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More now die by suicide than car wreck
December 23, 2013 5:02 AM   Subscribe

The American suicide rate has spiked upwards, according to the CDC. That increase is especially noticeable among baby boomers. Is the reason the availability of prescription drugs, or challenging family circumstances? The article's comments generally cite the economy. (SLNYT)
posted by doctornemo (82 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
How closely do suicide rates generally track the economy?
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:06 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Interesting point for comparison: The US and the UK have about the same suicide rate, despite the dramatic difference in the number of guns in each country.

Is the suicide rate in the US due to our gun ownership, and are our British friends substantially less mentally healthy? Or are our cultures and mental health similar, and are suicides going to happen regardless of what tools are available?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:15 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]



There's a large variety of trends that have largely coincided with the retirement of the baby boomers (which starts at/around 2007).

Included in this list are the decline of vehicle miles traveled (boomers were the drivingest people in history), NFL/MLB tickets sold (that fan experience was largely built around baby boomer crowds), and beer sales (again, built on boomer consumption patterns).

But, you say, 2007 was the peak of the recession! And, true enough it was, but, any of these trends would have reversed, if only slightly, if they were based on economic well-being.

To the contrary, none has reversed, which means (to me at least) that there are large scale demographic and cultural shifts in action.

What's this got to do with suicide? I'd imagine that there's much to be said about a general dissatisfaction with life upon reaching retirement, and the depression associated with not having a 'role' in society (or even a reason to get up in the morning) has to be profound.
posted by The Giant Squid at 5:17 AM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think it will continue to go up with the Boomers and more, not just out of dissatisfaction with retirement and an economy engulfed in flames (and not in the growth kind of way) but simply as a way to be done.

I know a number of people of all ages who think very seriously about taking a final exit either in response to a terminal illness or impending permainfirmity. I think it's a combination of our increased secularity, the discussions that started 20 years ago around Kevorkian and others, and the increasing acceptance of assisted suicide and general dissemination of knowledge on the topic.
posted by tilde at 5:38 AM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Far too many boomers have no substantial savings, a spotty employment history due to occupations being phased out or eliminated, and thus sad prospects for Social Security, and nothing resembling a retirement plan to look forward to. I've heard 50-somethings declare semi-jokingly that they'll have to work until they drop dead or will have to retire themselves permanently as they'll have no means of support once physical limitations make it impossible for them to continue working. I picture a bleak future with an ever-increasing gray-haired minimum-wage workforce and an increased upward trend in suicides among the older population--especially as the predicted grim changes linked to climate change kick in.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:40 AM on December 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


Seems like there are a lot of moving parts to this issue and no clear way to cut it down to a few specific reasons. I do wonder how this connects to specific regions and states - and it reminds me of this study http://ftp.iza.org/dp6280.pdf be interesting to see what happens as mmj becomes more mainstream, if that reduces or alters this trend
posted by zenwerewolf at 5:43 AM on December 23, 2013


I wonder if their work encourages suicide as well. If you spend your life building cars, then you're hurting the environment, but you're helping people travel too. If you spend your life as a corporate lawyer, administrator, etc. today then maybe you know about the harm done by your job, or maybe not, but you've probably very little indication that your life's work actually improved the world, well it probably did not. Your maybe more likely to become depressed when retirement radically alters your daily routine because you've less to be proud of.

Also, the boomers started this trends towards moving away from their parents, which subsequent generations continued, and might increase stressors, like compelling older people to travel more.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:48 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, you say, 2007 was the peak of the recession! And, true enough it was, but, any of these trends would have reversed, if only slightly, if they were based on economic well-being.

The economic engine steams ahead but the passenger cars are left behind.

If anything I'd expect this to accelerate suicides rather than decrease them.
posted by srboisvert at 6:04 AM on December 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it is telling that the biggest spike in suicide rates has been in the youngest cohort of boomers...those in their 50's. This could include the very youngest boomers (like me) who were born in the 1960's and share no generational connection to the older boomers who were born in the 1940's. The oldest boomers worked in very different economic times. They were the last wave of people with the good pension and comfortable retirement. But it is the youngest boomers who, at middle age--still 15 years away from conventional retirement age--, experienced intersecting economic collapse, job loss, and shattered expectations while still having huge responsibilities, like a fat mortgage, taking care of kids who might still be in high school and aging parents all at the same time. That must be a terrifying combination for some.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:16 AM on December 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


this last summer when the cdc report came out, we had a pretty great thread about it full of links to the different areas of the problem/how difficult it is to reduce it to one or two things.
posted by nadawi at 6:24 AM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


and are suicides going to happen regardless of what tools are available?

They are. But the easy availability of certain tools, like guns, make what in some ways is an impulsive decision much more likely to be fatal. If guns were as easily available here as in the USA, I would have been dead at least four or five times over in my life so far.

What's this got to do with suicide? I'd imagine that there's much to be said about a general dissatisfaction with life upon reaching retirement and the depression associated with not having a 'role' in society (or even a reason to get up in the morning) has to be profound.

It is. In fact, in many ways that's depression in a nutshell. (Feeling like) you don't have a future or a purpose, or that your future's just going to suck as much as the past/present, so may as well check out. And yes, retirement is a major killer. People need purpose in their lives, which is why the Depression-era public works schemes were (IMHO) more effective than the way welfare is structured now. It's a shame Obama didn't use the majorities in the first half of his first term to enact new public works legislation. Putting money in the pockets of people who are going to spend it is what stimulates the economy. If you add in the runoff effects of massive spending on infrastructure, well, we know exactly how well it worked out last time so seriously what the fuck.

One of the hallmarks of major depressive disorder and consequent suicidal ideation is the lack of purpose. Not working makes that purpose a lot harder to find.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:29 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, thank you for catching that, nadawi.
posted by doctornemo at 6:36 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


silly youngsters. once you watch parents age into a sinkhole of physical and mental decrepitude, the alternative looks good to you.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:38 AM on December 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


My father is a boomer who has been left behind. If he had filed his paperwork differently when he was no longer able to work, he'd be eligible for $1200 in monthly benefits, but since it took him years to get approved, by the time he received his papers he was classified as "indigent."

The only thing he has to look forward to is years of subsistence living and fighting countless bureaucracies to get the basic medical care that he needs. Even if he managed to find a job he's physically fit to do, it would be at Walmart or some other corporation that has fine tuned their business model to exploit him without having to provide a living wage or benefits. In essence, he's out of options for the rest of his life.

