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Some Unwelcome News PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

This is a personal article, and I hope you'll indulge me. If you decide to stop reading now, I won't be offended.

Over Thanksgiving, I learned that a friend of mine saw some rough times. It's been five years since our last meeting.

We met in Vegas, and though he was more my father's friend (being a coworker) than mine, I quite enjoyed his company.  He had a decent job, his own condo, and given his behavior at the Super Bowl parties we used to attend, he seemed happy.

At this point, I'm envisioning sitting with him next to an enormous screen in the ballroom of Paris, as he nearly won a very long-shot bet. We were all very excited, but he just sat there looking at the screen with a content smile on his face.

And that will be my permanent memory of him.

He was often alone, and people would comment how they never saw him with a woman.  No one thought too much of this... it was more a sentiment of "how could a nice guy like this not be with someone." We assumed he preferred it that way. He was always welcome in our group.

As things go, the NFL and Las Vegas had a fight, and Super Bowl parties are no longer allowed in the casinos. I'll spare you commentary on that, and just point out that with no more Super Bowl parties, those of us who used to attend lost touch with each other.

This is the story I heard about what happened in the intervening years.

He worked for a newspaper, which started to suffer as all newspapers are. Though his base salary was safe, he could no longer make the bonus money he had come to depend upon. He began to fall behind on his condo payments, until he was finally evicted.

At some point he lost his job, car, etc. He ended up living on the streets of Boston. Towards the end of summer, with cold weather approaching, he found a secluded location and committed suicide. I don't know exactly how, and I'm fine with that.

His body wasn't found for at least two weeks. He was only identified because his long out-of-service cell phone still had some address book entries, and the police called them until a friend agreed to identify him. Why he didn't call them himself, I'll never know.

Before I joined the JREF, I worked as a suicide hot line listener.  I know what a difference a single phone call can make, and I wonder if Paul had just dialed 1-800-SUICIDE if would have made a difference. I like to think it would have.  At the very least, he would have learned that there were other options and people willing to listen.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. A bit of critical thinking at a crucial time can save a life.

I'll let you draw your own lessons from this tale. Maybe you'll consider that the road from your own place to the street isn't all that far, or that some of the friends you've lost touch with could use a phone call now and then. I don't know... you decide.  As for me, I'm going to spread the word that there are good people out there willing to help prevent stories just like this one. In the hopes of my not having to tell another, I'll be donating to CrisisLink this holiday season. Should you decide to do the same, you'll have my gratitude. Thanks for reading.

 

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written by cwniles, December 06, 2008
Thanks for sharing. Excellent post.

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written by Starthinker, December 06, 2008
I'm glad there are people like you out there.
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written by Son of Rea, December 06, 2008
This is an interesting subject, and hopefully, this bit of philosophizing will not trivialize your loss.

As skeptics/atheists, our perspective on life differs greatly from those who believe in a hereafter.

For that reason, it seems to me that our logical mind should find little problem with suicide. That is, of course, if we believe our death would truly not make anyone terribly sad. But if we felt that nobody would care, and if we were in circumstances that made living day to day seem utterly unbearable, what moral standard are we obligated to uphold by continuing to live?

Death is as certain and as natural as birth. Perhaps, in that respect, suicide could be compared to a cesarean section; helping the natural process along to avoid undesired circumstances.

Ancient Japanese even found honor in suicide. Is it preferable to eventually waste away in a hospital bed, letting the whim of cancer decide when you've breathed your last, or would it be more honorable to say, "I'm checking out on my own terms, and when I'm damn well ready"?

So is suicide reprehensible in and of itself, or is it so only when it hurts friends and loved ones?

Well, after writing the above, I just realized that it's not suicide in itself that is so dreadful, it is the fact that a fellow human's life became so dreadfully miserable in the first place. What happy man has ever willfully committed suicide?
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The question of suicide
written by JeffWagg, December 06, 2008
The question of suicide is an interesting one, and I'm certainly not someone who would agree that suicide is never the right course of action. If you have terminal bone cancer and are suffering intolerable pain for example, I think society should do everything in its power to comfort you even if that means ending your life.

That said, I don't believe Paul had reached such a stage. He was well liked, and there were many people who would have reached out to give him a hand, if he had only asked. 20 of them were at his funeral today.

How this story applies to critical thinking is this: people decide on suicide usually through emotion rather than thought. Things seem hopeless, but they rarely are. That's why the expression "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" is so apt. In the vast majority of cases, committing suicide is not the product of rational thought.

