January 13th, 2006 by Potato

On the topic of suicide I have but three things to say:

1. It will be the last thing you ever do in your life. Don’t fuck it up.

Do some deep inner searching and be sure whether you just want to call out for attention or really want to end it all. If you just want attention then maybe ask for it politely, or stand up on a desk and scream at work or in an exam or something. Don’t go damaging your liver or cutting on yourself just to make a point, you’ll regret it later.

Oh, and it’s down the street, not across the block.

2. Think about it, seriously.

There are many religions in the world. Many of them believe in some form of afterlife or punative reincarnation. Almost all of them frown upon suicide, and the few that do allow it tend to have very specific rules for when it is and is not appropriate. For example, to avoid dishonour or capture, or to blow away any useful bits of brain before the zombies turn you is often acceptable, earning you a “good death.” Doing it because you’re sad, scared, chemically imbalanced, or just really, really fond of flavor-aide yet never developed the ability to critically survey your surroundings generally doesn’t score you any points.

So you need to ask yourself whether it’s worse to just endure what you’ve got going now, or get yourself onto the fasttrack for eternal suffering (or, another go round of a mortal life, only with worse starting conditions). Or, if you’re willing to bet heavily on the atheist point of view, would just going blank and having nothing be better?

Naturally, even after considering the above, many people do go ahead with suicide. Which brings me to an interesting point: where does suicide come from? Is it an evolutionarily supportive behaviour that can somehow perversely be explained along similar lines to altruism?

Basically, you start with depression, which is caused by improper neural firing in the brain that leads to extreme feelings of unwell. It’s a very primal emotion, telling you that things are not right, and it sends all sorts of reinforcement signals to try to get you to escape whatever situation you’re in, to change things, to call out for help. But the thing of it is, you often can’t just up and make things better, so you sort of retreat, and get this severe repression of initiative/action while at the same time an overactive emotional centre. So what I mean is that you sit there with all of this repression going on so that you almost can’t even move (lethargy, fatigue, etc.) but inside your mind is going a mile-a-minute, but you can’t focus on anything since it’s all emotional (so what you can focus on more consciously and logically tends to be your worries, which just makes the emotional state worse).

Since this depression is usually caused by factors outside your control (whether they be real-life factors like a sick relative, a chemical imbalance, or a life gone to the shitter so badly that you just want to call a mulligan and take the last three years over again) so you can’t really do much with your internally raging fight-or-flight type responses, even if you could get past the outer depression (or agoraphobia) holding you in place. So you’re stuck there with these negative feelings (“negative affect” as we call it in smarty-pants class) overwhelming you, sort of the worst thing your brain could do to you (right up there with chronic pain).

Now the interesting thing is that your brain does manage to find an out: via death (though as I said above, I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good out). I find it interesting because in order to see that as a way to stop the suffering, you have to first realize that you’re alive and that being dead will be something different, where maybe this won’t happen. So perhaps suicide is a sign of self-awareness? I’m not familiar with any reports of animals (not even primates) committing suicide, though I do find the prospect morbidly fascinating.

Anyhow, the point is: be sure you’ve thoroughly thought it through since science and almost every religion tells us that this will be a completely irreversable move (assuming you don’t fuck it up: see #1).

3. Be considerate to those you left behind.

I read an interesting statistic recently (one of those damned lies, I’m sure — consider it even less trustworthy than regular statistics since I can’t find the source now) that said that of troubled teens who had decided they would kill themselves, more than twice as many boys went through with it as girls. A correlation with that is that far more boys decided to use jumping, cutting, or death by firearm as their method of choice, while more girls chose drugs or asphyxiation. We can theorize that guys are less considerate, and less afraid of making a big giant mess (with some of the dumb kids I’ve seen around the university, I’m sure they’d be going “cool, look at the splatter!”) so they pick the method that is more effective; with pills you’ve got maybe a whole hour to reconsider and induce vomiting. But seriously, ick. Someone’s going to have to clean that up.

Which brings me to another point: many people say that putting up suicide barriers on bridges and restricting handgun availability won’t reduce the suicide rate, since there are so many ways to kill yourself if you’re determined. Yet it is much easier to kill yourself with a handgun than it is with other methods — that is, after all, their purpose and heck, people do it accidentally sometimes by not unloading them before cleaning. Once you force them to take that extra step, you give them another chance to reconsider, and I’m sure that would lead to a drop (even if only a minor one). Similar reasoning applies to crime: while crooks can rob, kill, and maim with a knife or hunting rifle, it is decidedly harder to pull off than it is with a handgun or assault rifle.

