Man Jumps, News at…?

Jennifer Maurer
86
57

A few weeks ago, at approximately 9:30 a.m., a young man jumped to his death from a bridge in downtown Asheville. He was not alone.

This young man, dressed neatly in Monday morning work attire, said his last goodbye and committed suicide surrounded by police officers, firemen, first responders, emergency personnel, school activity buses and hundreds of morning commuters snarled in the traffic jamb created by this very public emotional crisis.

Despite fervent attempts on the part of police officers, and to the horror of those in close proximity, he held his breath and jumped… into seemingly thin air.

I first heard about this young man’s unfolding crisis at a planning meeting for our Family Dens, our organization’s family mental health support groups. Our development director was late for our meeting and arrived in great distress. She had been stuck in traffic and saw this young man’s anguished face as he turned toward her and the police officer just a few feet away trying to negotiate with him.

“He looked just like you or I,” she shared, tears streaming down her face. “He was so handsome, and he looked, well, normal.”

We assured her he would be okay with so many people on the scene to help (not fully thinking through how completely terrifying all those lights, sirens, bull horns, and stopped cars must have been).

We finished our meeting and went home, each of us going straight to our computers to check on this young man and to reassure ourselves everything was okay.

It wasn’t.

This “unnamed man” had, in fact, jumped — a horrific act neatly described in exactly 150 words in only one local news source.

Contrast this coverage with what happened just a few hours later as reports of the Boston Marathon bombing quickly flooded local and national airwaves, news sources, social media and every conceivable conversation.

I learned about the Boston bombings from a feature writer I was talking to about our local suicide just a few hours before.

“This is not a good day,” she said and mentioned she was frantically trying to get in touch with her friend in Boston. I was puzzled until I checked the news and was confronted with images of the chaos in Boston.

Man jumps, news at ….?

It would not be until almost a week later that the second (and last) news story would appear regarding our local suicide, an act of desperation witnessed by hundreds of Ashevillians.

This time, “the unidentified man” got 165 words. And he hasn’t been heard from since.

Curious, this lack of news coverage, given the public nature of this suicide and the reality that more people die each year from suicide than from car accidents, averaging just over a 100 suicides a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This silence on the subject is curiouser still in our age of trauma-informed care where we are, theoretically, enlightened enough to recognize the importance of community support and collective healing around public tragedies. And the importance of supporting those who are left behind in trauma’s wake. And the importance of taking collective action to ensure future crises are prevented.

Yesterday, I noticed my local bank proudly displaying a window sticker proclaiming We Are Number 1 with Boston. (And yes, we are).

Meanwhile, our county has the fourth highest suicide rate in the state with five times as many suicides as homicides in 2010. When it comes to these tragedies, we aren’t number 1, we’re number 4.

But we’re not talking about it.

I called my children’s elementary school to see if Mother Bear could come in and do a presentation on mental health with the kids. A couple of classes were on an activity bus  caught in the traffic jam caused by the suicide event.

“Frankly, we’re afraid to talk about it with the kids,” whispered a well-meaning teacher who answered the phone.

As far as I know, they still haven’t.

Last month, Will Hall published an excellent blog here on Mad in America in which he suggested it was time for a new understanding of suicidal feelings.

“We need to speak openly about our suicidal feelings without fear of institutional reaction,” Will asserts.

Speaking openly about those we have lost, and how we are impacted in the aftermath, would be a good place to start. Even learning their names would be some progress.

Many of those lost to suicide remain lost and nameless because of the stigma surrounding taking one’s own life. Family grief, guilt and shame are only made worse in the deadening silence that is created when we can’t find our collective voice and then turn our backs on the suffering of the dead and those they leave behind.

It is time for a new understanding of suicidal feelings and actions.

Perhaps a more open dialogue, without fear of sirens and police and involuntary hospitalizations, would have made a difference for one young man here in Asheville last month. Perhaps more public local conversation would have saved some of the 45 lives we lost here in Buncombe County in 2010. Perhaps a more public and safe national conversation would have saved some of the 22 veterans who died from suicide every day in 2010.

