Sept 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day
September 10, 2014 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Today is the day to make a difference in someone's life. Suicide is one of the top 15 leading causes of death across all age groups worldwide, and the third leading cause of death among young adults in the U.S. Every person reading this probably knows someone who's thought about or attempted suicide. We've lost too many good people to this problem. It's time to take a stand and take 5 minutes to help save someone's life you know.

There are many ways to show your support for helping to prevent suicide.

It's also a good time to think about the friends and loved ones in your life. And consider reaching out to them and talking to them face-to-face about your concern the next time you see them. We all have the power to help save a life, but you have to take the first steps in order to do so.
posted by docjohn (57 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hard on the heels of yesterday's news that three quarters of a million young people in the UK feel they have nothing to live for, and at a time when suicide rates are rising sharply in the US.

The organizers of World Suicide Prevention Day clearly mean well, but I don't see them addressing the culture of despair that neoliberalism and financialization have created, and that are driving an ever-increasing number of people to kill themselves.

Without confronting this, all the smiling at strangers, guiding family members to therapy and drugs, etc. is at best a thumb in the dike.

This may be unfair, but more and more, I can't help but think, "the logical outcome of a death-oriented culture - one that worships lifeless things first - is death."
posted by ryanshepard at 8:17 AM on September 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


Wikipedia has an interesting list of countries, ranked by suicide rate.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2014


A person who is alive can work to make a change, however minute or localized, in such a world. That alone is enough reason to carry on.
posted by delfin at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia has an interesting list of countries, ranked by suicide rate.

Jesus, life must be brutally hard in Lithuania.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2014


I lost my childhood best friend to suicide 24 years ago. His death had nothing to do with a "culture of despair that neoliberalism and financialization have created" and everything to do with an unrecognized (and therefore untreated) depressive episode he was suffering due to a recent loss in his life.

His death is what set me on my path in life to try and reach as many people as possible with scientific information about mental disorders like depression -- and the effective treatments available for them.

We lament the suicide rate in our country, but each one of us is, imo, responsible to help ensure someone in our circle isn't at risk. And if they are, to try and help them out of that hopeless pit.
posted by docjohn at 8:45 AM on September 10, 2014 [24 favorites]


I think it can be both medical depression and lack of humanist values that is causing the suicide rate to go up. Suicide is an evil meme that seems to spread the quickest among depressed people in a stultifying morally-bereft late-stage empire. All of those elements suck and combatting them in any combination is a good idea.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


ryanshepard: "The organizers of World Suicide Prevention Day clearly mean well, but I don't see them addressing the culture of despair that neoliberalism and financialization have created, and that are driving an ever-increasing number of people to kill themselves.

Without confronting this, all the smiling at strangers, guiding family members to therapy and drugs, etc. is at best a thumb in the dike.
"

Exactly. Suicide prevention isn't depression prevention. I'm concerned that the mental illness perspective on suicide prevention individualizes what is, in my view, often a societal problem. Calling on people to support their suicidal friends and neighbors only does so much when the suffering frequently comes from systemic cultural factors — unemployment, stress, abuse, isolation, racism, sexism, meaninglessness, lack of autonomy — rather than individual biological ones. I'll grant it's possible some individuals are biologically more susceptible than others, but the mental illness perspective allows us to pretend that society is basically fine and we just have a few people who are sick and can't cope. The system is sick too.

The developed world eliminated cholera outbreaks with sewers and water purification methods. Polio with vaccination. The most effective way to solve a public health problem is often a collective, preventative solution rather than trying to help people after they get sick. I wish we viewed suicide the same way.
posted by Wemmick at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


the culture of despair that neoliberalism and financialization have created

This seems like a dog whistle that I can't hear. I'm honestly asking: Could someone explain what this means?
posted by cmoj at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


It means people are killing themselves because a system designed to extract wealth and labor from the masses to benefit a tiny group of useless non-productive rich is working exactly as intended. People feel crushed and hopeless because the system that steals their wealth and promises nothing in return but more toil and desperation is designed to crush them.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:07 AM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


US suicide rates are lower now than they were during 1950-1990. When did neoliberalism and financialization kick in?
posted by leopard at 9:07 AM on September 10, 2014


This reminds me of back when the Church of Euthanasia was denied a 1-800 number by AT&T for their Suicide Counseling Hotline, guess they thought there was a whole lot of PR downside to advice like "don't forget to do it now, while you're thinking about it."
posted by ackptui at 9:07 AM on September 10, 2014


When did neoliberalism and financialization kick in?

