses on the importance of understanding suicide at the same time as humanising the lived experiences of all of those people who have informed the research at the core of this book.  Therefore, I highly recommend reading this remarkable book; we can all learn something valuable from it. 

by Susan Rasmussen


When It Is Darkest, published by Penguin Books is available in paperback and ebook from all major retailers from May 2021. 

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