I'm able to help him out most of the time. When I couldn't, he spent more than a few months in homeless shelters and abandoned buildings. But, according to him, that's safer than Section 8 housing in a lot of places.

My father used to tell me that I was lucky to be born here, and lucky that his parents and two of his brothers fought for me. But he doesn't say that now. I don't think he gives a shit about America anymore, because America doesn't give a shit about him. Now that his parents are gone, and since one of my uncles hung himself and the other went nuts after Vietnam, I wouldn't blame him if he gave up. He has to look back on all of the work and sacrifices his family made, and realize that it didn't amount to anything. Your family can fight for this country, and your family can die for this country, and you can work hard and pay taxes if you don't serve. But in the end, the only thing that matters is how much money you have in the bank, and it doesn't matter how you got it as long as you've got it.

Christian nation my ass.
posted by deanklear at 6:46 AM on December 23, 2013 [103 favorites]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch:"Interesting point for comparison: The US and the UK have about the same suicide rate, despite the dramatic difference in the number of guns in each country."

Wikipedia does state that they're roughly equal, but the World Health Organization's data shows a substantial difference as does this from the Washington Post, which got its data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The WHO and OECD put the US rate as notably higher than the UK's.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:49 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


anomic suicide
posted by eviemath at 6:53 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Speaking as one who is technically lumped-in with the Boomers, despite being born close enough to the beginning of the 60's as to be a 60's kid, I will say this...

As I look around and see what is happening to those older than me...economics, healthcare, etc...I can easily see how suicide just might be a better option than struggling through an increasingly crap-tastic future. It's just too much of a struggle, economically and psychologically. And, it's one that eventually ensnares your kids with you, as they have to take over a lot of the management of your affairs as you decline. Better to simply take the quick way out and get out of the way.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:10 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


And, it's one that eventually ensnares your kids with you, as they have to take over a lot of the management of your affairs as you decline.

Not to mention the cost in both actual dollars and lost opportunity of caring for/ensuring care for an aging parent. I won't be leaving my kids an inheritance, but as long as I'm of sound mind, I won't be leaving them a burden either. My best hope is to have my modest house paid off and my simple affairs organized and up to date for them should I need to board an ice floe.
posted by headnsouth at 8:05 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


perhaps we need an exit survey to get data on the dissatisfaction of the American citizen experience.



on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is Meh and 5 is Completely Had An Assful of This how would you rate your experience with the following features of American Citizenry:

1. Rugged Individualism

2. Victim's Rights

3. Self Interested Special Interests

4. Hollywood

5. The World's Policeman

6. Lousy Neighbors who either act better than you (Canada) or don't cut their lawn and always have at least 8 broken cars lying around (Mexico)

7. Big Brother

8. Big Brother (the TV show)

9. The best healthcare in the world at outrageous prices

10. High Fructose Corn Syrup



Finally: Would you recommend American Citizenry to others in your family including future generations?


Pres Obama, Congress and Supreme Court: need you to effort this and have data by Monday's state of the union meeting.
posted by Colonel Panic at 8:15 AM on December 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Finally: Would you recommend American Citizenry to others in your family including future generations?

Derail, but: I have two small children, and my advice to them, when they're old enough to hear it, will be to make a life for themselves elsewhere.

Their mother has Australian citizenship and - even with all of Australia's problems - it's looking far more promising in the long run.

Rerail: The comments in this article are grim, and more interesting than the article itself.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:34 AM on December 23, 2013


1. Rugged Individualism

5

2. Victim's Rights

say what now

3. Self Interested Special Interests

begging the question

4. Hollywood

hey Catching Fire was pretty damn good thanks

5. The World's Policeman

yeah ok, 5

6. Lousy Neighbors who either act better than you (Canada) or don't cut their lawn and always have at least 8 broken cars lying around (Mexico)

sorry life sucks in Canada's Pants, but this whole superior attitude the Pants have about the Shoes is kinda... well that's a 5.

7. Big Brother

It's more like Big Brother, Big Sister, and That Nosy Old Aunt Who Has Nothing Better To Do Than Poke Her Nose Into Your Life All The Time. 5.

8. Big Brother (the TV show)

Take off and nuke it from orbit etc

9. The best healthcare in the world at outrageous prices

5

10. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Useful for things like pecan pie.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:36 AM on December 23, 2013


What is there left when you’ve worked your body into the ground all your life and have nothing to show for it? There’s medical care that will prolong your life, but it won’t really make you truly healthy, or you feel good and pain-free again, and that’s even if you could afford it, which you really can’t. You might be able to find some kind of work you’re physically able and have the skill set to do, but how many times in one life can one person muster up the mental, physical, and emotional energy to pick himself up from the bottom and start over? Your kids are struggling just as hard as you are, one emergency away from ruin.

It’s a full-time job just keeping up with the paperwork for what assistance programs are left, but they barely help you keep body and soul together, and they can be snatched away from you at any minute. Half the country – the more vocal, influential half – is screaming that you’re a parasite and a drain, and everything that’s wrong with society, even though you worked as long as you could to pay into those programs. People either hate you, pity you, are depressed by you, or live in mortal fear that they could BECOME you overnight.

It’s a testament to the human survival instinct that suicide rates are as low as they are.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


It’s a full-time job just keeping up with the paperwork for what assistance programs are left, but they barely help you keep body and soul together, and they can be snatched away from you at any minute.

This is one of the things I'm thankful for. I'm on disability right now, and it's guaranteed for two years (I hope to be out from under this shadow before then). It can't be arbitrarily taken away, and even if something is denied the appeals process is relatively transparent and the workers take great care to make sure you know exactly what to do and where to do it if an appeal is needed.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:05 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


How closely do suicide rates generally track the economy?

Here's one study from Australia (pdf). And a meta-review of several socio-economic factors and suicide rates can be found in the first article available for download on this link. I know I have another, recent, article on the suicide rates in the US and the recent economic recession that I haven't read yet; I'm back in the office tomorrow and will dig up the cite if I can find it in my stack of stuff to read.

As with much human behaviour, suicide is a complex thing, and the studies above indicate that there are a lot of things going on, but there does appear to be a link between suicide and economic indicators. Some of the preliminary research I've been doing with the local post-secondary and the data collected at the crisis centre I work at is supporting that right now; interestingly, the initial research is showing an increase in suicidal ideation now that we are in "recovery" as opposed to during the worst of the recession; our hypothesis is that this is due to the fact that there are a lot of people being left behind, even while the news proclaims how good things are/improving economically (I'm in Canada and in an oil rick province, so the context economically right now is different). The resulting feeling of "everyone else is doing well, but I'm not" is what we think might be contributing.