Some time around the crucifixion?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:11 AM on September 10, 2014


A person who is alive can work to make a change, however minute or localized, in such a world. That alone is enough reason to carry on.

So, being a suicidal person, I'm sorry, but you're not even wrong. Sure, if I'm still alive, I can make a change. And I'm on the sometimes-tumultuous road to recovery--or, at least, stability--which colours my worldview for the positive.

But when you're in the grips of suicidal ideation and despair, whether caused by depression or angst about one's future prospects (usually, both, in my experience), the very notion of believing that anything can change is foreign. The belief that change can happen, let alone the belief that you can make any kind of change, is the exact opposite of suicidal ideation. If you believe that your life can change without you dying, you're more or less not suicidal, more or less by definition.

I get where you're coming from, I do, but it's trite and betrays a deep lack of understanding of what it's like to be suicidal. The whole thing about being suicidal is that one does not believe change is possible in any way.

And I'm not so sure I agree that 'suicide prevention isn't depression prevention.' One doesn't consider suicide if one is happy, full stop; why would you want that to end? Anomie, angst, whatever you'd like to call individual reactions to the grinding pressures and dispassion of modern plutocratic capitalist society... those are more or less identical to depression, or perhaps more accurately anhedonia.

Give people a reason to live, and they will--sometimes out of sheer bloodymindedness. Having no reason to continue living, being filled with despair, is as close to depression as makes no difference. Specific causes might be slightly different, but not everyone with Major Depressive Disorder and consequent suicidal ideation is necessarily medically ill; MDD can manifest as a reaction to one's environment without organic neuro problems (although I suppose we could end up in a side discussion about medications being effective necessarily pointing to organic causes).

My point being, whether you are depressed because your neurochemicals are out of whack due to a biological problem, or whether it's because of how hopeless life truly can be if you're not a 1% (and, yeah, I know that globally speaking having the resources to be on this website is a 1% thing pretty much) is kind of irrelevant: that despair ends up being the same thing, and that despair is called depression.

So, reach out. Be an ear. Sometimes that's all we need; so many of us spend our lives wrapped around a ball of pain that we really and truly believe nobody else feels. If you're someone who is depressed, reach out to other depressed people if you can, and show them they're not alone. They don't have to shoulder the burden alone. In some peculiar ways, struggling with depression (and other mental illnesses but I don't want to range too far afield) is very, very similar to struggling with issues around sexual orientation and/or gender: knowing you are not alone, knowing that lots of other people are dealing with the same things, makes an immense difference in how you approach your problems and, hopefully, survive them.

US suicide rates are lower now than they were during 1950-1990.

Cite, please? I'm not challenging you, I would honestly like to look at those numbers in a longitudinal sense.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:20 AM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


Well, that's depressing. The "Take 5" checklist says I'm lucky I haven't already killed myself.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:21 AM on September 10, 2014


Depression and seemingly hopeless life circumstances can each be mistaken for each other. Either can lead to suicide, and together they compound each other. They call for different interventions: some suicidal people need a psychiatrist and some need a job.

Guiding people toward medical solutions isn't a thumb in the dike - it's a godsend for many people. It's no contradiction to point out that a state of the economy that makes it objectively true that a person's career prospects are hopeless can raise the suicide rate.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]




The first time I thought of suicide, I was probably 10. It certainly had nothing to do with a Culture of Despair. Such a thing might have an effect on the rates, but it's a new twist on a very old problem.
posted by zennie at 9:33 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


The organizers of World Suicide Prevention Day clearly mean well, but I don't see them addressing the culture of despair that neoliberalism and financialization have created, and that are driving an ever-increasing number of people to kill themselves.

Flagged as bullshit.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:46 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Suicide is an evil meme that seems to spread the quickest among depressed people in a stultifying morally-bereft late-stage empire.

