Sometimes I wonder, how come other people get to get away without having to deal with this? Why can’t I get a break?
Heidi wasn’t talking about fair or foul fortune in life. She was talking about suicide. Heidi found the suicide idea alluring and promising. She found life unfair and death a form of equalization. She reminded me that suicide contagion is a real effect. I didn’t know this before. I don’t know when it became an understanding for me, but it was after medical school and definitely after residency.
So much of what I know, came to me outside of those places of learning. So much of what I know, came from my patients and a settling effect into my specialty of practice. I have learned, in one way of consideration, too much about suicide. In that way, I wish I didn’t.
There are good things too, of course. Suicide is no more moral or amoral than another act in life, it is simply (if one could use such a word with this) and most objectively the last. I remember commenter Mike J said on December 17, 2011,
Whenever I feel suicidal I remember that I’m going to be dead a long time. As bad as the pain is, I understand but, why rush to get there?
Life is like pizza or sex, even when it’s bad it’s kinda good.
I know. Who wants eat bad pizza?! Sigh. Each to his own 😉 but you get the meaning – clever man.
Mike J has used this to inoculate himself perhaps to build suicide resistance. He and you might be interested to know that the CDC takes the risk of “catching” suicide so seriously that they have made formal recommendations for our protection. In reading them, we find friendly ways to protect ourselves not only from suicide, but also from the contagion of other extreme thoughts that actions such as suicide cluster in; such as self-injury, catastrophizing, all-or-none thinking, and self-flagellation.
Suicide is contagious as a learned behavior, which is part of why it is so confusing for Western Cultures to conceptualize it in any way apart from morality. Another reason we have a hard time not moralizing suicide is that we still struggle with where emotions and behaviors come from. (But moralizing emotions and behaviors is for another discussion.)
When I heard Heidi say those words,
Sometimes I wonder…
despite the patients I have known who’ve died by suicide, despite the knowledge gained in clinical practice and despite the diagnosis I had already reported to her insurance carrier – I had an autonomic response. My skin erupted in goose pimples, breathing sped up and I realized I was afraid. Despite being a psychiatrist whom our community imagines thinks of who is going to commit suicide next all the time, I am not. I am not that jaded. I am affected and I am still taken off guard. “Heidi,” I thought. “No.”
Heidi had the “benefit” of media exposure to suicides, media who was promoting suicide contagion through learned behaviors but also as activating her already infirm brain to increase in degree of illness, producing more suicide-thought symptoms. When I weighed Heidi’s risk of hurting herself knowing her medical condition, I had thought, “Ok. She’ll make it. We’ll do this and she’ll heal.” But when the knowledge of news-worthy suicides spread in her, I knew her medical risks might be catalyzed and I knew enough to be afraid. “No Heidi.” What to do?
The CDC tells us to turn the copycat-suicide risk upside down by using the media, which the gypsy in me really likes. Instead of being silent and afraid, we can describe the help and support available, explain how to find persons at high risk for suicide, and tell about risk factors for suicide.
Today is Christmas and you may be wondering why I am speaking about suicide today. It is because I’m hoping that by going toward our fears and our places of pain, that they will lose power over us. I am hoping that on Christmas, which is for some a positive time, that we have a knowledge that Christmas is for others much less.
Furthermore, I am hoping that we know that we and Heidi are up against our illnesses as well as media-poisons. And most importantly, I hope that we also know that we have power. We don’t have to be a victim and we are free to choose. At every level, we are free. In every paradigm, we are free. We are free until we do not – AKA, die.
I’ll take it. I hope Heidi and you do too.
I hope you will speak into the wind if it be windy. I hope you will look into the flash if you must and I hope you will fight against your own destruction as long as you can choose. I hope you know that you are free.
Questions: How do you oppose the lure of suicide, even when you have to oppose it repetitively and against multiple forces? Please tell us your story.
Self-Care Tip: When others inappropriately describe suicide and when your thoughts tell you to die, be your own friend by speaking about suicide, even to yourself, with this knowledge.
If You Want To Die, Tell Others.2011/10/17
- When You Are Hurting, Remember Why You Want To Live, And Live For That 2010/12/14
- Suicide. Is It A Natural Part of Life? 2011/03/25
- Does What You Live For Make Life Better For You or Worse? 2011/03/19
- Suicided – CA Prison deaths (moorbey.wordpress.com)
- Actor Lee Ki Woo speaks out against suicide (allkpop.com)
- Northern Arapaho Tribe Finds Traditional Ceremonies Effective in Curbing Suicides (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Eight Charged In Suicide Death Of Army Private (pinkbananaworld.com)
- Fractured Families, Lack of Education Set Up Aboriginal Kids for Suicide (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Michigansthumb.com:Impact of ‘Dyingto be Free’ seminar is still being felt (michigansthumb.com)
- QUOTE: Reporting LGBT Bullycides Can Increase Suicide Contagion (queerty.com)
- Suicide Prevention Regional Summit (ashersparents.wordpress.com)