The US and the UK have about the same suicide rate, despite the dramatic difference in the number of guns in each country.

The UK suicide rate took a substantial jump between 2010 and 2011 - from 11.1 to 11.8/100,000 and the US suicide rate was at 12.4 for 2010 and 12.3 for 2011 (at least, according to the prelim stats). I'd be curious to know why the increase in the UK suicide rate in that span, as opposed to trying to draw comparisons between the countries right now.
posted by nubs at 9:06 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. This is one seriously bleak pre-Christmas thread.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:20 AM on December 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


How closely do suicide rates generally track the economy?

I forget the link, believe it was here on metafilter though, that talked about the main "cause" of suicide (as far as that study went, though there are probably much deeper reasons) is drastic change. Not just economics, but relationships, kids, divorce, jobs, etc. In most of the deaths, it seemed there was a major change to the life of the person, that they just felt they couldn't cope with. Toss in a feeling that it will be hopeless and endless, bad combination.

I've attempted suicide many, many times, none stuck, and lost my best friend to it about five years ago. Over the weekend, an ex of a friend of mine took her own life. So this is really on my mind right now.

The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

I find this interesting, as i mostly hear about the suicides of women, and rarely about men. Seems the reaction when women do it, there is sympathy, but for men, it's "they were weak". I hate that.
posted by usagizero at 10:14 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think I would add that for the people in their 50s now, who are still working and paying their bills and keeping their life insurance paid up, it's scary to look 15 years ahead and realize that the income won't go up much but the bills will, unexpected things are going to happen, and that in general you are swiftly (more swiftly than you think!) gobbling up a disappearing stack of assets with a long stretch of potentially useless decrepitude and financial burden on your family looming before you.

And that insurance IS paid up. For now. While you can still afford it.

The only times I have seriously contemplated self-annihilation was in order to provide for the future for my family. Something I occasionally still think about. I think that is a decision a lot of people end up making. Insurance, in the end --your end, specifically-- is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. And the world's worst --and last-- financial back-up plan. That's why I think suicide is tied to the economy, anyway.
posted by umberto at 10:28 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems the reaction when women do it, there is sympathy, but for men, it's "they were weak". I hate that.

Me, too. Self-preservation is the most basic, strongest, deep-seated instinct in every animal. To override that takes incredible determination. Nobody's obligated to agree with the suicidal person or think he's doing the right thing, but to pretend that it doesn't take enormous strength to go against the most basic, primal programming hardwired into his brain is just nonsense.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:42 AM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wow. This is one seriously bleak pre-Christmas thread.

True, but the holidays are also a trigger for a lot of people who tend towards depressive states or who might be more inclined to kill themselves. I'm watching a friend of a friend melt down on Facebook right now and all I can do is let his friends help him, because I know he won't listen to me. And it's hard on some of them, as they have lost friends to suicide before.

But it's inherent in a lot of the holiday season, this undercurrent, and it starts the conversation.

What starts off It's a Wonderful Life? Someone roped into a job they don't really want, and finally being able to break free, but eventually being pulled into a worse situation by the people he was helping (Uncle, Bailey Building and Loan).

Sure it's a happily ever after that's not going to pull someone very far along the path of suicide back, but it's a start of a conversation.

I think those conversations, here, there, somewhere, are important.

And for some of us it is chemical, in addition to emotional and social. My emotional and socioeconomic life are at good enough points. The wolf is not at the door. Social life is improving. Family life is improving. In some ways it's not all as good as I thought it could be or has been, in other ways it's better. The "me" that is living my life this week is fundamentally the same person as the "me" living my life and hosting Thanksgiving a month ago, or thirteen months ago.

And yet, some chemical twitch has happened that I can't quite find. Some chemical stressor or flow or something has been altered, some way, some how, with no significant changes except for time. I can think about suicide and not only not want to do it, but nearly see that time as another me, the current me is detached enough to almost not believe I could think that way. Except I could, and I did. The thought of having that out or exit was a relief, a fall back.

I don't see that me as weak. Injured, perhaps, but now glad to have pulled through without pulling it off in my tweens or teens or near-now. I sought the help I was told I needed, I finally believed I needed, but even that wasn't enough until [something]. I don't know what that [something] is. I wish I could bottle it and send it back in time to a much younger me.

Not saying I haven't practically ruled it out. I'm still a fan of assisted suicide for terminal cases (I don't think I can judge for mental cases). But I'm also in a physically healthier state (though I am still morbidly obese, that has only gotten worse over the last decade) for now. I just don't, at this moment, have it in my back pocket anymore for [reasons]. Whatever those [reasons] were at the time I had them.
posted by breve at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are four basic fears:

1. Fear of what I might not get.
2. Fear of what I might lose.
3. Fear of what you think of me.
4. Fear of what you would think of me if you only knew what I was thinking.

To the extent that I live my life succumbing to one or more of those fears is the extent to which I am susceptible to depression, anger, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide.

With few rare exceptions, suicide is nothing but a selfish, self-centered, irrational response to self-pity and fear, regardless of how I might try to phrase it in my head. Whether or not it's a "I'll show them" or a "They're better off without me, my shit and my problems" line of thinking, it speaks mostly to the distorted ego/Godchild within me.

This world can be an impartial, callous, or downright hostile place. And I do not think myself immune to thoughts of suicide, or situations in which I will entertain these thoughts again. Nor do I have any animosity towards anyone who does. However, I entertain little sympathy for those who make that final, terrible, selfish decision. They got their wish.

For me, it is better to think of and empathize with those who now suffer as a consequence--namely the families, friends, and loved ones they left behind.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:18 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

I find this interesting, as i mostly hear about the suicides of women, and rarely about men.


Pulling from a comment I made in a different incarnation here:

Gender differences in suicide are a fairly heavily researched issue. In short (for western cultures; I haven't really read much cross-cultural research on suicide, but I believe this gender issue may be reversed in Asia/China), females express more suicidal ideation and attempts overall; males, however, complete suicide more often. This is generally understood to be because men choose more fast-acting methods - firearms, hanging, asphyxiation - than women whose prefered methods (overdose, poisoning) tend to allow for time for discovery (and i know I've read somewhere that in Canada that more women are choosing hanging, resulting in an increase in the female rate, but I'll be damned if I can find that now). There is some question about whether or not female suicides are more likely to be recorded as accidental deaths, however, as a result of those methods (this article covers a lot of ground about the assumptions/potential issues in the gender asymmetry in suicidal behaviour).