I've always thought that Lithuania and South Korea are both late-stage empires... (Well, they are, but both quite late.)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:49 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


TW: suicide

This is really weird. I actually tried to kill myself about two weeks ago, and I am now seeing a psychiatrist. I wasn't even particularly upset, but I had some sort of vicious mood swing. I had gone out and had some drinks with friends the night before (nothing really insane though, no blacking out or anything "wild") and came home, went to bed. When I woke up in the morning I had found that this container of food in my messenger bag had broken up and spilled all over the place. The only thing of any real importance in there was my journal, and it really wasn't that bad. There's some food stains on the tops of some pages and that's it. It's readable, not destroyed, and can still be used. I went to get on my computer and found that it wasn't working anymore (it's an old Macbook from 2009 and has been on its way out). For some reason I freaked out. All of these things, including the fact that I had to go to work and talk to customers all day, through me over the top. I found a box cutter that I used for work, went into my roommates room to use his computer, put on one of my favorite songs, and proceeded to cut my left arm and wrist. The box cutter was too dull to really do much and after slicing up my wrist a bunch I was left in tons of pain and gave up. I got embarrassed, felt really weird for giving up on both life but also on my suicide attempt, and my roommate came home to me with blood coming out of my arm and wrist. I had written in the address bar of his browser "sorry for getting blood on your mattress". He tried to take me to the hospital, of which I have done already once in my life, and I refused. I went and hung out with some friends for a few days.

Anyway, this is probably the most serious post I've ever posted here. Suicide is terrifying, it really terrified me. Someone who I consider a brother died from a heroin overdose (it's unsure whether it was suicide or an accident) and I've never really gotten over it. I feel really upset and embarrassed about doing this to myself, but am glad I have some good friends who took care of me and didn't leave me alone in my house. I hope things work out for people.
posted by gucci mane at 9:51 AM on September 10, 2014 [29 favorites]


It's time to take a stand and take 5 minutes to help save someone's life you know.

I think treating depression is really, really important and needs to be taken seriously. I have some mental health issues and, like, zennie mentioned above, first thought about and even attempted suicide at a very young age, probably before I knew the word (seven is the earliest age I remember).

On the one hand, this is an issue where "raising awareness" helps, and I certainly think destigmatizing mental health issues is valuable and important. I think showing people you care about them is great and providing them with resources is even better.

I'm also a little uncomfortable with the pithy "take five to save lives" idea; depression isn't something that can be handled with a short feel-good conversation, it takes work and medicine and support lasting a long time. It can be treated but not cured and, for many of us, coping with depression and related issues is a lifelong task that takes constant vigilance. Bringing attention to mental health problems is fantastic and showing support for people who are struggling is important, but a brief conversation with a friend or family member isn't really that. This feels to me a bit like a way to make ourselves feel good about addressing a problem without really doing so because actually addressing the problem takes a lot of time and money and effort.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:53 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love the idea of being more aware and trying to reach out to people, but the second bulleted list of warnings signs offered in this link is so utterly broad, it includes almost everybody that I know. Is there a better list to be had?
posted by jbickers at 9:56 AM on September 10, 2014


This feels to me a bit like a way to make ourselves feel good about addressing a problem without really doing so because actually addressing the problem takes a lot of time and money and effort.

Many things start and end this way, i.e. an easy feel good thing to do. But it's not always like that and something that was just "taking five" etc.. can turn into a thing that is more long term. A friend of mine was forced into going to the special olympics as a volunteer when she was younger and it made her feel good and turned into a lifetime of advocating for and working with people with special needs.
posted by josher71 at 9:56 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


the culture of despair that neoliberalism and financialization have created

This seems like a dog whistle that I can't hear. I'm honestly asking: Could someone explain what this means?


I wouldn't mind an honest answer to this either, but as it is I suspect that it comes from folks who are outraged about some of the truly intolerable things that persist in the modern world and who believe that these phenomena are responsible for widespread depression and unhappiness that festers into suicidal tendencies. I don't particularly agree with that assessment, mostly because it seems horribly nihilistic, but there it is.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:57 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


How fitting. Today would have been my brother's 37th birthday if he hadn't committed suicide almost two years ago.
posted by jessssse at 9:58 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Many things start and end this way, i.e. an easy feel good thing to do. But it's not always like that and something that was just "taking five" etc.. can turn into a thing that is more long term. A friend of mine was forced into going to the special olympics as a volunteer when she was younger and it made her feel good and turned into a lifetime of advocating for and working with people with special needs.

I see your point; that is awesome and I'm really impressed with your friend. That said, I think there's a temptation for a lot of serious issues to address it in a small way, feel like you've accomplished something, pat yourself on the bag, and move on, neglecting the the people who are still suffering.

