Suicide: a How-To Guide

I came across a website today.  It’s all about suicide.  It provides a range of information – statistics about suicide; what causes it, who commits it, how they commit it. I read further and discovered several pages discussing the various suicide methods. There is even a table compiled, listing the fatality rate of each method, along with expected time required for death to take place and the amount of pain thought to be experienced from start to finish.  To my horror and disbelief, I also found a detailed guide on how to successfully off yourself using each method.

This website was one of the first to come up in a Google search for depression and suicide.  I imagined a person at their lowest stumbling upon this; a website to help them select whichever method seemed to best suit their death wish, and all the information required to implement their heart-breaking plan.  The worst possible form of “help” I could imagine for these poor souls.

It made me angry.  Livid. Why on earth would someone provide the world with information on how to end their own life?  How does this person sleep at night, knowing their words might have been (arguably) responsible for someone else’s death?  What in the world possessed them to create such an awful tool?

I continued reading, and I changed my mind.

On top of the how-to-suicide-guides, I found unbiased, factual information regarding the likelihood of failure (and potential lasting health implications) for each method.  For the particularly gruesome suicide styles (such as firearms, jumping in front of a train, or hanging), there was a section outlining what someone would be exposed to upon discovering the body – how it would look, the trauma the person may experience, and the clean-up they may have to do.  There were statistics, references and resources listed at the bottom of each page.

The website is written by a person with a history of mental health struggles and suicide attempts.  He shares a brief summary of his story on the website, carefully separating fact from opinion.  He describes his own suicide attempt, and his honest and raw thoughts upon realising he failed, “I woke up I don’t know how many hours later – it was still light on the same day … feeling like shit, and being bitterly disappointed I was still alive.” These words took me back to some of my own dark moments.

It’s not at all uncommon for a suicide attempt to fail.  “For every successful suicide attempt, there are 33 unsuccessful ones. For drug overdoses, the ratio is around 40 to 1. In fact, if attempting suicide, there is a much greater chance you’ll end up in hospital alive, with either short or long term heath implications, than dead.”

The author goes on to summarize these facts into one eye-opening statement:  “The first thing you should be aware of if you are trying to kill yourself is the odds are against you.”

On top of the suicide statistics, I also found information on the reality of mental illness.  The writer makes a comment many of us have likely heard before, comparing cancer to depression – both are real, diagnosable illnesses that have the potential to be deadly. He shares some referenced facts to show just how true that statement is, “According to the American Association of Suicidology, major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide. The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population.”

To compare, the chances of developing and dying from cancer (of any form) in the United States is an average of 22.83% for men, and 19.26% for women. 

This information seems daunting at first glance – as though major depression were a death sentence, much like cancer can be.  Fortunately, the next paragraph presents us with statistics that prove otherwise, “The risk of someone suffering from an untreated major depressive disorder trying to commit suicide is around 1 in 5 (20%). However, the suicide risk among treated patients is around 1 in 1,000 (0.1%).”

So, this confirms that a depressed person has a 20% chance of falling victim to suicide, much like the average person has an approximately 20% chance of dying from cancer. The fortunate difference for those who fall into the former category is when depression is properly treated, the suicide risk factor is greatly diminished. 

The author writes in a way that is completely open: not encouraging, but also not directly discouraging, a person from committing suicide.  He writes in such a way that his readers are forced to take a step back and view suicide objectively; everything is to the point, and nothing is personal. 

While this website does provide information which could be used to end one’s own life, it also offers a refreshingly realistic and matter-of-fact discussion about suicide.  It allows suicide to be seen as the epidemic it is in today’s world, instead of hiding away from the reality we should not dare deny.  Instead of simply saying “don’t do it”, this website informs about everything that goes along with suicide – before, during, and after – to allow a person to really think strongly about what it is they are considering, opening their eyes to what suicide really entails, without attempting to persuade them one way or the other.

Suicide is a taboo subject, and the majority of articles online don’t go into too much detail – especially avoiding descriptions of how a person can successfully commit suicide.  One can assume this is because people are afraid of planting dangerous ideas into already unstable minds.  So, instead, they stick with the “just don’t do it” approach, which seems safe.

What this approach fails to acknowledge, however, is that suicidal people are often so desperate that they are willing to try anything, and simple discouragement is therefore not enough to stop them.  Many suicides (attempted or successful) are done impulsively. If a suicidal person can’t find the information they are looking for at their moment of desperation, they will try whatever they think might work.  While their uneducated attempts will rarely result in death, there is a good chance they will experience other negative side effects – anything from superficial scarring to permanent brain damage.

The website I found today takes an entirely different approach – one I had not seen before, and one that is nothing short of controversial.  It takes the suicidal back to a child-like state in a way; offering explanations for everything from how to get things done, to what to expect in the (statistically likely) event of failure.  Instead of shunning away the notion of suicide, this website embraces it and creates an educating and empowering environment, allowing people to make sound decisions, rather than impulsive ones.

This website challenged my perspective on suicidal discussions and how we should approach the subject as a society.  Simply saying “no” without laying out the reasons why – in an unbiased, educational way – is a sure-fire way to lose the attention of a potential suicide victim.  This website shocked me into wanting to read more, and opened my eyes to the fact that there are many ways to help someone.  Sometimes, we need to shock people into realising what they are considering before we can expect to open their minds enough to truly help them.

For those of you who are interested, the website I have been referring to can be visited at:
http://www.lostallhope.com

Cancer statistics found at:
Lifetime Risk (Percent) of Dying from Cancer by Site and Race/Ethnicity: Males, Total US, 2009-2011 (Table 1.19) and Females, Total US, 2009-2011 (Table 1.20). 2014. Accessed at http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2011/results_merged/topic_lifetime_risk_death.pdf on December 27, 2015.

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