Basically, there's a lot here we're still learning about with regards to gender and suicide, and that's before we start trying to account for all other factors at play.

And yeah, it's a depressing topic, but for some folks this time of year presents many triggers for a lot of difficult emotional topics. Whatever it is, I hope folks reading this thread know there are lots of resources out there to get some help from - here's an international listing and the States has developed a great network. Note that a number of us are using online chat now as well.

And while we talk about suicide a great deal in a lot of these web presences, we are there for anything that leaves a person feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. You don't have to be at the point of attempting suicide before you call; in fact, it's better all around if you call well in advance of that.
posted by nubs at 11:19 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


However, I entertain little sympathy for those who make that final, terrible, selfish decision.

To the depressive brain, the decision to end one's own life is not selfish. In their perception, it is as plain as the noses on their faces that their continued existence is and always will be a drain and a burden on their loved ones, and although they may have initial grief to work through, their loved ones will be happier and better off without them in the long run, like when you have a diseased tooth extracted.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:24 AM on December 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


kinnakeet, that's because it is a bleak Christmas:
The expiration of benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans this weekend will exacerbate the worst period of chronic unemployment in post-war history, the chairman of the White House council of economic advisers warns.

The expiring programme, which provides emergency help for the long-term unemployed, was introduced after the banking crash in 2008 to cushion the impact of the recession but is due to end on Saturday. Congress had an opportunity to continue it, but failed to agree on an extension before breaking for Christmas.

Although recent improvements in the economy have boosted overall job growth, economists are concerned that long-term unemployment rates remain higher than at any time between 1948 and the recent financial crisis.
In a few weeks, Obama will perform another empty and stilted jeremiad for the State of the Union, while the bought Congress sits, counting down the minutes until they can get back to dinner plans with other millionaires where they will decide what laws will get passed over a dinner my father will never be able to afford.

Or as we'll hear in the speech, we're making progress for working families in the Greatest Nation on Earth.
posted by deanklear at 11:28 AM on December 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


owever, I entertain little sympathy for those who make that final, terrible, selfish decision.

I'm so terribly sorry that my desire to stop living in grinding misery every day strikes you as selfish.

Have a little fucking compassion.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:28 AM on December 23, 2013 [31 favorites]


I'm glad someone mentioned Durkheim above. It's kind of amazing that this is really one of the first topics to get a statistical treatment in sociology, which barely existed at the time. "Suicide" is a great read both from the perspective of the topic and the history of statistical analysis in the social sciences
posted by ServSci at 11:28 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was going to type up a response, but one of the commenters on the article puts things better than I can:
This country needs to take a long hard look at itself and its "definition" of capitalism and employment. Currently, it means disposability of workers on a whim. How can we ask our young people to be pioneers or adventurers or innovators or inventors when all the politicians can do is blather about "jobs." It is minimum wage thinking that produces minimum wage mentalities.

As the guy said who came to trim our trees the other day, "The problem with this country is no one gives a s--t about anything anymore." It was his opinion (with which I agree), not a whine or an excuse. We need to care again about who and what we are as people and a nation, and what we can be.

Careers, not jobs. Respect, not disposability
posted by Anima Mundi at 11:37 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow. This is one seriously bleak pre-Christmas thread.
"The yuletide is a special hell for those families who have suffered any loss or who must admit to any imperfection; the so-called spirit of giving can be as greedy as receiving--Christmas is our time to be aware of what we lack, of who's not home." ~John Irving

Seems the reaction when women do it, there is sympathy, but for men, it's "they were weak".

What I've always heard is that for men, they're weak, and for women, they're selfish. Basically the same things you get criticized for in life.
posted by headnsouth at 11:38 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The only times I have seriously contemplated self-annihilation was in order to provide for the future for my family. Something I occasionally still think about. I think that is a decision a lot of people end up making.

Yup.
More often than I'm comfortable with. I look at what life insurance would pay-out to my wife, and then I look at what she could do with the money. It seems to be a reasonable trade-off to me.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:42 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The difficulty is staging a suicide to make it look like a total accident. Insurance companies don't pay out for suicide.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:44 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought life insurance didn't pay out on suicides?
posted by Justinian at 11:54 AM on December 23, 2013


That's a common misconception (probably a TV/Hollywood "truth"). Most life insurance policies payout even in the event of suicide as long as you have been insured for two years. At least in Canada and the USA.
posted by Mitheral at 11:55 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I stand corrected.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:02 PM on December 23, 2013


Suicide is a form of escapism from your problems, obviously.
But it usually only becomes a serious contender if you can't think of any other ways to escape.

Seeing old age, economic insecurity creeping up on you, and not having any options to say, move to the other coast where there might be better job opportunities etc, because you don't think there are options anywhere, and have commitments, feels like having options closed off.


I really think the lack of physical escape routes is behind New Zealand's unusually high suicide rate - 18.1 for males, 5.5 for females, despite lower gun ownership and a better social safety net (although to counter that, I've also heard our coroners are much less likely to rule death 'accidental' rather than suicide - which really affects the statistics in some countries).
Physical escape routes: New Zealand is two islands, in the middle of nowhere, with only 4.43 million people. It's really hard to get far enough away from a situation to lose contact with people. Getting overseas is a big financial expense. A lot of people do leave, and do travel (about a million Kiwis live outside NZ, which is a huge proportion really), but it's a much bigger hump to get over, to have to leave the country.

I really think that that ability to pick up sticks and start a completely new life somewhere else, or know that that option is just there, has saved many, many people from suicide.
posted by Elysum at 12:02 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. Rugged Individualism

5

2. Victim's Rights

say what now

3. Self Interested Special Interests

begging the question

4. Hollywood

hey Catching Fire was pretty damn good thanks

5. The World's Policeman

yeah ok, 5

6. Lousy Neighbors who either act better than you (Canada) or don't cut their lawn and always have at least 8 broken cars lying around (Mexico)

sorry life sucks in Canada's Pants, but this whole superior attitude the Pants have about the Shoes is kinda... well that's a 5.

7. Big Brother

It's more like Big Brother, Big Sister, and That Nosy Old Aunt Who Has Nothing Better To Do Than Poke Her Nose Into Your Life All The Time. 5.

