Suicide

If you are in suicidal crisis, please see this page. Alternatively, call The Samaritans on 0845 909090 or email them at jo@samaritans.org. If you feel that suicidal action is imminent, call an ambulance on 999. Help is almost always available, and life can almost always improve.

Please see this page for a list of international suicide and crisis hotlines.

This will not go down well.

I’m sure by now many readers know of the story of Joanne Lee and Stephen Lumb (even more in-depth details from The Scum), who formed a suicide pact online and deliberately gassed themselves to death in Stephen’s car. I’m so terribly sorry that they felt this action necessary, though I understand the desperation. I hope they are both at peace, whatever that is.

What you may not know is that I was vaguely familiar with at least one of them. You see, I am a lurker on the forum on which they met, which is a pro-choice-on-suicide discussion group, providing details on methods for the desperate and chronically miserable.

*sits back and watches the mass unfollowing of this blog*

I personally have no imminent plans to commit the act, but due to the level of suicidal ideation I experience (why else would I be on a suicide methods site?!), I did think I would spend some time detailing my thoughts on it.

Largely they’re hypocritical, as so much about my fucked-up personality is. To that end, I’d warn anyone from reading on if they feel they will find triggers or justification for any sort of suicidal behaviour here.

But this exemplifies the point: I’m a hypocrite. It is, apparently, my genuinely held belief that if you want to do yourself in, that should be your perfect right (not controversial or anything, oh no), but already I’m warning people away from reading this if they find themselves in agreement and therefore think I am justifying their actions. I’m not. Yet I am. What can I say? I’m defined by contradictions.

I’ll not provide the name of the pro-choice forum here as I don’t want to ‘tempt’ anyone, but if you’re really keen, I’m sure it won’t be that hard to find. Other pro-choice internet sites include those of books or just general information. There are a number of actual written publications on the matter.

Most of the discussions in all the aforementioned places focus on the best means by which to top oneself. There is quite in-depth analysis on what is the least painful method, what is the quickest, what’s best for suicidal gestures, what is most dramatic.

People really do kill themselves after reading this stuff, as the case of Joanne and Stephen exemplifies. Most don’t, and will generally admit to “chickening out” of the act and/or stalling it. But some people do do it.

I have (or had, as she no longer seems active) a Twitter follower who is the mother of a girl, Suzy, who killed herself by following the instructions of an individual talking to her on a pro-suicide website. The mother is campaigning for ‘assisting’ suicide over the internet to be made illegal. Neither she nor her husband knew of their daughter’s deep depression, until they received a time-delayed email from her informing them that she had died. Needless to say, they were devastated.

And this is of course where the primary problem with killing oneself lies. If one commits suicide, he or she almost certainly leaves behind a group of friends and/or family that will be consumed utterly by grief. Fortunately, I’ve not known anyone who has done it (the closest is a friend of a friend), but from what I understand, those left behind after a suicide feel their loved-one’s death with even more bitter and raw hurt than those whose loved-ones have died in other circumstances.

Presumably this is in part related to guilt:

I should have known. I could have prevented it.

If I’d acted on his/her threats/poor mood/whatever, we could have got help.

It’s because of me/us! (S)he must’ve really hated me/us.

This is, of course, assumption on my part and if I am wrong, please tell me. There’s also the more altruistic idea that family and friends are appalled that the person’s life was so miserable that they would even consider the act at all.

I suppose people are, with justification, angry too. How dare someone deliberately leave their friends and family overcome with grief and a lifetime without that person? Suicide is selfish, right?

And the shame too. It’s cowardly, isn’t it?

I can understand these views. Honestly, I can. I can only imagine – and I only want to ever imagine – that if anyone to whom I am close killed themselves, that I would react in some of these ways too. Probably the guilt thing more than the others, though, or so I’d like to think.

There’s a philosophical background to my views on the rights or wrongs of suicide, what with my long-held position as an existential nihilist, but I’m not going to start debating the issue from that standpoint as, in truth, it’s only a small part of my reasoning for feeling as I do. Mainly my vaguely pro-choice stance is because I can profoundly understand one’s desire to cease to be.