I mean, look at the Take 5 to Save Lives link; some of the ideas are great, like providing the hotline number (which I have called!), but the Join the Movement idea says "Use your status updates and tweets to SAVE lives" which honestly really bothers me; absolutely, use the way you communicate to create a culture of acceptance and support and provide resources for people who need them, but this idea that by tweeting you are Saving Lives pisses me off as someone who has had to work so, so hard to make it to thirty that I was kind of shocked that I actually got there because I just always kind of assumed that I would be dead by now.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:03 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I guess part what I'm saying here is that depression and feelings of despair are real and serious and, while I applaud the goal and see how some of these things can be helpful, this sort of glib, feel-good approach to serious and entrenched issues that can only be dealt with through long-term work just really rubs me the wrong way.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:06 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wish it was easy as a conversation. I've been dealing with someone the past few days, and at times it seems futile. Depressed people can be vampires. That level of emotional self involvement is also the epitome of selfishness, and it does become very impossible to be around someone who is constantly spiraling around themselves, their problems, their mental state. When being a friend means listening to threats of self harm. When every offer of help is simply not enough. When every solution wont work, because "I'm a terrible person."
posted by iamck at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


How fitting. Today would have been my brother's 37th birthday if he hadn't committed suicide almost two years ago.

Oh, God. Are you okay today?

this sort of glib, feel-good approach to serious and entrenched issues that can only be dealt with through long-term work just really rubs me the wrong way.

I get where you're coming from, but my view is better something than nothing, you know? In recent related stuff, let the idiots pour buckets of ice water over their heads while the serious people actually do research and secure ongoing committed funding. Same dynamic at play here, I think.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2014


I guess part what I'm saying here is that depression and feelings of despair are real and serious and, while I applaud the goal and see how some of these things can be helpful, this sort of glib, feel-good approach to serious and entrenched issues that can only be dealt with through long-term work just really rubs me the wrong way.

Part of the issue from my perspective is it's hard to get people involved at any level if it begins "This is a ton of hard work".
posted by josher71 at 10:22 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I get what's being said, and I do agree with it at least to a certain extent, it just makes me feel a little bit like a prop, like "Awesome that you guys all feel so good about yourselves for helping me, I'll just be over here continuing to struggle for the rest of my life". It feels like it's less designed to make people (like me) with actual problems feel better than it is designed to make people without mental health problems feel better because they're such good people for tweeting a phone number.

I'll head out of the thread now so I don't dominate the conversation; I do agree that something is better than nothing and getting people involved and destigmatizing mental illness and having this conversation are all important and worthy goals, and I respect that, it's just that somehow this makes me feel uncomfortable.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


The first time I remember being suicidal, I was 6. I didn't have the ability to express it in so many words, but I wanted to not be here any more. I thought the world would be a better place without me in it. I was six fucking years old. I knew absolutely nothing about "neoliberalism and financialization."

The last time I was suicidal? Well, let's see, what time is it? Ok, about two hours ago, when my legs gave out on me, and I was dragging myself with my arms up the stairs to get into my apartment so I could take some pain meds. Half a dozen people were outside, and they all offered to help. I know logically that they meant well. But the humiliation spiraled into a major depressive episode, fueled by the anxiety that's spiraled out of control over the last few weeks.

I saw my primary care physician this morning. She upped my Prozac, and also prescribed Atarax. I've managed to get my appointment with a psychiatrist moved up from October 27 (which is what they gave me in mid-August) to October 3, by calling twice a week to see if there are new appointments available. The place my PCP's office referred me to said they wouldn't be able to get me an appointment until next summer. They get 200-300 calls a day from people who need help. After talking to them, an appointment 2.5 months out from when I was calling sounded great.

I get that we all want to help prevent suicide. We've all been affected by it, one way or another. But a cutesy feel-good website with people holding up the letters in LEARN written on 5 different pieces of paper while they smile out at me is not an effective means of preventing suicide in my house. What would be effective would be a society where mental illness isn't horribly stigmatized. Maybe a health care system where a person in serious need of medical care for mental illness doesn't have to wait 2 or 3 or 10 months for an appointment with a health care provider. A place where someone isn't terrified of asking for help because they're so terrified of being involuntarily committed, or hell, even VOLUNTARILY committed, thanks to popular media portrayals of psych wards.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


I am fully in favor of destigmatizing the urge to commit suicide but I have a very slight objection to the framing provided by docjohn who I am absolutely certain is interested in helping. [I am yelling as loudly as possible that the intent of the OP is well-meaning.]