8. Big Brother (the TV show)

Take off and nuke it from orbit etc

9. The best healthcare in the world at outrageous prices

5

10. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Useful for things like pecan pie.


Don't jump FFFM!
posted by Colonel Panic at 12:04 PM on December 23, 2013


I'm one of those hated boomers (55) who's unfortunately already lost the person most important to me and am making the choice to stick around as long as it takes to look after my mother. After that, there's nothing keeping me here.

I don't give a damn what sanctimonious judgment is made about me. There's no real future except continuing to pay off my hubby's medical bills and a nothing job; few folks will remember me 5 years after.

That's what's going on in the mind of one data point.
posted by mightshould at 12:09 PM on December 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


10. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Useful for things like pecan pie.


That would be regular corn syrup (i.e. Karo). Not hfcs.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:16 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia does state that they're roughly equal, but the World Health Organization's data shows a substantial difference as does this from the Washington Post, which got its data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The WHO and OECD put the US rate as notably higher than the UK's.

Looks like the NRA has hired somebody to edit Wikipedia. The latest accurate statistics that there are almost twice as many gun suicides than gun homicides are sobering.

Personally, after losing my insurance, I was unable to get any help for my emotional problems until I showed up at a County Hospital's Emergency Room, literally carrying a vacuum cleaner hose long enough to reach from my car's tailpipe into my back window and telling them I knew how to use it.

I've said before that the only reason I would EVER buy a gun would be if I ever specifically wanted to murder somebody. But for myself? I live less than 5 miles from an ocean that would be great for just walking out into until my hat floats. Of course, I'll be wearing a hat.

I'm one of those hated boomers (55) who's unfortunately already lost the person most important to me and am making the choice to stick around as long as it takes to look after my mother. After that, there's nothing keeping me here.

My father and last blood relative died when I was 55 and I've had nothing keeping me here but the fact that I am surviving comfortably on a disability stipend that I never expected to be enough to survive, so I can sit in front of my no-bedroom apartment looking out at a beautiful 'between towns' view and ignoring the noisy highway while checking the internet to see all the people unluckier than me and remind myself I have been ridiculously lucky in spite of my lack of material wealth. And watch cartoons. But if it ever turns bad, I have the ocean nearby.

2. Victim's Rights

Sorry, but I must digress... This was the most hypocritical of bogus movements in the last few decades, contrived to excuse draconian penalties for certain crimes and certain criminals under the premise of "giving victims and/or survivors closure" while providing zero resources for their support. An excuse for institutional evil.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:33 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some interesting (like, tragic and sad) tables in the link:

* Suicide hasn't much increased for black people or Hispanic people: it's increased massively for white people.
* Men commit suicide far more commonly (3x rate) than women.
* Whites commit suicide far more commonly than non-whites.
* Hanging oneself has become far more common.
posted by alasdair at 12:41 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, this is cheerful. Seriously; it's good to know I'm not the only one in this boat.

A big part of this, for me, is that all my illusions about old age have been dissipated in the past few years. I've seen too many people slide from fully functional into doddering, and from there to downright misery, to have anything to look forward to once I hit my sixties. Even the quick deaths are agonizing; even the smartest among us gets stupid.

There are counter-examples, of course, but they're almost invariably wealthy, and can afford the best possible health care, and even they get moved out of the limelight eventually.

The Norman Rockwell ideal of growing old by the fire while the family takes care of you was mostly a myth to start with, and now it's been replaced by a struggle to stay out of the abject awfulness of 'retirement homes.' Families can barely afford to take care of themselves, with all of them working; almost no-one can afford to take care of someone made invalid by age.

I'll hang in there until my mind starts to go, and then I'm off to whatever's next. There's nothing left here for old people now. Maybe we had something to offer, maybe not, but the next generation will never know.

And that's an interesting point about hanging, alasdair. I once asked an EMT friend of mine what the most considerate form of suicide is. He was the one finding the bodies; which one did he mind least. His answer was immediate, he didn't mind the hangings. Much cleaner than anything else.

I plan to leave a tip.
posted by MrVisible at 12:44 PM on December 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't give a damn what sanctimonious judgment is made about me. There's no real future except continuing to pay off my hubby's medical bills and a nothing job; few folks will remember me 5 years after.

In many ways, that's kind of where I've landed in my thoughts on suicide over the past few years. Disclaimer: I'm a seriously depressed person who's been hospitalized three times for suicidal ideation and multiple attempts.

But I arrived at this thinking during one of my more rational periods (of course it's also possible I was just rationalizing something I knew was going to come up again). There is a difference, I think, between suicidal thoughts and feelings stemming from depression, and suicidal thoughts and feelings stemming from an honest appraisal of one's life and prospects. Even if depression is a causative factor in the suicidal ideation, I think my thinking still applies. Namely, that if we agree suicide (assisted or otherwise) is a reasonable thing to do when dealing with a terminal illness, as a basic matter of human rights and dignity, suicide when not physically ill should also be treated the same way. I mean, if we're going to agree that one can commit suicide to avoid suffering, it seems a bit odd to add "but only if that suffering is physical," don't you think?

Living with depression is a daily torment that is really, really hard to explain to people who have only ever experienced the usual bits of human sadness, transitory depression that is part of the normal human experience. While I don't intend to discount how painful those episodes are for everyone, and I really, really am not having a dick-measuring "whose suffering is worse" moment, there is a qualitative difference between normal human sadness and the lived experience of severe, chronic depression.

Imagine having a chorus of people following you around, all day every day, telling you how worthless you are. Reminding you of past misdeeds and embarrassments. Pointing out all the things you don't have, and telling you how unlikely it is you'll ever have them. And then telling you that the few things you have left you'll probably lose, and you probably deserve it, because you're so worthless. That nothing good will ever happen to you again. That there's no point in you being out and about right now meeting someone for coffee because they don't like you much anyway, so you should probably just cancel to save time. That embarking on a project you want to do is pretty pointless, because it's not like anybody's going to be interested anyway.

And then imagine not being able to put in earplugs, because these people are inside your head and they never, ever shut up. Sometimes they'll get quiet for a time, in response to some outside stimulus, but eventually that stimulus is gone or it wears off and the voices start talking a bit louder then. It's like some vicious puppeteer has control of your brain and makes you think only of the worst eveything.

Small wonder that so many depressives self-medicate to the point of addiction and/or overdose. It's one of the few things that will mute the voices for a blessed hour or two where you can feel almost normal, maybe, if you're lucky.