And, lest we worry about what to say, an exploration of the many factors that contribute to suicidal feelings and acts would give us endless fodder for discussion. From poverty and trauma to individual and institutional abuse to existential crises and our “insane” pace of life to lethal side effects of psychiatric over- or mis-medication to lack of compassionate care.

There is so much we could talk about.

Perhaps all that talk might motivate us to actually do something to address our suicide epidemic. It might inspire us to reach out to someone who is hurting or to reach out when we ourselves are hurting. It might even stop us, as a society, from doing things that perpetuate the hurting.

We do have some examples of what can be accomplished when someone dares to talk about these matters.

MIA blogger and mother Maria Bradshaw’s wonderful organization, CASPER, has done much good work in New Zealand and beyond to support an open and healthy dialogue about the rapid rise in suicides and what we can do to prevent more of them. We are grateful to be able to refer families to CASPER when they have lost their loved ones to suicide or have concerns about suicide risks, particularly with regard to children and medications.

But we need more organizations like CASPER and many, many more conversations.

Unlike the one that started far too late and ended far too early on the morning of April 15 at approximately 9:30 a.m.

86 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for introducing a tough subject.

    I believe that distressful experiences cause a painful lack of wellbeing and that extremely distressful experiences cause an excruciatingly painful lack of wellbeing. Unfortunately, if there is no expectation of relief, some people stop the pain through suicide.

    We need a more caring, supportive, civil society.

    Best wishes, Steve

  2. Thanks Jennifer. This is also a topic near and dear to me. The fear of death that permeates our culture in general becomes also a dangerous problem in facing the issue of suicide.

    I’ve collected several articles that look to opening dialogue as well. Perhaps some will find it helpful. See: Conversations about Suicidal Feelings http://beyondmeds.com/2012/09/10/suicide-prevention/

    All the pieces in that collection reframe the issue. We truly need to not fear talking about it…and more importantly not fear those who are feeling suicidal impulses. Meeting people calmly without terror at these times is the most loving, gentle and healing thing that can be done to help them through such times.

    I hadn’t heard about this man you speak of in this piece. It’s really sad that the school did not welcome you in to speak. (did you know I live in Asheville too?)

    thanks again Jennifer.

  3. In the UK ‘suicide prevention strategies’ fail to address many of the socio-political factors which lead to suicide, as well as the obvious lack of availability of meaningful and chosen support, and how health services can directly and indirectly lead to suicide.
    This week a woman died by suicide because of being unable to pay her rent, this is because we have a national shortage of social housing and our governments answer to that is to reduce the housing benefit assistance people receive. This is available to people both in work and out of work, with the majority being in [poorly paid] work. There have also been suggestions from politicians that disabled people [sorry if the word disabed offends anyone] including psychiatric survivors should accept less than the minimum wage [being of lesser value]. This woman made it clear in her letter that her death was as a direct result of housing policy but politicians refused to admit this and explained away her death as being nothing to do with their policies, and insisted she must have had mental health problems. There is also official denial of other welfare suicides [by people who DO have recorded histories of mental distress] even though the documentation they left clearly stated that as the prime reason for their suicide. The desperation our mental health service users feel can denied in the press, people can be told they are not allowed to speak of it when it directly relates to government policy, i.e. cuts to services, benefits, housing, employment support. Or else they told they are selfish or lazy.
    Research now shows that claimants are now regarded as a separate ‘out group’, a distinct social group different to others, not properly human, not even possessing the same emotional range as others.
    Suicide as a direct result of health services action or inaction is also neatly covered up. I helped supervise some research which yielded shocking results, where psych services who specifically work in physical health services [called ‘liaison psychiatry] told A&E [Emergency Room] staff ‘yeah we know her she’ll probably kill herself but don’t worry you’ve got all your notes in order’.
    When psych services decide a person is ‘terminal’ there is no ‘palliative care’ and some are even told of the expectation of their death – which comes with no support.