"We've lost too many good people to this problem."
is a part of the problem. People that contemplate killing themselves think they aren't worthwhile. There is a litany of outstanding thinkers from Artists to Mathematicians who have killed themselves. It's almost axiomatic. There are many other's whose suicides go unnoticed and I think Famous Suicides romantizes the notion.

Suicidal people are a tax on their friends and family and depression is something that is difficult to be near. I know this because I'm both.

I'm glad people are talking about this.
posted by vapidave at 10:33 AM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


feckless: I do grasp where you're coming from and agree. I've never been suicidal, but I've been clinically depressed at points in my life and recognize the kind of crushing helplessness that comes with it that you describe. My "that's a reason to carry on" quote above would sound like pure Hallmark card Pollyanna bullshit to someone in that state.

My own stroke of luck, I suppose, is that even at my lowest I never considered suicide as a viable way out; life was shit but death would've been shittier and even worse. What kept me going wasn't feel-good sentiments or hope or such but belief that there _wasn't_ any other option. Reaching a point where death seems preferable is alien but also fucking terrifying to me and my heart goes out to anyone capable of reaching that kind of depths.
posted by delfin at 10:38 AM on September 10, 2014


I'm glad people are talking about this.

Bell Canada (surprisingly) has had a great approach with their Let's Talk campaign. Very little feelgood BS, heavy on "let's talk about this stuff," with an Olympic athlete (summer and winter, the incomparable Clara Hughes, who actually has a history of depression) as their spokesperson.

Those depths suck delfin. And thank you for expanding on your comment. I'm glad, seriously, that you have been lucky :)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:41 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Clara Hughes? I met her once years ago as she shook my hand to give me a medal. That indicates the ubiquity of this disease.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 11:14 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Researchers Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers have found that access to no-fault divorce has reduced women's suicide rates. (Summary links to PDF)

I really do think that the economy has a lot to do with the recent uptick in suicides. Being trapped in an abusive job can be as toxic as being trapped in an abusive marriage. I wonder if a guaranteed minimum income would reduce suicide rates? I know there are people who commit suicide due to brain chemistry and not to their circumstances, but there have to be people who would be alive today if only there was more of a social safety net.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:14 AM on September 10, 2014


Cite, please? I'm not challenging you, I would honestly like to look at those numbers in a longitudinal sense.

I found a bunch of statistics here.
posted by leopard at 11:17 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


From the CDC: Trends in Suicide Rates Among Persons Ages 10 Years and Older, by Sex, United States, 1991–2009
From 1991–2009, the suicide rate was consistently higher among males. Suicide rates declined among both sexes from 1991–2000; the rate among males decreased from 24.64 to 20.67 suicides per 100,000 and 5.48 to 4.62 suicides per 100,000 among females. From 2000 to 2009, however, the suicide rates gradually increased among both sexes.
This is one of the graphs at National Suicide Statistics At A Glance, which also has breakdowns by age group and race/ethnicity. For the raw data, see Deaths: Final Data for 2011 (PDF), which covers various causes of death including suicide; despite the title, it includes data from 1999 to 2011.
posted by narain at 11:33 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Depressed people can be vampires. That level of emotional self involvement is also the epitome of selfishness, and it does become very impossible to be around someone who is constantly spiraling around themselves, their problems, their mental state.

Trust me, we know! We are never unaware of this, never unaware of what you really think of us, never unaware that the non-depressed people in our lives look at us and think, not infrequently, "For the love of god, won't you stop complaining?" or "If you really want to die, why are you still here?"

Like how I bust my ass 24/7/365 just to keep breathing, and I bust my ass even harder to make sure no one knows just how hard I have to work to stay alive because that is what is expected of depressed people. But if I say, "I have depression, I've been suicidal since kindergarten, I still don't know why I'm alive," nine times out of ten, the response I get will either implicitly or explicitly say, "Well, why don't you shut up and get over it?"