And it never, ever stops. You know that when you wake up in the morning, it'll all start again. And the morning after that, and the morning after that, until you die.

Quality of life issues, which is what assisted suicide/euthanasia issues basically boil down to, are not only about the physical world. The quality of life you experience when you're depressed is horribly diminished. Anhedonia is a terrible, terrible thing. The most horrible thing, of course, is that depression isn't always treatable. The best modalities, according to my shrinks during my most recent sojourn in a mental hospital, tend to have around a 60% efficacy rate. Yes, it's ballpark, but on average, a third of people with depression aren't ever going to get better, or our improvement is going to be minimal at best. I think faced with that, suicide as a reaction to depression can be a rational choice about maintaining your dignity as a human being, your right to live--and end--your life as you wish, and your right to avoid unnecessary suffering.

So there's that.

I don't think that an honest appraisal of one's life is necessarily any different than that. I know a guy (details changed and omitted for his privacy, but it's overall accurate), we'll call him Enzo, who retired last year. Shortly before he retired he lost his three-decade low-paying dead-end job due to company bankruptcy. He has a tiny little apartment, not particularly great health, no education past a year or two of highschool, and a few friends. He has no romantic (or even sexual) prospects, and hasn't for at least two or three decades. Trust me when I say this is not going to change in the future. He has no children, is largely estranged from his family, and has no real purpose in life anymore beyond the tiny, band-aid purposes he can give himself. It's heartbreaking watching him break up what could be a shopping trip to two different stores into five days of errands just so he has something to do. He's got, basically, nothing to live for and not much to leave behind. Apart from being very financially comfortable, that's basically it. He's also salt of the earth and would give anyone the shirt off his back. He's good people, he just has nothing.

He's talked openly about suicide. But his religious beliefs won't allow him to. So he's stuck, living this life of quiet desperation and a long slow slide into decrepitude. I think it would be a rational choice if he decided he wanted to off himself, the same way I think pTerry has made a rational choice for when things get to a certain level of bad.

So there's that too. I guess what I'm saying is I've swung to a point in my life where I may not actively want to kill myself so much anymore (thanks, Wellbutrin!), but I think that suicide is often a rational choice, even if mental illness is involved, and may well still be a rational choice for me at some point in the future. You have to be sure you're really making an objective analysis of your life, free as much as possible from cognitive distortions (which is why it is not a rational choice for me now), but there are times when it makes sense to walk into the woods and not come back.

But at the end of the day, it comes back to basic rights. We are all going to die eventually, and we all have the right do decide exactly when and how that will happen, if we wish to make that decision. It's not selfish to want to be free of pain. Would you consider a terminal cancer patient selfish for wanting to open the morphine drip right up and stop breathing? Of course not.

I'm not saying suicide is a good thing, or that it is always--or even often--a truly rational choice. I'm certainly not saying we should abandon people to suicide attempts; we absolutely should, as a society, pull together to find purpose for everyone, to find reasons for everyone to want to live, and we should always intervene in suicides because often they are not rational acts, so better safe than sorry.

But sometimes there aren't enough reasons to want to live, and plenty of reasons not to, and in a nutshell that's why some of us make the decision to just check out. Sometimes that's from physical illness, sometimes it's from mental illness, sometimes it's from an honest appraisal of your life.

And judging people for that choice isn't really going to do anything to stop that choice being made. Maybe try understanding a bit more what it's like on this side of the fence.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:51 PM on December 23, 2013 [31 favorites]


No drama suicide. It's a thing, I believe - at least from talking to a couple of friends. I'm onboard with that. Suicide is just self-termination and self-determination. What reason is there to have death be a matter of chance? Unless I die suddenly in an accident, I know the day might come, when I'm no longer able to live a life of at least minimal dignity, due to physical infirmity. I'm doing all I can to maintain the best health possible, but I can't control aging.

You talk to your spouse and loved ones. If there is no reason for you to hang around, because nobody is dependent on you, you make it an acceptable idea, that you can self-check out once you've declined to the point where the quality of life reaches unacceptable levels.

I have no desire to linger on in a hospital. Or linger on at home in my sickbed. Or vegetate anywhere, a burden to others and myself.

I suppose one may pass gently in the night and never wake up, but I reckon that's pretty rare and a foolish thing to count on. Besides, even then, not nice to have your spouse wake up to a dead body, or have your body discovered by a stranger alerted by the smell.

You take stock. You decide, calmly with as much of a clear mind as you can muster. You make the preparations ahead of time, rationally, with everything taken care of, and leaving a minimum of fuss behind. Then the time comes when you can actually set a date. And it happens as rationally as closing a bank account. Goodbye, it's been a blast, but it's time to leave, thank you everybody, and the fates, and best wishes to all. And you're gone. No drama exit.
posted by VikingSword at 1:04 PM on December 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


alasdair: "Hanging oneself has become far more common."

An effect of waiting periods?
posted by Mitheral at 1:35 PM on December 23, 2013


I really think that that ability to pick up sticks and start a completely new life somewhere else, or know that that option is just there, has saved many, many people from suicide.

I think you're onto something there, Elysum. Even for chronic depression, or paranoia, or alchoholism, the "wide open spaces" beyond the frontier used to be an option for coping, or for completely rebooting one's life.

Where is that option now?
posted by General Tonic at 2:01 PM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


~"Hanging oneself has become far more common."
~An effect of waiting periods?


Maybe. Though, there's no wait to buy a shotgun.

Cost? Guns aren't necessarily cheap (in relative terms.) I also suspect a lot of people are afraid to go into places where guns are sold...gus stores, pawn shops, gun shows, etc. I know I feel pretty out-of-place and intimidated in such places.

I can't imagine hanging myself. At-home hanging would most likely end up being more of a choking/suffocating death, since most people probably don't use a sufficiently strong rope from enough of a height to break the neck outright. Gimme a bullet to the head, thank you very much.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:11 PM on December 23, 2013


Shotguns make it really, really unbelievably fucking messy for the people who find you, though, and/or super unpleasant for whoever has to officially identify you. The first time my dad tried it was apparently very very bloody, and even 20 years later I don't think my mom ever recovered from that.

