Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Something old: woman poses as an e-love interest to a girl who was mean to her daughter in order to get some revenge in a breakup. The girl kills herself, and the woman gets off without felony charges.

Something new: a 19 year old Florida resident hangs himself while streaming video of himself live, while commenters cheer him in on his attempts to kill himself.

Now, on to the nut-meat.

It seems that there are several issues here. Especially since some people seem to not even understand what causes people to become suicidal. And, clearly, there are quite a few who manage to feel zero empathy for them. So, I will address that first.

I cannot speak on the subject authoritatively, but only speculatively, in what I understand about the nature of depression, and its relation to suicide. Depression is a sadness distinct from the normal emotion, in that it lacks the normal connections and context that makes sadness a healthy response. It is not a reaction to a given event, its duration are far more outstretched, even if its intensity is no greater than a person's normal sorrows. It is comparable to chronic joint pain, with the normal emotion being similarly compared to, say, a sprained ankle.

Why does this distinction matter, you may ask? Because these long stretches of mild to moderate depression can be psychologically taxing to a degree that incredible, but short-term sadness, cannot be. People most often commit suicide while on an upswing after reaching the depths of a depressive episode. Why only after? Because they are depressed too bother killing themselves beforehand. To that degree, suicide is an interestingly paradoxical blend of emotions: it is frenzy after a bout of laziness, it is exasperation at being exhausted, it is a hatred of yourself for always being stifled by sadness in the a period where you are finally free from sadness enough to take your own life away, unimpeded.

For those that wonder why teenagers who have no real perceivable problems commit suicide over seemingly trivial things, that is why. It is about an escape from a cycle of melancholy that isn't attached to events like most people tend to experience sadness. And, in the case of the less cited cases in which it is the elderly killing themselves off, it may be an escape from actual, chronic physical pain (less common in teenagers, though to a small degree it could be a contributing factor to depression).

Now, for the first case, the woman who teased a girl online and accidentally caused the girl to kill herself. Let me just say that I think it was incredibly petty of this mother to do this, but she also did not realize that it would result on a girl killing herself. In fact, considering the nature of a suicidal individual, who usually is not responding to any one event, but the perception that their entire life is crappy, when deciding to kill themselves, it is hardly fair to blame the mother for inadvertently pushing this girl over the edge. It is tragic, but it would hardly be predictable for anyone who wasn't more closely familiar with her (she, at 13, was diagnosed with depression and on antidepressant medication).

The second case brings up the fact that many people plot suicides online (as well as bringing up the ridiculous fact that suicide and suicide attempts are illegal in most places in our country). And, I am sure that anyone who has seen one of those threats to commit suicide have seen the typical internet tough guy responses. Namely, goading the person to go through with it, or verbally brushing them off and dismissing them. This is almost understandable, however, when the amount of these threats made lightly (or without direct results, at least) are high.

And then there are responses to actual suicides. Genuine pity, morbid jokes, indifference, deeming the person who killed themselves to have been mentally weak (and thus, deserving the fate they brought upon themselves), or outright contempt for the person who did so, for failing to consider the feelings of those they left behind. Sometimes it is a combination. But it is the latter four that can become the most disgusting, given the standard tendency of internet commenters towards idiocy, arrogance, and misinformed hatred, all just to maintain a false veneer of bravado and superiority. It is a sad reflection of the more regrettable inner thoughts of a populace who would be far more sympathetic if they could just see a human face.

Needless to say, I don't approve. But, I also feel that people who are trying to determine whether they should live or die according to whether notoriously rabid and moronic internet folk care about them are more or less condemning themselves to a death sentence due to their own ignorance, rather than just due to uncontrolled feelings of worthlessness. This, I also do not approve of.


mac said...

As you may have noticed, I sometimes feel down on myself. This is a temporary thing, I assure you. My bouts of melancholy are short and not so intense. I fall into the one event my seperation with my wife of 15 years.

I think the love was gone for a while, so it's not so much loosing my partner as it is loosing a friend.

I laughed that you mention people like to say suicide (or the attempt) is illegal. As if that is some kind of deterant...."ya better not kill yourself or you'll be in BIG trouble"

I don't think I'd have the nerve to do such a thing if I wanted to. I did have an Uncle who killed himself, but he was suffering from a terminal desease and felt he was loosing control. I think his was a case of justifiable suicide. He merely ended his suffering sooner rather than later.

Perhaps suicide isn't always the wrong option? It's not my option, but for some it might be right.

Asylum Seeker said...

Now, was your breakup a recent event or not? Because, although it is understandable to have regrets and pine for a more idealized yesterday, you've got to be sure that you aren't being affected for too long of a period time. I believe that divorce is the one of the three most stressful events that we can experience, however, so it makes sense to be a little sad for the first, I don't know, year or so.

