Mental disorders and beyond in the quest to understand suicide: A reply to Joiner and Robison
Klonsky, E.D. & Dixon-Luinenburg, T.
We reply to the thoughtful commentary by Joiner and Robison (this issue) about the documentary Robin's Wish. Joiner and Robison suggest that a major depressive episode may have been a proximal cause of Robin Williams' suicide, but that stigma surrounding mental illness led the documentary to eschew a role for depression. We find this perspective compelling and important. Mental illness can be an important cause of suicide, and stigma can harm our ability to understand and treat mental illness and suicide risk. As a complementary perspective, we discuss research and theory suggesting that mental illness does not explain all deaths by suicide. We present research and theory suggesting that suicide is motivated by pain and hopelessness, and that pain and hopelessness can be caused not only by mental illness but by other factors such as overwhelming interpersonal struggles or loss, seemingly insurmountable financial problems, chronic medical conditions, and systematic discrimination and persecution. Finally, we reaffirm Joiner and Robison's belief that understanding and preventing suicide requires the pursuit of accurate knowledge, unburdened by stigma that can harm progress and people.