Back to being considerate. This comes in two basic parts.

3-a. Leave a note. Be as accurate as you can, since you won’t be able to answer follow-up questions. Try to leave out some of the morbidity, and always try to spare the feelings of those who will be grieving (if you want to blame it all on your boss, then go ahead, since he’s a dick who probably isn’t grieving; after all, he’s the one that drove you to your early grave — but never, ever say anything that could be construed as blame on your mother).

No matter how moody, how depressed, how down-on-your-luck, no matter how goth, no matter how many hours you wasted on AOL before you got real internet, nobody ever sees your suicide coming, so you’ve got to explain it to them. They won’t understand. They probably won’t afterwards either, but you have to try. Remember, while you somehow came to the conclusion that it was the only way left, everyone else sees it as a hugely extreme move to take, something so far out there as to be inconceivable (or at the very least, unpredicatable).

This stipulation has other benefits: as you compose your thoughts into your last message to the universe you might just attain that moment of perfect clarity where you can see the solution the problems in your life (or at least put them in perspective), which may make you change your mind.

3-b. Don’t make a mess. Unless it really plays an important part in the artistic motif you’re going for, keep the gore to a minimum. Don’t disrupt traffic by jumping from an overpass or into the subway (come on, that’s just rude). Someone is at some point going to find you, so you probably want to find a balance between forcing your roommate/family to stumble on you and the severely public methods, while at the same time not being too hidden: when you go missing, they’ll look for you, and eventually they’ll find you. No point in being hidden so well that you get all gross and corpsified during the search. Also, as applies to #3 in general (consideration for the living), a long search is heart-wrenching, since the whole time they’ll be fearing the worst while still holding out hope. Remember, someone is going to have to find and clean up after you.

I think that’s all I have to say on the topic. More on important matters like Kraft Dinner later.

9 Responses to “Suicide”

  1. netbug Says:

    Where did that come from?

  2. netbug Says:


    I’m having trouble finding particular political parties standing on specific issues. Any suggestions on where to look for a concise listing of parties standings on issues?

    Of particular interest to me are the following;

    1. Stem cell research
    2. Environment (Kyoto… so the conservatives have now absolutly and totally lost my vote)
    3. Gun control
    4. Free Trade
    5. Gay rights
    6. Space and science issues and progress (kinda broad)

  3. Potato Says:

    It’s not the most direct way to answer your question, but I’d recommend emailing the candidates for your riding with those questions. They might be too busy this time of year to respond, but it will give you some form of interaction with them right away, so you can see what the person is like representing you and not just the party. Even if they can’t respond themselves, a volunteer at their office should at least be able to answer questions like those.

    Then there’s the party websites, I think they all have forums or blogs of some sort where you could ask (since I think some of that stuff wouldn’t be detailed in their official platforms).

    The CBC also has a fairly detailed coverage of the events going, and copies of the party platforms. Also look at their “Reality Check” section, it’s got some neat information on the party promises there, for instance, they took all the spending & tax cut promises and crunched the numbers to find out just how much of our money each party was trying to buy us with.

    I myself just got back from the advance polls (had to vote early due to the… “pencil” issue). As was the case last year, the advance polls were a bit slower (they have much longer voter lists to go through to get you in, and more old, slow people seem anxious to vote early on advance days), but it’s still a fairly smooth system that is beautiful in its simplicity. You have the list of eligible voters, and some registration sheets if they missed advanced registration. One comes in and gets his/her name crossed off the list, and a ballot. They then simply mark the very easy to read ballot appropriately, fold it back up, and drop it in the box. No hanging chads, no computer hackers, nothing at all hard to read on it. Granted, it does waste a fair bit of paper, but what doesn’t nowadays?

    That description was probably a bit much for most of my readers, since I’m sure they’ve all voted before, but I just really like our simple, effective system (and even counting by hand, we usually had results in an hour or two, unlike other countries). The only part I don’t like about our voting process is the first-past-the-post system.

    The opinion polls I read indicated that my riding was facing a liberal landslide, so I felt free to vote my conscience without worrying about the dastardly conservatives gaining power (read: I was free to give my $1.75 of funding for next election to the party of my choice knowing that my vote wouldn’t matter a bit in who ended up taking the seat).