I guess with a little less selfishness, a little less self-involvement, a little less myopia, we'd be as good as new -- never mind that our brains are literally trying to kill us, what we really need is less navel-gazing. I understand, dear god do I ever, that our consistent failure to pull ourselves out of the mire is exasperating to you, difficult to tolerate, difficult to watch. But it isn't particularly pleasant on our side, either. I'm sorry that non-depressed people are made to endure our presence. All of this explains very succinctly why I will never have any close friends who have never experienced depression.

Depressed people, suicidal people: I feel you, and I LOVE YOU. I won't tell you that you need to try harder, I won't tell you to stop hating yourself (I know it's impossible), I won't tell you that you need to stay alive to appease anyone, and I don't think you're a vampire. I just love you, unreservedly, unabashedly, and completely. Y'all are my people. Just try to hang in there, OK? I know you're doing the best you can.
posted by divined by radio at 11:40 AM on September 10, 2014 [73 favorites]


Favourited a million times, divined by radio. I couldn't find a way to respond to that without frothing.

What bugs me is that mental illness is no different than physical illness; people will go out of their way to support and be there for a friend who has cancer, for example.

We have cancer too, except it's in our minds. Why are we different?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:44 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


All of this explains very succinctly why I will never have any close friends who have never experienced depression.

I'm sorry if that sounded callous. But we are your friends. We are all around you.

Depression is supremely self involved. So much that you stop seeing the world and live only in those places in your head. And I'm sorry if you disagree with that. As someone who has trod down that road, I get to say that.

I guess with a little bit of understanding, we just keep on trodding down this road together and find someway of getting through this thing called life, one step at a time.
posted by iamck at 11:56 AM on September 10, 2014


As someone who has trod down that road, I get to say that.

May have been a good idea--and I make the same mistake all the time, this isn't holier-than-thou--to have made that clear when saying that depression is selfish. Without knowing the context behind, it comes across as really callous, since we (and you I suspect) have heard such things so. Damn. Many. Times. From people who don't get what's happening in our heads.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:59 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Regarding the "culture of despair" versus depression, it's the difference between feeling depressed because life is shitty and inexplicably being morose despite things going well for you. I'm sure world and cultural events push trends in suicide, but they are not related 1:1.

I never really understood the scope of mental illness (and how shitty people can be about it) until I met my wife and some of her friends. She has anxiety, which (from the outside) doesn't seem as scary as depression, except for that time she had a panic attack and she literally thought she was dying. But it used to be that she could get anxious over relatively small events, and that anxiety would build up, despite the fact that she could clearly and logically say "this isn't a big deal," yet some deeper part of herself was locked on the inevitable event. She got the response from some friends and family that "it's all in your head," and "get over it," even though some of them face the same issues. Through medication, she was able to find ways to cope with most of it, and is able to handle most situations without medication.

And then I found out that my dad has had some form of manic depression for much of his life, and that hidden behind his jolly, goofy exterior is someone who is sure that he is constantly being judged and found wanting. That hit me harder, because I grew up seeing him being confident and positive throughout his life, even when things were tough.

One way or another, you can see physical illnesses. Mental illness is hidden, and it really is all in someone's head, but that doesn't mean it's made up or not real. It's just easier for others to dismiss, and can make it that much harder for people who don't deal with those mental illnesses to understand what someone might be going through.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:09 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl: On the one hand, this is an issue where "raising awareness" helps, and I certainly think destigmatizing mental health issues is valuable and important.

There's a national (US) movement/campaign called Lose the Stigma, but I don't think it has much traction yet. Also, it's a rather vague campaign title (the local San Luis Obispo variant, SLO the Stigma, featured billboards that just said the campaign title, with a depressed looking person and a black background), one that turns up a few other "stigmas" to lose (Phish and Runescape are on the first page of Google results for me).

Helpful Advice, from Robot Hugs, also found titled "If physical diseases were treated like mental illness."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:10 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yo Gucci mane you're one of my favorite posters. Be well kid.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:21 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Agreed. gucci mane, you're a good dude. Hope the doctor helps.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just want to say that I've been really grateful that it's become much more common here lately to use trigger warnings for mentions of suicide. On a bad day, reading the wrong thing - particularly something that goes into detail about methods - can be like looking at a basilisk, it sets off a chain reaction inside me that can last for hours or even days. I've skipped quite a few posts with trigger warnings recently. Thank you to everyone who added them.
posted by Acheman at 1:59 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


iamck: "Depression is supremely self involved. So much that you stop seeing the world and live only in those places in your head. And I'm sorry if you disagree with that. As someone who has trod down that road, I get to say that."