  4. “…more people die each year from suicide than from car accidents, averaging just over a 100 suicides a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

    Jennifer,

    I do appreciate your having drawn a connection between these various, tragic events, which occurred suddenly, on the same day; that must have been quite a moving day for all involved; and, yes, some suicides (such as the one you’ve referenced) can be terribly tragic.

    Yet, I wonder if our society isn’t quite confused by the frequent merging of suicide and murder, in the news. There is a big difference between killing oneself and killing another (or, others). Of course, suicide can be a serious problem – but not so serious as murder, I think; and, I wonder if suicide — generally speaking — is quite exactly the problem, in our society, that many (and, perhaps, even yourself??) are making it out to be?

    Of course, suicide is most often quite devastating for the family members and other loved ones, of the deceased; so, you do well to speak of, “the importance of taking collective action to ensure future crises are prevented,” concluding, “we need more organizations like CASPER…”

    But, as some of the commenters on this page have already pointed out (and you have agreed), we must not panic around this topic – and prospect – of suicide. Our medical establishment (and, especially, psychiatry) has taught us to *fear* it; and, that’s to our great detriment, I believe.

    More than two decades ago, I was repeatedly “hospitalized” against my will, being *falsely* accused of presenting “a danger” to myself. (Please excuse me, if you’ve already read this, about me; I’ve pointed out the following personal experiences elsewhere, in my comments, on this site.) The resulting *unwanted* ‘medical (psychiatric) treatment’ I received led me, after a couple of years, to become suicidal. Never, before those “involuntary hospitalizations” was I suicidal; nor, since extracting myself from the “mental health system” have I ever been suicidal. I.e., the “mental health” system, in and of itself, was driving me toward suicide — via ‘treatment’ meted out, by medical-coercive psychiatry; and, that began with a psychiatrist calling me, “a danger to himself.”

    From what little I know of CASPER, it looks like a great organization; its founder is apparently properly skeptical of the ‘mental health’ system. Yet, I wonder whether CASPER can be duplicated here, in the U.S. — as its success seems to be the inspiration of one truly *uniquely* driven and capable person living in New Zealand; and, New Zealand is quite different, culturally, from most of the U.S, is it not? [A side-note: one can’t access CASPER’s suicide prevention strategy without paying a fee (albeit a small fee, just $15 http://www.casper.org.nz/node/223 ); while, of course, every non-profit needs a way to raise revenue, doesn’t that document represent precisely the sort of information that should be simply given away?!?] Based on what little I know of it, I would welcome CASPER in my community, and I am all for initiating discussion regarding suicide, in any event; but, for me, that discussion would need begin with my asking: do we actually have a suicide crisis in the U.S.? (I suspect that, probably, there is such a crisis in some of the most economically ‘depressed’ communities – but not all of them.)

    After reading your blog, I’ve been studying this Wikipedia “list of countries, by suicide rate”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate If you follow that link, you’ll see that, numerically speaking, the U.S. does *not* seem to have an extraordinary problem, of suicide, as compared with many other countries — 12 suicides per 100,000 (in 2009). And, the U.K. apparently has a similar rate to the U.S.. (I offer that last point, as I know there are a good number of MIA readers from the U.K..) But, admittedly, such stats can be misleading in various ways; they are highly depersonalizing; and, hence, my point, as follows…

    Stats can be manipulated to create fear of suicide – as can focusing exclusively on certain, individual instances of suicide. Each suicide must be evaluated on its own, subjectively – before it can be judged tragic; after all, suicide needn’t *always* be considered a bad thing. Consider people suffering the final stages of painful and irreversible, degenerative physical diseases; is it not obvious that their suicides can be justifiable – and even a clearly *good* thing? This should be considered a vital part of the discussion of suicide, I feel: Some people commit suicide for reasons that are, arguably, quite reasonable, but suicide, generally speaking, is broadly condemned by the powers-that-be, in most societies; and/or, quite simply, it’s *medicalized* – viewed as a form of psychopathology, to be turned over to psychiatrists, such that most people wind up associating it, directly, with the concepts of “mental disorder” and “mental illness,” especially, here in the U.S.. Psychiatrists and other “mental health professionals” are, by law, expected to captivate and ‘treat’ people who are, supposedly, both, (A) ‘mentally disordered/ill’ *and* (B) ‘a danger to others or themselves.’ The *medicalization* of ostensibly ‘suicidal’ people, in our “mental health system,” has become standard protocol in this country – virtually codified by precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court cases, which refer to “dangerousness” that is supposedly directed at oneself or others.