Suicide being illegal is the most inane I have ever heard. You cannot convict those who are successful, and you probably shouldn't be f$%$ing arresting those who tried to, instead of, you know, trying to get them mental help.

And, I've got to say, self-euthanasia kinds of suicide . like in the case of your uncle,is probably the only kind of suicide that isn't completely wrongheaded. It's justifiable, as you say. That being said, hopefully a person in that position would have talked it over with their loved ones first before spontaneously putting a gun in their mouth, or what not. It's all well in good to end your own suffering, but you should try to do so without psychologically traumatizing your loved ones left behind in the process.

Outside of the circumstance of being terminally ill, I don't think that suicide is really an option. The problem is that those who are suicidal don't realize that the reasons why they think their life sucks enough to throw it away is all in their head, and it could probably be treated if coming forward and admitting that you have those kinds of thoughts didn't have such a social stigma on it. Better to die having only dropped hints and never admitted your own pain than to survive by admitting that you are weak and burdening other people with your grief. It is a shame, but that's how some people think.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I have known 3 people who committed suicide, been on an express train twice when it struck a suicidal person, and have worked with many more who attempted it over the years. Ignoring the self-determination of the terminally ill, It's often said that suicide is the ultimate form of narcissism and although a harsh way to put it, there is some truth to it. Not in the traditional way of imagining narcissism but because the suicidal are often so consumed by their depression that they 1) cannot imagine that there can be any help, and 2) that there is any hope of ever felling better. It is this self-consumption that sometimes results in those even greater tragedies where a suicidal person derails a train killing scores for example. They don't want to hurt anyone else but they aren't able to imagine anyone else's plight. If you can get them over that hump (often with medication) then most will make it.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

DOOH! feeling not felling

Asylum Seeker said...

Crazy experiences, Pliny. Personally, I find the ones who put others in physical danger when they commit suicide (rather than simply risking psychological harm to loved ones) are intriguing in that their depressions are more tinged with rage and bitterness than simple melancholy and hopelessness. They want to go out with a bang (so to speak), and don't care if anyone else gets hurt (because they're going to be dead anyway, right?). In that respect, they have many antisocial qualities to them, instead of the standard self-constrained depression, with occasional histrionic bouts of attention whoring that occur often in lieu of explicitly asking for help. People are complicated...and not always in a good way.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Truth, seeker. I have often felt that the nature of one's suicide can be predicted by a person's behavior while drunk. Angry drunks are often hostile suicides.

Asylum Seeker said...

"the nature of one's suicide can be predicted by a person's behavior while drunk."

A unique application of "in vino, veritas" there.

Richelle said...

my older brother was suicidal when i was a teenager and i have never felt so helpless as i did during that time. once i actually sat on the phone with him for over an hour begging him not to try to kill himself and i was crying so hard i could barely breathe. luckily things got a lot better for him and now he is happily married with a new baby girl who was born on my birthday.

i think it would have been different if my brother was 60 years old and dying from cancer, though. i would have understood that he was in pain and dying slowly with no chance of recovery and wanted to die.

i really believe the reason a lot of people don't agree with euthanasia is that they are being selfish. they are more concerned with how sad THEY will feel once the other person is gone and want to delay that as long as possible, almost like they're pretending that it's not gonna happen.

i've never had anyone really close to me die after a long battle with an illness, so the closest i can come to relating to that is putting down some of my childhood pets who got old while i was growing up. it's a hard thing to do, but it's even harder to watch them suffer so i can only imagine what it would be like to see a person go through that.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Self-determination in the face of terminal illness is definitely a far cry from traditional suicide. In Oregon for example it has been legal for about 12? years to prescribe a lethal does of medication in the context of terminal illness. Each year about the same # of people use the option but only about 1/3 who get the prescriptions actually end up using it. for most it simply provides the security that they can control something in their lives if it comes to that. Seems like a very humane option.

GearHedEd said...

I've been through three divorces. I think I'm getting the hang of it now...

Asylum Seeker said...

"i really believe the reason a lot of people don't agree with euthanasia is that they are being selfish. they are more concerned with how sad THEY will feel once the other person is gone and want to delay that as long as possible, almost like they're pretending that it's not gonna happen."

Agreement on that one. The reason why people who have never been in that position oppose it through legislation is related, but it has more to do with fear of the ever present slippery slope, and a misconception of patient's role in consenting for euthanasia.

"Self-determination in the face of terminal illness is definitely a far cry from traditional suicide."

Stop making me agree with you!

"I've been through three divorces. I think I'm getting the hang of it now..." acquired taste?

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.