Article of the Week: Week Nine

Most of my regular readers probably saw my disgusted rant yesterday about the recent BBC documentary, Why Did You Kill My Dad?.  Most of those with whom I communicate online regarding mental health have very strong views against this programme, which is unsurprising as – forgive my repetition – it was biased, unfair and stigma-inducing.  To that end, it was excellent to see a clarification of just how ordinary the vast majority of people with mental illness are in the hallowed pages of The Guardian.  (I suspect the Daily Hate Mail has spouted a load of bile in support of the documentary, but I can’t bring myself to check).

This article is fairly straightforward, but more than adequately covers all the salient points: violence and mental illness are not correlated; alcohol and drug abuse are, in the ill and ‘well’ alike, associated with higher rates of violence; the NHS is far from faultless in the care of those with severe mental illness; that sad cases such as those of Phillip Hendy represent only a tiny number of recorded murders per year (though the author of course acknowledges that any death is one too many).

She ended the article with what I thought was a very good point:

How many viewers watching this film will realise they’re in more danger from their partner beside them on the sofa than from a stranger with schizophrenia in the street?

Since the documentary, this piece has done the rounds on Twitter and probably Facebook et al as well, but if you haven’t happened upon it yet, it’s worth a read.  There’s some lively debate and interesting points made in the comments section too (though there are a few inevitable naysayers criticising the author).

Violence is Not a Symptom of Mental Illness

I came across the following article whilst Wiki-surfing the other day.  As Bippidee has discussed, the San Francisco authorities are planning to erect huge nets under the Golden Gate Bridge to deter potential suicides from jumping off it.  Which is a shame, as the bridge is beautiful (I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and have been on it), and it’s at an extortionate cost that would be better spent, surely, in mental health services.  Anyhow, as things presently stand, the Golden Gate is still the most popular suicide site in the world.

The New Yorker goes into fascinating, if morbid detail, as to why this may be.  It discusses in detail the perceived romanticism of jumping from the bridge and the experiences of the few survivors.  Apparently, some that survived the immense, four second jump have claimed afterwards that as soon as they fell, they realised that they didn’t, in fact, want to die after all.  The article also states that these survivors almost exclusively entered the water feet-down and at an angle; most others were probably killed instantly, as hitting water from that height has been demonstrated to be equivalent to hitting concrete.  The rare few that did survive the fall but later died usually drowned, as they ‘dived’ so deeply into San Francisco Bay.

There is a discussion of previous attempts to erect anti-suicide measures, and reasoning for their failures (usually cost or aesthetics).  One of the most intriguing, if horrific, parts of the article details exactly the kind of injuries a person can expect to sustain should they choose to jump from the Golden Gate – and it ain’t pretty at all.  Apparently it’s as if “someone took an eggbeater to the organs of the body.”

Random fact of which I was completely unaware: the most common phobia amongst the San Francisco populace is the fear of crossing bridges.  Who knew?

This is long and morbid, and really rather outdated too coming as it does from 2003, but it’s still a compelling and engaging read.

Jumpers: The Fatal Grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge

If you’re feeling particularly interested in investigating popular suicide spots (!), you might ‘enjoy’ the following article discussing the macabre popularity of the Aokigahara forest at the bottom of Mount Fuji, Japan.  The article, at the Providentia blog, claims that this forest is the world’s third most popular place to kill oneself, with Toronto’s Prince Edward Viaduct taking second.  However, Wikipedia claims that since the viaduct has erected its “luminous veil” (essentially a high barrier preventing jumps), Aokigahara has overtaken it.

The Suicide Forest

I always have to get an article about psychotherapy into these posts, don’t I?  This is from Psych Central, and discusses what side-effects one might expect from the therapeutic process.  It isn’t a very long article – though there’s a couple of interesting comments following it – and it focuses on a few specific types of disorders, but it still makes for interesting reading.

One point of interest is that when practicing exposure-based therapy with an agoraphobic client, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises can actually lead to a worsening of a panic.  The study discussed is not denigrating the use of such techniques in general, however; it is merely suggesting that they should not be taught simultaneously with exposure exercises.

Harmful Side Effects of Psychotherapy

As ever, there were half a million other articles that I found interesting, but for this week these were either my favourites, or the ones I felt most pertinent to other parts of my blog.

Enjoy…if you have the same sinister, grim capacity I do to enjoy stuff like this.


16 thoughts on “Article of the Week: Week Nine

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  3. There’s something etherally attractive about suicide from the Golden gate, though I know in reality it’s probably a hideous death. As that article says it seems ppl see it as a kind of ‘gateway’ into an afterlife or something. V interesting reading indeed- thanks for sharing.

    re the Guardian, Im glad one of the nationals published something setting the record straight but I have to admit I found the article a lil simplistic. Still better than nothing.

    Best wishes

    • I’ve read articles that are better expressed, I agree, but nevertheless I thought it covered what needed to be covered. I’m delighted that such a well known paper published it, though I really wish the tabloid and scare-mongering rags would – for once in their sorry little lives – at least present two sides to their arguments. Bastards 😦

      Take care x

  4. though the author of course acknowledges that any death is one too many

    Can we take that out of the parentheses, please, and paste it somewhere big and bold for next time you get the urge to top yourself? Seriously, absolutely, please, my dear, precious friend, remember this 🙂

  5. The Guardian article was good. Many of the comments made me want to punch people (not because I am mentally ill I should add, but because they are twats). One person commented even quoted and linked to the Daily Fail. I wanted to reply to the idiots, but frankly when people are narrow minded enough to be reading the Daily Fail, you know there is no point using reason against their arguments.

