Of the approximately 38,500 deaths by suicide in the U.S. annually, about two percent - between 750 and 800 - are murder-suicides. The horror of murder-suicides looms large in the public consciousness - they are reported in the media with more frequency and far more sensationalism than most suicides, and yet we have little understanding of this grave form of violence.
In The Perversion of Virtue, leading suicide researcher Thomas Joiner explores the nature of murder-suicide and offers a unique new theory to explain this nearly unexplainable act: that murder-suicides always involve the wrongheaded invocation of one of four interpersonal virtues: mercy, justice, duty, and glory. The parent who murders his child and then himself seeks to save his child from a fatherless life of hardship; the wife who murders her husband and then herself seeks to right the wrongs he committed against her, and so on. Murder-suicides involve the gross misperception of when and how these four virtues should be applied.
Drawing from extensive research as well as real examples from the media, Joiner meticulously examines, deconstructs, and finally rebuilds our understanding of murder-suicide in such a way that brings tragic reason to what may seem an unfathomable act of violence. Along the way, he dispels some of the most enduring myths of suicide - for instance, that suicide is usually an impulsive act (it is almost always pre-meditated), or that alcohol or drugs are involved in most suicides (usually they are not).
Sure to be controversial, this book seeks to make sense of one of the most difficult-to-comprehend types of violence in modern society, shedding new light that will ultimately lead to better understanding and even prevention.
Table of Contents:
Section 1: Introductory Material
1. Murder-Suicide: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Initial Conceptualization
2. Understanding Murder
3. Understanding Suicide
4. Understanding Virtue
Section 2: Understanding Murder-Suicide as a Perversion of Virtue
5. A Perversion of Mercy
6. A Perversion of Justice
7. A Perversion of Duty
8. A Perversion of Heroic Glory
9. The Neighboring But Distinct Categories of Perverting Self-Control and Fate
Section 3: Implications and Conclusions
10. Prevention, Clinical, and Other Real-World Applications
11. Conclusion: Human Nature and the Perversion of Virtue
About the Author:
Thomas Joiner, PhD, is The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University (FSU), Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Joiner's work is on the psychology, neurobiology, and treatment of suicidal behavior and related conditions. Author of over 475 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Joiner was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Residency Fellowship. He received the Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Shakow Award for Early Career Achievement from the Division of Clinical Psychology of the American Psychological Association, the Shneidman Award for excellence in suicide research from the American Association of Suicidology, and the Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions from the American Psychological Association, as well as research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, Department of Defense (DoD), and various foundations. The Lawton Professorship, which Dr. Joiner received in 2010, is FSU's single highest honor. Dr. Joiner also runs a part-time clinical and consulting practice specializing in suicidal behavior, including legal consultation on suits involving death by suicide.