People who never suffered from real, genuine and severe depression will never begin to understand it, and I hope they never do. I’m not trying to belittle the suffering of others; I’m just saying that this kind of blackness is very different from the pain incurred by your average human being living an average life. The agony is not something I would wish on my worst enemy (I’ll stick other nefarious means of torture for that, thanks). I’m not even going to waste your time or mine by trying to describe it. The suffering is indescribable, the future hopeless, the past gone. I cannot conceive of anything more bleak. (I’m sure someone might say, “hmm, what if Fallout 3 was a reality? Sure the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust might be bleaker? You pathetic, whiny bitch, Pan!” Well…maybe you’re right, and I am a miserable, whinging fucker who should grow up and count her blessings. But maybe there’s a difference, too? A nuclear holocaust is a disaster for society and the world; true depression is a disaster for the self. The magnitude is wholly divergent in the grand scheme of things, but when taken from the depressed person’s mind alone, I can assure you that that magnitude does not seem so very different).

So, depression is horrendous, to use what is frankly a tiny word for an immense state of being. To the mind of a normal person, suicide is not the answer. To the severely or chronically depressed person, there is no other answer. Is that rational? In most cases, I don’t believe so, no. Rational and logical reasoning is lost amongst the dark clouds of blackness – most of the time. I believe that this can be true even if one is cognisant of the supposed benefits of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy – because the nature of severe depression is to see no hope in everything, you cannot even appreciate that there may be hope for you in these pursuits.

However, being in the midst of irrationality and a lack of logic is precisely the time that no one should choose to end their lives. I understand why they do – I have been there more times than I care to remember, and I know how visceral, compulsive and overwhelming the desire to die is – but it is not considered, and it is in the vast majority of cases something that will pass or can be overcome.

Suzy, mentioned above, hadn’t as far as I know informed anyone outside of the suicide newsgroup of her mental health difficulties. She was young, intelligent and by all accounts previously fun-loving and vivacious; she could well have gotten better. Her case exemplifies why it is absolutely crucial that the stigma surrounding mental illness is eradicated; had she (and, I’m sure, countless others) felt as comfortable talking to a doctor about her mental health as she had about her physical health, she maybe could’ve gotten help.

Existence can become more positive. I’ve stood on the precipice of death and looked down…and come back from the brink to not spending every waking second daydreaming of my death. I’m not saying I’m not suicidal, because I don’t think I ever won’t be, and I’m not suggesting things will ever all be sweetness and light – but in many cases one’s future can probably be liveable, endurable. That’s not much of a life, granted, but if it can be lived, then it surely should be – if not for your own sake, for that of your loved ones.

There’s a big, massive ‘but‘ here, having said all that, and here’s where the suicide forum of above comes in. Suicide isn’t usually rational – but it can be. Have you tried drugs? Yes? Have you tried many types, many cocktails? Yes? OK. Therapy? Yes? A number of different types of therapy? A number of different therapists? Yes, yes? You’ve been in hospital? OK.

But you’re still chronically and severely mentally distressed and ill. You’ve exhausted every option of help you could reasonably and unreasonably have found and your life is still unbearable. You’ve weighed up the pros and cons, you’ve balanced your suffering against the suffering of others. In many cases that I’ve read of there are in fact no others, despite people’s best efforts.

These are the minority of cases where suicide can be (not necessarily ‘is’) more rational.

Is it really so cowardly in these circumstances? Seriously? To have suffered incredibly and endlessly for decades, beyond a ‘normal’ person’s comprehension, despite one’s every effort to try to end that agony? Hasn’t the person been brave and to have faced such hardship for such a hideously long period? Aren’t they allowed some peace, after exhausting all their ‘morally acceptable’ options? And can you imagine the amount of strength and courage it must actually take an individual to muster to take that final jump, to turn on that poisonous gas supply, to actually kick that stool from underneath them?

And who is more selfish here? The permanently/chronically ill individual who has remained alive for years despite their enduring torture, or the people around them that want them to remain alive simply because they’d be missed, even though they are fully aware of their misery?

And if we continue to demonise suicide in these extreme circumstances – and even less extreme ones – are we not demonising one of the most fundamental rights we as humans are supposed to have; the right to our own agency and life choices?

We all suffer, although for most people that is overcome quickly, or is comparatively low-level. Imagine, for a second, if it wasn’t. Imagine if that misery was permanent, and at an even more amplified level that that which you have already experienced.

Suicide should never be encouraged. But perhaps we as a society should be less quick to condemn, and more eager to offer compassion and empathy?

Again:

If you are in suicidal crisis, please see this page. Alternatively, call The Samaritans on 0845 909090 or email them at jo@samaritans.org. If you feel that suicidal action is imminent, call an ambulance on 999. Help is almost always available, and life can almost always improve.

Please see this page for a list of international suicide and crisis hotlines.

An aside: I first started writing this post 364 days ago. I was scared of the controversy it would create, but I believe I have been balanced here and, as ever, the old truth remains that if you don’t like what I write, you don’t have to read it.

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