The second and final successful time he just looked like he was asleep. Mostly I just felt relieved for him; seeing it was not nearly as hard as telling my mom.
posted by elizardbits at 2:45 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


aaaahh someone needs to post a puppy video compilation FPP now
posted by elizardbits at 2:48 PM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


A grown up conversation, about a grown up topic... not always a "mistake" or "tragedy"... I'm glad to have this calm rational place on the Internet. Thanks MeFi!
posted by MikeWarot at 2:52 PM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, but I still just can't bring myself to believe it could ever be as easy as this to escape the misery of the human condition. It'd probably work just like Groundhog's Day--you'd just get sent right back to the beginning of your personal timeline and end up having to relive the whole miserable experience all over again the instant your subjective time line stopped (because objectively, your subjective personal history is still there, unchanging, hardwired into the architecture of space-time). I just don't see how any other possibility makes sense. Maybe there'd still be some way to ensure the act would at least spare loved ones some suffering, but suicide as a relief for one's own suffering seems like a pretty dodgy prospect.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:12 PM on December 23, 2013


That's the way the story is supposed to end, yes? You get Died in a Tragic Accident (would anyone die in a happy accident? Hitler, maybe?) There's Struck Down Before Their Time for things such as your heart seizing up like an engine roasting over a punctured oil pain. If a war isn't on, Noble Death is out for most. The Victim's Death calls for a Villain. If dying in a hospital bed surrounded by fat grandchildren is off the menu, you don't have a lot of options.

Sometimes I wonder if a non-trivial fraction of society's stance on suicide is nothing more than a case of self-hypnosis, chanting "suicide is terrible" over and over again until most everyone believes it and those who do not are afraid to speak up. And with such a stigma, those wishing to end their lives have fewer available alternatives that aren't messy, traumatizing for someone, painful, and so forth.

Of course, in the parallel universe where the act is not illegal and otherwise stymied at every turn, I am imagining the sorts of procedural hoops through which you would be prodded to jump by various laws, policies, and social pressures.
posted by adipocere at 3:17 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


saulgoodman, I'm afraid that perspective takes more faith in the purposefulness and symmetry of the universe than most people who have gotten to the point of suicide can muster. It's really not of much use to those of us who are convinced, through long hard experience, that the world is arbitrary and fundamentally chaotic.
posted by MrVisible at 3:25 PM on December 23, 2013


Sorry, but I still just can't bring myself to believe it could ever be as easy as this to escape the misery of the human condition. It'd probably work just like Groundhog's Day...
What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?... Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
--Nietzsche, The Gay Science
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:09 PM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


(a) I really hate when boomers are referred to as if we were all the same people, just because there's a statistical uptick in something that happens.
(b) I didn't have a proper career and start putting money toward a pension until I was in my 40s. Keep in mind that my cohort didn't all go into law, medicine, or similar professional pursuits right out of college. Some of us were artists. Some were waitstaff. Some were indigent. Some had PTSD from Vietnam. Me, I was a recovering alcoholic and didn't get it together for a while after I stopped drinking at 22.
(c) I'm 62 and solidly in the boomer cohort, but my house is paid off and my daughter's school loans are paid off because we didn't spend very much money and didn't go into big debt. Right now I'm better off than I've ever been in my life, because I don't owe anything. Also, I have health insurance.
(d) My dad, who is in his eighties, has mooched off other people most of his life and is happy as a clam living in a senior community these days.
(e) Unless you have nobody else in your life, suicide is gonna hurt someone. No way around it. That said, my mom decided to stop eating and taking nutrition (five years ago Wednesday) because of her Parkinson's, and I supported her decision, kept her doctor from checking her into the hospital, and sat with her and watched her die in the skilled nursing facility. It still hurts. That took a chunk out of me. It was brutal.
posted by Peach at 4:48 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think part of this is society being more secular and part the times we live in.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:07 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


More secular than when?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:29 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some thoughts on the increase in US suicide rates - from May, but the CDC was already talking about the trend then.
posted by nubs at 10:03 PM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman, I'm afraid that perspective takes more faith in the purposefulness and symmetry of the universe than most people who have gotten to the point of suicide can muster.

It's not faith it's cynicism. I find it impossible to believe there is an easy escape available, period. I have less hope than the average suicidal depressive, because even escape by suicide seems like a pipe dream to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:32 AM on December 24, 2013


And it's not the chaotic aspects of the world that bother me. I love a lot of the more chaotic aspects of life. It's the human propensity for malevolence and deliberate cruelty that depress the crap out of me. At least when random weather catastrophes hurt people, it's nothing personal.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:50 AM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's heartbreaking watching him break up what could be a shopping trip to two different stores into five days of errands just so he has something to do. He's got, basically, nothing to live for and not much to leave behind. Apart from being very financially comfortable, that's basically it. He's also salt of the earth and would give anyone the shirt off his back. He's good people, he just has nothing.

Wow, you just described me in 20 years! Without being financially comfortable.

Growing up in the 1970s, we had a Chinese family upstairs for neighbors. The parents and grandmother immigrated in the '60s. The grandmother, who lived well into her 90s but could barely walk, would do nothing all day except look out the window on to the street, and wave to us whenever we were around. And she did this for 20 years.

I think she was content to live that way because, well, it was certainly better than living in China before and during the Cultural Revolution. ("If you don't have nothing, you don't need nothing.") But nowadays, old people have lots of nice things that they have to give up, which makes them sad. I'm not saying that living one way or the other is better, but I can understand the viewpoint of well, I don't have all these wonderful things any more, so what's the point?
posted by Melismata at 8:16 AM on December 24, 2013


It's not faith it's cynicism. I find it impossible to believe there is an easy escape available, period.

I'm trying to understand how death is not an escape. There's no afterlife; once your brain shuts down it's over. How is that not an escape?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:45 AM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to understand how death is not an escape. There's no afterlife; once your brain shuts down it's over. How is that not an escape?

If current scientific understanding is correct, it's not that simple. Unless General Relativity has some foundational problems, one of its implications is that our sense of the passage of time is illusory. In reality, our subjective impression of the passage of time may itself be permanently fixed in space-time. Death doesn't wipe the past away, which means it leaves our illusion of the subjective experience of moving through time in the past intact. Look at it this way: if time works the way we think it does, if you could use a machine to sneak a look into the past, you'd still see yourself there feeling and doing the things you were feeling and doing yesterday. Well, after you die, you don't get to escape any part of your awful life as you've lived it so far, you just cut off any possibility of more experiences (good or bad) being added to it.

At least, that's how it plays out under accepted interpretations of Minkowski spacetime, which is baked into the foundations of General Relativity.

Scientific issues aside, if there's even a remote possibility it would work out this way, knowing my luck, it would. So as I said, I'm not hopeful enough to think suicide offers a way out.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:13 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


If current scientific understanding is correct, it's not that simple. Unless General Relativity has some foundational problems, one of its implications is that our sense of the passage of time is illusory.