Possibly this is a matter of phrasing?

My experience of depression was (and is, if I'm being honest) that it becomes almost impossible to get out of your own head. I'd fixate on everything that is wrong in the world, real or imagined. I'd become tired and unresponsive. Everyone and everything else in the world becomes a kind of dull background set against the unrelenting feeling of misery. And so on.

Read literally, the term "self involved" is an excellent summary of this tendency to become detached from the rest of the world. In truth I wouldn't even object to the term "selfish", which I think was used by someone upthread, since depression does make me act thoughtlessly towards others even though I don't intend it. So in that sense, I agree with you.

The issue I have is that in almost every other context, the words "self involved" and "selfish" are used as insults. They're not neutral descriptions at all. In everyday language, to call someone "self involved" is to accuse them of a personal failure, and to call them "selfish" goes a step further and comes pretty close to calling them a bad person.

I think it's clear that's not what anyone here is trying to say in this context, but it's pretty hard not to get some interference from the more typical usage of the terms. In my experience at least, when you're actually depressed it's really hard to hear phrases like "self involved" and not read them as a personal attack, especially since one of the things depression does for many of us is make us latch onto the least charitable interpretation of ourselves and other people's comments about us. So in that sense, I kind of wish we could use different language.

Of course, I'm not sure what a neutral and non-judgmental description of this phenomenon would be. Maybe something like "self isolating" or "inward focused" captures it better?
posted by langtonsant at 2:00 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


If I tell my true feelings to friends then I am a drain. If I don't and try to complete suicide I am selfish. Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.

Which is exactly why I just power on and never really bother sharing how I feel to anyone. I spent enough of my childhood understanding being taught thanks to other kids why opening up and making yourself vulnerable is just a poor idea that leads to bad things. And the years since then doing my best at making sure I'm not vulnerable or upsetting other people by sharing the tough things that nobody else wants to hear.

So sure, I spend most of my time with some amount of basic depression as background noise, and it's only regular meditation that keeps me from falling into lasting larger depressive episodes. But it just makes things easier to not have to actually deal with that in the context of talking to it about anyone else in my life. Because I know it'll just be worse for them if I do.
posted by evilangela at 2:01 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Depression IS selfish. It selfishly squats inside your head, stealing your life and your love and your joy, and it will do anything, tell any lie, ruin any hope, destroy any plans, to make sure you never get rid of it. It tells you it pays its rent with creativity and your artistic soul, except that is a filthy lie -- your creativity would be a thousand times unfettered if you could get this foul black ooze off it. It tells you it doesn't even exist, that your problems are of your own making, caused by laziness and idiocy and flakiness and inconsideration. It guards your ears and your eyes and your thoughts, making sure the only messages that get through are ones that tell you what IT wants to hear, that the compliment of your good friend gets discarded like yesterday's gum wrapper while the random comment on a blog that didn't even refer to you rolls around behind your eyeballs clonking against your skull when you try to go to sleep at night. It lays its hooks into your psyche, it settles in around your brainstem like bad air, and it will do ANYTHING to stay around, which makes it a particularly insidious disease to seek treatment for.

People who HAVE depression, however, are not selfish.
posted by KathrynT at 4:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [26 favorites]


I am coming up on my 60th birthday. I know, in my bones, that the years I have left are in single digits. Next year, I will get my plans in order so that, when the pain of life finally becomes too great to bear, I can put a shotgun in my mouth with minimal regret.

I am really, really sorry for the folks who will have to discover my remains and cart them away. On the other hand, there are businesses that specialize in cleaning up splattered remains, so who am I to decline their patronage?

And, to stop well-meaning folk from giving me the "cheer up" talk. Dude: 60 years, when in my heart I feel 13? I have no family. I have no friends. The only people who would miss me are the folks at my job, but after a year or so of blaming all their problems on me, they'd muddle by.

My point: sometimes, depression isn't about "neurochemicals" or "cognitive disorders." Sometimes, depression is about facing yourself in the mirror and admitting that you suck as a human being.
posted by SPrintF at 8:17 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I tell my true feelings to friends then I am a drain. If I don't and try to complete suicide I am selfish. Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.