    • I only read a few of them, because I was starting to get into “mentalz is teh ev1l” territory, and I just knew it would endlessly fuck me off. I agree with you – if they’re reading dirge like the Mail then there’s no hope for them. Their sad little existences are their punishments.

    • Sounds like an intriguing book – must see if I can get a hold of a copy. The last book on suicide I read was by Geo Stone, but I’d be dubious about recommending that one, for reasons that will become obvious if one Googles his name…

  6. Hmm I feel kind of 50/50 about the whole netting thing with the Golden Gate Bridge, I say that because whilst my head instantly jumps to “well of course the money should be better spent on mental health services”, I would think that there are already a number of suicide prevention services available to people in that area. In the UK we have plenty of suicide prevention charities and helplines if we take time to look for them, but then of course that means that there must be the tiniest bit of doubt in the persons head to make them seek support rather than just acting on it. I know in my 3 suicide attempts there was only 1 of them that I went to all lengths to try and avoid being found, but it was when I ultimately knew that I was losing consciousness that I sought help myself. I guess the difference with the bridge is both the symbolism people associate with it and of course the likelihood of death. In my long and round about way, I guess what I’m trying to say is that people who feel suicidal most probably always have the tiniest bit of doubt, but an immediate and 99% guaranteed way to die would be jumping from the bridge. Therefore once you step off the edge the decision as to whether you live or die is just luck. I think the netting is a good idea, sure it will take away some of the physical attractiveness of the bridge, but if it prevents lives ending and gives people a chance to then seek help then surely it has to be a good thing. The help is always out there but in times of utter desperation people just find it very hard to look for it.

    (Sorry I didn’t quite mean that comment to be so long!)

    • No, no, long comments are always welcome.

      I take your point – ie. that people may accept or even want help if they give their suicide attempt a second thought. Certainly, as that article discussed, some survivors of the jump from the Golden Gate expressed the view that after they’d jumped, they didn’t really want to die after all.

      As I understand it, apart from the potential psychological factors at play, the bridge is the world’s most popular suicide spot because for a bridge of its height, the railings are really very low (having been on it, I can confirm how surprised I was by this). I think that rather than putting up the netting to hang under it, a more practical and aesthetically acceptable solution would be to erect something similar to the so-called luminous veil that the Toronto authorities put up at the Prince Edward Viaduct, formerly Earth’s second most popular known suicide spot.

      Either way, I suppose the fact that they’re doing something is to be welcomed, but then I have very conflicting views about this, as in the broadest possible terms I believe that if someone genuinely wants to kill themselves, then they should be allowed to do so. Obviously there’s less ostentatious ways to do that than throwing yourself off the most famous bridge in the Western hemisphere, though.

      • I totally agree with what you say re: if people want to die then they should be allowed too. I have spent many hours having that debate with my social worker and psychologist that ultimately the choice is mine and in an ideal world I would be able to talk about all my suicidal ideas and even plans and methods without a fear of being sectioned.

        I wrote a blog post myself recently which started off about assisted suicide for the mentally ill but the more I wrote and the more I read into it, I realised that one of the reasons the professionals frown so much on the idea is their own fear of being viewed as failures. e.g. a psychiatrist is trained to prevent suicide.

        But yes, ultimately I think everyone has the right to die if that is their choice, although I think that everyone who attempts it is ultimately looking for some form of escape, and perhaps if they were saved and given adequate mental health care then they would decide to choose life.

        (I won’t even get started on the NHS and adequate mental health services!)

      • I have spent many hours having that debate with my social worker and psychologist that ultimately the choice is mine and in an ideal world I would be able to talk about all my suicidal ideas and even plans and methods without a fear of being sectioned.

        Ooh, I hear you. I quoted the Suicide Act of 1961 at C one day when I expressing some suicidal ideation, and asked what right he had to call for my sectioning when the act for which I was under a threatened section was perfectly legal. He came up with the pathetic answer that “other people are involved”. As if I didn’t already know that!

        I must look at your blog post. I have one in draft on the same subject but I’ve never got round to publishing it as I’m not sure it completely conveys what I want to say. I must work on it a little more. If you’re interested in the subject, The View From Hell has some excellent essays on “the right to choose”.

        although I think that everyone who attempts it is ultimately looking for some form of escape, and perhaps if they were saved and given adequate mental health care then they would decide to choose life.

        Yes, I do think that in the majority of cases you’re right. It makes me wonder about the NHS – how many people that could have been saved have ended up dead because “services” can be so shite? A very sobering thought 😦

  7. After my long comment on the bridge I forgot to mention the other thing I was going to say which was re: relaxation techniques and exposure work. I suffer from Agoraphobia (as well as all my other problems) and I have to say I agree with that. I find that learning the relaxation and breathing techniques to begin with, and before exposure work commences, is the way I have found most helpful. People tend to find it hard to apply the relaxation techniques in the height of a panic attack and I’m sure it is much more helpful in recovery to deal with one part at a time. Thanks for mentioning that in your article.

    • You’re welcome 🙂 It’s not really work that I’ve experienced directly myself, but I always get frustrated when I’m really distressed / in the middle of a flashback or something and C starts banging on about breathing. I see why he does it, but I really do think that such instruction would be best during a period of greater stability.

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