Sure. But when the organ required for observing that passage of time is dead, there is no observation being made.

The only way in which your statement about death not being an escape is if you posit the existence of a soul, for which there is zero evidence.

Well, after you die, you don't get to escape any part of your awful life as you've lived it so far, you just cut off any possibility of more experiences (good or bad) being added to it.

After you die you are dead. There is no longer a 'you,' being as 'you' are built out of a functioning brain, to experience anything.

Scientific issues aside, if there's even a remote possibility it would work out this way, knowing my luck, it would. So as I said, I'm not hopeful enough to think suicide offers a way out.

That's a major cognitive distortion there. Suicide does offer a way out. Dead is dead is dead. There's nothing after. Your body just decomposes. That's it.

Please don't take this as snark, but I really hope you are in therapy.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:39 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please don't take this as snark, but I really hope you are in therapy.

Eh, I don't know. All your arguments make sense, but I'm still w/ saulgoodman here. I have enough, ah, negative capability to at least have some doubts about the ability of suicide to permanently solve my problems. In all likelihood death is the end, but by definition we can't actually know that as there's only the one way to reliably test it.

So if that arguably-delusional belief is why we have saulgoodman here now, then I say the hell with therapy!
posted by hap_hazard at 1:03 PM on December 24, 2013


No, it's already "dead"; it's the sense of change we mistake for life that's most likely an illusion, given the best we know so far.

Conceptual/perceptual delusions are to some extent probably necessary for healthy mental function; but my view as expresseed here in particular is almost certainly not delusion (since the only one in this exchange laying claim to the kind of certainty on which delusions depend is you; my claims are all speculative, and I acknowledge as much).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:52 PM on December 24, 2013


I'm with saulgoodman.

Death isn't sleep, it's not an escape, it's not relief from suffering, because you're not there to feel any relief.
In the vastness of time and space, all that there would be, would be the life that you lived, and with suicide, the last moment that was ever me, would be me killing myself, and those last seconds stretching into the only eternity I'd ever have.

But, it's kind of hard to put that into words. The sheer pointlessness of non-existence.
posted by Elysum at 2:14 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


In reality, our subjective impression of the passage of time may itself be permanently fixed in space-time.

and

No, it's already "dead"; it's the sense of change we mistake for life that's most likely an illusion, given the best we know so far.

Except, the quality of experience I have had of the time before I was born will be the same quality of experience I'll have after I die - so I'm completely fine with that.

And the crucial difference in those two from a epistemological point of view? I already experienced the former. Which means, I have no such worries as expressed above. A whole lot of nothing before, and a whole lot of nothing after. So we concentrate on that brief spark between the eternities. Good enough for me.
posted by VikingSword at 3:04 PM on December 24, 2013


I had a close friend make the choice. His question to me was, "Can't I just be done?" Out west where I live. a number of people in the last two years, have gone down to the canyons to end themselves. They are always boomers, and I predict that percentage will grow as the boomers, originally those idealists who helped change the world, increasingly find a world that does not welcome them, and which has no respect for them. While the millenials are working three jobs, with the vigor of youth to take them upward and find a niche, the boomers jobs vanished and they are behind the tech curtain, or outside the tech pale wall, however you want to think of it. Watching our eighty-something parents come completely unglued, and spending our spare time, and whatever upward job mobility we might have had, evaporate because we have a more than part time job taking care of them, makes us realize we don't want to become that kind of burden for our children who are mid twenties to mid forties. We are, in fact competing with our children for decent paying jobs. Ha ha ha ha guess who is going to win that competition? The boomers also made considerable inquiry into the nature of existence, and lived fully, with a high degree of spirit. They have had it all, in many ways, lived well, and are not too interested in minimum wage work, subsistence, and emotional poverty. The people who live the longest on Earth live in isolated villages, have strong family structure, and live together all generations. Believe me, I will take the earlier exit, rather than live like that, our nation quit tribal living some time ago. This statistic will rise. In the next ten years this will rise exponentially. The boomers aren't going to attend senior citizen events...
posted by Oyéah at 7:02 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Goodness gracious. Why is it that all the folks who describe "boomers" aren't describing me at all? Or the world I live in? Please do not take you with me on your early exit. I will sit here and watch the credits roll, thank you.

When I have depression, which I do at times, it's not my personal circumstances that make me sad, it's more that we humans (all the generations, all of them, not the ones with popular names) have destroyed our environment and the world will come to an end. Not only that, the universe itself will eventually wind down, due to entropy. Also, trees are merely assemblages of organic chemicals. And there is no meaning in anything. My personal lack of worth seems merely a drop in the bucket.

I guess I was lucky I was a hopeless alcoholic so young. I got sober and found out I couldn't afford to feel sorry for myself :)
posted by Peach at 8:41 PM on December 24, 2013


On re-reading, it occurs to me that I wasn't clear. I do get depressed, and I do at times want to die. But it's because everything is worthless, not because I'm worthless.
posted by Peach at 9:42 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Debaser626: " For me, it is better to think of and empathize with those who now suffer as a consequence--namely the families, friends, and loved ones they left behind."

No offense to you, but I think you're making the classic blunder here. You're assuming that everyone has families, friends, and loved ones. You may have those things. Hell, MOST people may have those things, but many people have none of those assets. Combine that with a playing field that is grossly tilted in favor of the very wealthy, and, IMHO, suicide, in many cases, seems very rational to me. I'm not religious, but I think you would do well to remember the saying, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

And who in the hell do you think you are to tell people that their best course of action is to simply "tough it out?" I call that arrogance of the highest order.

Again, no offense to you. These are simply my opinions regardless of whether they are "right" or "wrong."
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:17 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Unless General Relativity has some foundational problems, one of its implications is that our sense of the passage of time is illusory."

I don't know what woo books you've been reading, but this is absolutely not true.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:24 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I finally dug up that recent article from the BMJ on the 2008 economic crisis and suicide.
posted by nubs at 6:00 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Waiting Around To Die
All of which complicates how we think about elder suicide. It might be another vestige of dogma, but why am I more inclined to privilege physical pain and external circumstances when I consider the ethics of suicide? Why does internal pain, in the form of mental illness and chemical imbalance, strike me as a less acceptable reason? And isn’t this why physicians’ opinions are part of the law—because we want to limit suicide to those who are unarguably rational?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:35 AM on January 22


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