Yeah. This is why I don't tell people how I'm feeling anymore. That lost me friends and killed relationships. But now I live more or less like a hermit, because I don't have anyone in my life that really knows how my mental health is doing. There's no way to win.
posted by pemberkins at 8:35 PM on September 10, 2014


I don't think it's contradictory or disrespectful to say that people can be alienated and driven to suicide by social structures failing them, nor does that in any way dismiss persons who struggle with mental illness and commit suicide. It doesn't have to be one or the other. I don't know why we're fighting about it in this thread: does anyone really dispute that the person who feels hopeless because they can't achieve a meaningful life in the system they currently occupy is at a higher risk of suicide? Or that the person whose brain chemistry is not functioning for them is also at a higher risk? I don't see the conflict here.

I lost a dear friend to suicide this spring, and have come close to losing my sister many many times over the years. I don't think of it as dishonoring them to wish that things were different, whether that meant acceptance for my gay friend in the deeply conservative Southern town in which he lived, or better mental health research and treatment for my sister, whose brain is pretty much trying to kill her 24/7. They're both tragedies.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:48 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thanks buds, I enjoy my therapist a lot and I think it's gonna work out. I'll let you all know if it doesn't :P
posted by gucci mane at 9:28 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm going to post this as I have posted it in many threads where suicide is discussed. How Not to Commit Suicide. Reading this has helped me a lot, and someone I love said it may have helped him live.

There's so much pain here, and I'm one, too. At some point, I decided that I want to live, even though some days the only worthwhile part of the day was the dog curling up next to me. I want to see what happens in the world. I want to see the Northern Lights again. Now I have a grandchild, and I want to be around to talk to him when he has something to say other than Feed me now. For those of you(us) in pain, I send you a hug, my best wishes, as much caring as I can muster up, and you know what I mean. For those of you(us) affected by suicide, I'm so sorry for your loss, and I send you hugs, too.
posted by theora55 at 9:45 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


About a month after my friend and favorite teacher committed suicide in 2012, I had a series of gradual revelations, sitting at the desk of my shit temp telemarketing gig and working through my own depression. I realized I wanted work where I could engage with the ideas I'd learned about in his class--health disparities, structural inequality, intersectionality. I'd also learned I was better in a crisis than I'd ever realized before, and I wanted to put this new-found talent to good use.

Soon after, I hauled myself down to register for nursing prerequisites at the community college. I just submitted my first application to a BSN program. With any luck at all, I'll be well on my way to being an RN this time next year.

In the mean time, though, I'm training to be a certified nursing assistant this month. And every night after class, I've been writing letters to Professor O, noting things that particularly strike me in training, asking for his helpful insights as a medical anthropologist.

This is my letter from a few days ago. TW: suicide.

Dear Professor O,

It's probably really telling what kinds of emergencies our textbook chooses to highlight in their emergency preparedness chapter. We've got heart attacks, strokes, burns, shock, fires, hurricane and tornado warnings. All valid emergencies, but of course they're missing the kind of emergency I'm most intimately familiar with.

I remember the last night I ever talked to you, when you said you were sad and feeling hopeless. “I may split,” you said. “Go where?,” I asked innocently. These days I wouldn't think to ask twice about where you were going, where anyone else who said they were feeling that hopeless was going. I'd be jumping immediately to “are you going to hurt yourself?”

You'd also sent a mass e-mail around that night to a bunch of your friends, telling us how much you loved us all. I remember the next morning, waking up to a barrage of e-mails from other people asking “has anyone heard from Professor O since this went out?” The way the humidity smacked me like a wet towel while I waited for the police to check on you at your house. All the subsequent sweaty days of running errands for your memorial.

These are the emergencies I know; trying, frantically, to ascertain whether I people I love are really and truly going to hurt themselves. And maybe I'm wrong, what with climate change and all, but where I live it seems more likely that I'll encounter this kind of emergency in my CNA work than a tornado.I don't know what keeps mental health crises out of the textbook emergency chapter—stigma, strict definitions of emergency, force of habit?--but I feel their omission acutely.

One of my stock answers for “why did you decide to become a nurse?” is “to make a long story short, things happened and I realized that I was better in a crisis than I ever thought I could be.” I am learning how to handle new and different crises in my class, and I'm glad for it. I just hope other people won't spout platitudes or be blindsided if they have to face what I know.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:22 PM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


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