Tuesday 19 May 2009

Suicide: not always painless

A guy climbs a scaffold in downtown Winnipeg. He draws a crowd. He jumps. He dies.

Why did he do this? Would he have hung himself in the basement if there was no scaffold to jump from, or was a public spectacle part of the package?

I have known a few people who committed suicide, all of whom did it in private. Still, rarely does it make sense:

Raivo Tamm was a well liked young man and an outstanding athlete. He was fun to be around and seemed to have a positive outlook on life. Yet one day, on the anniversary of his brother's suicide, Raivo took his own life as well. I sometimes try to imagine how devastated his parents must have been to lose both of their sons like this.

In cases like this, suicide is not only extremely selfish but completely illogical as well. It is an act committed to relieve some kind of personal torment at the moment that it is at its worst. Had he saved his family and friends the grief and not chosen the bullshit cop-out of suicide he certainly would have gone on to have a fulfilling life and been thankful that he wasn't so foolish.

Does suicide ever make sense?

Yes, in the following instances:

1) You have an unshakable compulsion to shoot up a school. Do us all a favour and start with yourself.

2) You're a die-hard Leafs fan. Let's face it: there is no hope.

3) You have a chronic illness and are in constant discomfort. In fact, if you're suffering with no hope of improvement, then not only does suicide make sense (if you so choose) but assisted suicide should be allowed. If somebody of sound mind makes the judgement that their quality of life is too poor to continue living, then their doctor should be able to help them with this matter, just as they would with any other medical challenge. In Manitoba they can to some degree, by sedating a person until they die of natural causes, but this does not end the suffering quickly and can make for an uncomfortable couple of weeks for friends and family.

If you're looking for a point in this rambling you won't find one. Just some of my thoughts on the matter. There are really two very different issues: metal illness, which can be very well concealed, leading to senseless loss of life; and the right to choose death by somebody of sound mind. We should not let our concerns about the former influence our policies about the later.

*** update ***

From today's Free Press:

Three children have committed suicide in Pukatawagan in recent months and many more have tried, prompting the northwestern Manitoba First Nation community to beg Ottawa for help.

(Band leaders) wrote to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and to Health Canada's First Nation and Inuit Health Branch this month begging for more access to long-term counselling, a suicide prevention curriculum in schools, clinical experts, grief counsellors and training for teachers so they can recognize suicidal students.
This, in addition to the "wellness worker and a full-time counsellor on the reserve, along with various community programs like the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and Brighter Futures" for the community of 1500. I'm not saying more can't be done, but one has to wonder about the root cause of the problem, and to what extent additional funds and resources will help. Is the root cause poverty? Many other poor communities don't see suicide rates like this. If the root cause is a sense of hopelessness and despair being instilled in the children of the reserve by parents and members who are wallowing in victimhood, then perhaps the solution needs to come from within the community instead of from Ottawa.

One other thing: the article mentions that in one week in 2002, 42 people on the Shamattawa reserve tried to commit suicide, 3 of whom succeeded. What kind of a piss-poor success rate is that? Look, if you're going to attempt suicide -- and I'm not saying you should, but if you are -- put some thought into it. Poisoning yourself is not recommended because chances are you will only succeed in damaging your brain cells and/or blowing out your kidneys. Hanging has a higher chance of success but again, if you fail, brain damage can result. Cutting yourself has a low chance of success, but if you fail at least you are likely to fully recover. Just something to keep in mind if you happen to be a die-hard Leafs fan...


grumpy old man said...

Interesting thread. I disagree and agree.

I don't know if it truly is a selfish act. For some maybe it is the easy way out. For most I'd say they'd reached the end of their rope (no pun intended). Meh. So be it. Not that I don't care. But they did what they wanted to do.

For the incredible suicide attempts on the reserves I feel you've nailed it. There must be an inordinate amount of hopelessness and despair, fed no doubt by the adults.

I can see where life could be miserable but geeze life is what you make of it. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and bringing everyone around you down, find something constructive to do.

The huge suicide attempt to success ratio is likely nothing more than: a) an effort at getting attention and 2) getting flown off the reserve into Winnipeg.

cherenkov said...

I think there's some truth to what you say about attempting suicide to get flown to the city. I have heard some stories like that. I have a friend who flew medivacs for a few years.

The Traveler said...

Very good post and yes there is always a better way , the flight out is one of them as they have no other way out . This si one of the saddst subjects I dealt with when working on the reaserves

cherenkov said...

Thanks, OC. What are your ideas about the root cause of the problem?

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