The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part I

“What was immediately apparent was that none of them had truly wanted to die. They had wanted their inner pain to stop; they wanted some measure of relief; and this was the only answer they could find. They were in spiritual agony, and they sought a physical solution.”Dr. David Rosen, psychiatrist and Jungian psychoanalyst

A recent article in New York Times magazine suggests that those who exhibit suicidal behavior or have had unsuccessful attempts are least likely to die by way of suicide.

The author, Scott Anderson, delves into the psyche of what drives a person to commit suicide. And he attempts to answer the "what" question by evaluating the "how."

The bigger problem with this mental-illness rubric is that it puts emphasis on the less-knowable aspect of the act, the psychological “why,” and tends to obscure any examination of the more pedestrian “how,” the basic mechanics involved. But if we want to unravel posthumously the thought processes of the lost with an eye to saving lives in the future, the “how” may be the best place to look.

Anderson does a great job of pulling it off and seems to uncover the way to prevent the majority of suicides. Unfortunate as it is, the people who are intent on committing suicide cannot be stopped despite barriers or interventions. The other problem is that many people who commit suicide are those who tend to not show any suicidal symptoms at all.

What makes looking at jumping suicides potentially instructive is that it is a method associated with a very high degree of impulsivity, and its victims often display few of the classic warning signs associated with suicidal behavior. … Instead, many who choose this method [jumping] seem to be drawn by a set of environmental cues that, together, offer three crucial ingredients: ease, speed and the certainty of death.

Anderson comes to an initial conclusion about committing and attempting suicide:

It seemed to me there was an element of circular logic here: that the act proved the intent that proved the illness.

Then he asks the question:

"If the impulsive suicide attempter tends to reach for whatever means are easy or quick, is it possible that the availability of means can actually spur the act?"

It appears so.

Many of my suicidal thoughts and attempts have been thwarted by the lack of "ease, speed, and the certainty of death" (ESCOD). Let’s go through a few of my thoughts and attempts:

  • Overdosing on pills (especially OTC): Not certain; likelihood of survival
  • Jumping: Not certain; possibility of survival, likely with paralysis
  • Car crash: Not certain; possibility of survival, either with paralysis or major to minor injuries
  • Ingesting poisonous substances (Windex, Clorox): Not certain; possibility of survival with extreme pain occurring during the "dying" process
  • Stabbing/Self-injury: Not certain; possibility of survival with extreme pain occurring during the "dying" process
  • Hanging: Extreme pain occurring during the process
  • Drowning: Initial pain of suffocation before losing consciousness into death

These are a few of the ways I was always able to talk myself out of committing suicide in many of these manners (some I tried but never completed). However, when it came to guns, I always felt that if I ever got my hands on one, no question, I’d soon be dead. A gun would be the ultimate form of ESCOD for me.

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3 Comments

  1. Amy said,

    July 8, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Not even a self-inflicted gunshot to the head is a sure thing. Many times the person just ends up paralyzed or in a coma.

  2. K. A. said,

    August 28, 2008 at 3:41 am

    It’s funny… Your thought process is very similar to mine, running down the same list, for the same reasons. Most times I don’t follow through with suicidal thoughts due to fear of not “doing the job right.”
    I always worried the same thing about gun ownership – which is strange, because I enjoy target shooting and had always wanted to obtain my concealed carry. A friend (warily) gave me a revolver as a birthday gift… He knew my struggles with long-term and intermittent depression and had been waiting to give me that present; it was almost a signal that he thought I could handle it.
    The past few months I’ve been trying to avoid being in the same room as my revolver when I’m in that frame of mind. If I’m feeling compulsive and in the house with it I try to not be alone or to occupy myself immediately, and will not go into that room for more than a few seconds. Of course I can’t kill myself with a present from a friend, and target shooting is one of the few things I’m fairly competent at and haven’t let others down in, so in the end it’s a draw: ESCOD vs. the strangest form of self-defense (obligation and a shred of competence).
    Oh, and the fact that I’d be unconfident of sufficiently blowing my head apart if I used anything less than a .45, plus the fact that if you google image search on gun suicides you get some very unappetizing pictures that I’m sure none of my friends or family really need to think of…

  3. Marissa said,

    September 2, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Certainly well-thought out reasoning. I venture to say you don’t have much impulsive thinking.


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