There are deeper debates and discussions to be had here. I was merely trying to express my loss in a productive and somewhat educational way.
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..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
Suicide Myths...
written by SheldonHelms, December 07, 2008
Last semester, our Psychology Club hosted a talk by Suicide Prevention expert Betinna Bepler of "Crisis Support Services of Alameda" (California). As faculty adviser to the club, I was lucky enough to have a private chat with Ms. Bepler, and her insights were surprising. The myths about suicide are pervasive and difficult to "educate out" of people. Many of the tips provided can be found at http://www.suicide.org/suicide-myths.html.

By the way, I was struck by the assumption that the man in this story would be assumed to be heterosexual. People often say of middle-aged or older single men "I wonder why he hasn't found a good woman?" Few ever stop to think that he might actually be interested in "a good MAN" instead. I bring this up because suicide rates for gays and lesbians are exponentially higher than for their heterosexual counterparts. And given the current political climate, we might see an increase in this tendency in that group.
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written by BillyJoe, December 07, 2008
I'm really tempted but, no, I'm going to ignore that person who shall remain therfore nameless.
Okay, let's call him X, then.
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written by Lahurongirl, December 09, 2008
I am really glad that you posted this! I have known three friends who have committed suicide for very small reasons and I always advocate getting help if you feel you might hurt yourself.
The difference between seeing no way out of your life problems and the personal choice of human euthanasia in cases of terminally ill people are immense and I can’t even believe that they are being brought up in this discussion!
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written by BillyJoe, December 09, 2008
You said "committed suicide". Is it still an offence where you live?
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written by Lahurongirl, December 09, 2008
Who? Me? smilies/smiley.gif

No, I was thinking that they felt "bound or obligated, as under a pledge to a particular cause, action, or attitude". As in, they felt committed to their choice even though it was because of mental instability and desperation. It was an irrational commitment to make but they committed themselves to it.
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written by BillyJoe, December 09, 2008
Then maybe you should have phrased it differently:

"I have known three friends who have committed themselves to suicide"

smilies/cool.gif
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written by Lahurongirl, December 10, 2008
Because it would sound as silly as saying "I've committed myself to a relationship" when someone hits on me instead of "I'm in a committed relationship." smilies/cool.gif
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written by BillyJoe, December 10, 2008
I'm in a committed suicide mode?

Anyway, glad to hear it's not illegal over there. smilies/wink.gif

BJ
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written by Lahurongirl, December 10, 2008
No, you're in the mood to commit suicide.
Committing suicide it not illegal...but it will get you committed smilies/grin.gif

What the heck are we talking about?
smilies/cheesy.gif
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An explanation from one who has been there
written by Hipstermama, December 10, 2008
Thanks so much for sharing this story. As a dedicated reader of swift but never having had the 'urge' to write before, I thought that I would send in my comments to this story as it personally hit home.

As a person who has suffered (or is still suffering as it never really goes away) from a mental illness I can honestly say I was so depressed I tried to take my own life (and luckily I did not succeed). I like to think of it as my 'not -well' self convincing myself that it was the best solution to whatever the problem was (I didn't have one, but depression hits whether you have a reason or not). Now that I am better (thanks in large part to a great medical doctor, medication and cognitive behaviour therapy) I cannot believe that I actually believed what I had convinced myself while I was sick.
Those that have never had their own mind go against them cannot understand the pain and suffering that goes on inside the mind. Even to this day I wonder, what the heck was I thinking, and all I can say is that my mind biochemicals were not right.

So I guess my point is that from the outside it may seem like there is no critical thinking going on inside the mind of someone who 'commits' suicide, there is thinking ongoing but it is all skewed but the person thinks it is logical. The only way that understanding can occur is if those of us that have had mental issues, speak about our experiences, so that those experiences can be utilized to help others that are in the middle of a mental crisis.
thanks so much for Swift, the dose now of daily reality is welcome in my life smilies/cheesy.gif

with thoughts of peace,
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written by BillyJoe, December 10, 2008
Hipstermama,

Thanks for sharing your story.

So I guess my point is that from the outside it may seem like there is no critical thinking going on inside the mind of someone who 'commits' suicide, there is thinking ongoing but it is all skewed but the person thinks it is logical.

There are situations apart from terminal illness, that do make suicide a rational decision. Sometimes all hope really is lost. Fortunately such cases are rare. When a teenager suicides because his girlfriend left him, it really is a tragedy.
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