  4. rez Says:

    *dons flame-retardant suit* Hey Bug, this isn’t a chat room. Keep it on topic, or post it in your own blog! :P

    Anyway, Tater I have to disagree with you on one important point: #3. I’ve thought long and hard about suicide and I’ve concluded a few things of my own.

    I agree with #1: if you’re gonna do it, do it right the first time. Don’t be a loser and screw it up.

    I also agree with #2: take the time to really think it through. I’d like to add that you should take some time to really think through HOW you’ll do it as well, though this relates to #1.

    That’s where our beliefs diverge, however. First of all, I am a devout atheist. When you’re dead, you’re dead. No afterlife, no reincarnation, no drive through burger joints; nothing.

    That said, if you’re gonna take your own life and you’ve followed helpful tips #1 and #2, you’ve done some thinking about how the cessation of your very existence will affect your loved ones and the world at large. Generally, loved ones will be distressed, emergency personnel will be annoyed, and mass-suicide cult leaders will be pissed that they missed recruiting you. Since you’ve thought about how they’ll all feel, yet you decide to do it anyway, you’re probably thinking “fuck them”.

    That’s right. If you really and truly wants to die, you’re selfish, at least while you plan and execute (ahem) your suicide. You might have been a selfless angel beforehand, but if you go through with it, you’re being selfish and you don’t give a flying fleck of goat cheese about how those around you will feel. That’s where your #3 (including subsections a through b) fall flat.

    If I choose to go by my own hand, I’m going in the most effective and FUN way possible, regardless of the mess left afterwards, be it an emotional mess due to the lack of a note, or an actual icky mess.

    I have chosen death by falling as my route to eternal nothingness.

    Under ALMOST all circumstances, you’d have to be a real moron to do it though.

  5. Wayfare Says:

    If I come home and find a body you are in *so* much trouble. I will make a point of finding you in the afterlife and flicking you in the ear repeatedly for all eternity.

    And if it turns out there isn’t an afterlife, I will figure out how to reanimate you and then I will ream you out. And we’ve all learned from movies that reanimation never goes well.

    Consider yourself warned.

  6. baum Says:

    seams like wayfare has all angles covered…. but for the record others would be pissed as well

  7. netbug Says:

    Falling. I don’t like that one. Too much time to reconsider and not be able to do anything about it.

    Explosion is kinda messy.

    Some sort of atomic chamber that will destroy everything… perhaps.

    But ya, everybody has somebody that likes them, so going is a pretty selfish idea, as Rez said.

    I find my cat helps when I get depressed. That and slaughtering hordes of undead. And playing WoW.

  8. Potato Says:

    Rez: You’re absolutely right, but that’s all the more reason to have #3 on the list. Even if you can’t be 100% people pleasing due to the inherent nature of what you’re doing, you should still take some time to consider and take a few rudimentary steps. Anyway, it was something I thought I should say :)

    Wayfare: Better not check the freezer then, the warm weather didn’t last as long as I’d hoped and the ice on the lake is still too thick. By the way, I bought a walk-in freezer while you were out.

    As for the universal “oh my god no, what brought this on?!” interrobang, it was actually seeing someone else recently write “remember: across the street, not down the block” and hearing lots of Belle & Sebastian at Wayfare’s party (the group who’s sound has been described as “music to slit your wrists by”). As I’ve said to the numerous people who’ve suddenly put me on suicide watch “read the article again, it has a decidedly negative slant on the whole issue.” Geez, you can’t hypothetically talk about anything these days. The upside of that, of course, is that now I have a more accurate idea of how many readers I have than by simply offering them cookies for a census :)

    The soundtrack to that party reminded me of the day in PASU where Dave put on the CD that had “Hotel California” on it 12 times or so, with Rage Against the Machine’s “Fuck You” as a closer. It was a piece of performance art in a way, really capturing how you could check out but never leave, and how it just wouldn’t end. And when it did, it ended in violence (we destroyed the CD, and IIRC, microwaved the shards).

  9. rez Says:

    I don’t know if anybody will even notice a reply to this post at this point, but on the subject of suicides, a member of a gaming forum posted his goodbye note as a forum thread. Read the news story here:

    and the actual thread here (they find out he passed away on the 4th page of posts):

    I didn’t know the guy, but I hope that at least he found what he sought.