    But, really, the medicalization of suicide is very nearly a *worldwide* phenomena. WHO completed a global study, in 2006, which concluded 90% of all investigated suicide attempts wind up in hospitalization. I’m guessing a significant number of those ‘patients’ require a *physician’s* treatment for self-inflicted injuries, so their hospitalizations may, in fact, be genuinely needed; but, simultaneously, ‘medical’ *containment* of such ‘suicidal’ people suggests suicide is a disease — or a function of disease.

    From this point of view, I hope that the conclusions of the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention view of suicide will be seriously *questioned* by those who choose to discuss these matters. [I doubt the U.S. C.D.C. will be compelled to *cease* counting suicides, but, perhaps, that counting could be done, as well, by some other, more appropriate/understanding -- ideally, non-governmental -- organization(s) -- realizing that suicide is *not* a disease, it is a choice -- and realizing, indeed, not all suicides are problematic.] Surely, it is psychiatrists, mainly, who study suicide, within the C.D.C. Of course, most psychiatrists – being physicians – are inclined to medicalize people; they make up countless ‘diseases’ out of seemingly ‘unacceptable’ behaviors. (No matter how long I’ve known this, it never ceases to disturb me, given not only my own memories of having been forcibly medicalized – but recalling, also, many others who have been treated similarly.) It’s purely a travesty.

    Realizing that I’ve gone on here, at lengthe (probably too long), I close now – with a brief passage from Thomas Szasz, who addressed these issues, in his own way, quite well…

    “Laws that enable some persons to lock up some others persons whose behavior they find upsetting have nothing to do with health, medicine, or treatment: They are a system of extralegal social controls without the due-process safeguards of the criminal justice system. Calling the arrangement “suicide prevention” is deception and self-deception. The coercive prevention of death may, depending on circumstances, be a noble end. The coercive prohibition of it is, a priori, ignoble and unworthy of modern people in secular societies.” (Suicide Prohibition: The Shame of Medicine, 2011, p. xiii)

    Thank you for your thoughtful blogging…

    Respectfully,

    ~Jonah

  5. Our suicide rates are down for inpatients and up for community patients, this is because admissions are now pretty short and there is so little support available in the community. Right now because of housing/welfare/service cuts with a negative media actively demonising all sick and disabled people [which includes people defined as mentally ill], alongside unemployed and welfare recipients I’m seeing something very worrying. I’ve never listened to as many survivors with active plans for their deaths at the point of where they could lose their welfare and homes in addition to their support as I am right now. For them it wouldn’t be a choice.
    In terms of when do services decide to intervene, it’s quite arbitrary here, we’ve had high profile cases where one woman’s advance directive was respected after she drank antifreeze, whereas another went to the high court and was denied her desire to cease endless refeeding.
    It’s ironic that those who want to live feel they are might reach a position where they can’t and others don’t want them to because they’re not economically productive enough. Then those who truly do want out are allowed or denied their wishes according to – luck.
    I believe in physician assisted death for people whose conditions are terminal, degenerative, and intolerable to them. It’s just terrible to see quadriplegic people denied the right to end their own lives. Some people can afford to go to Dignitas [it takes about £10,000 because your body has to be flown back]but they won’t consider mental distress as a just cause for ending life – actually I think they should.
    Equally, there are times when being detained has saved lives and people have been grateful for that afterwards. I’m not adverse to a short period of detainment being used sometimes to put a ‘pause’ into what’s happening for a person, what I am opposed to would be any forced treatment within that

  6. • My husband who let me rest. While it didn’t feel good or healthy at the time, and worried many, perhaps, in the end, all that sleep wasn’t all bad either.

    I have a name for that – duvet surfing!
    Yes it’s something professionals and friends can get most worried about but sometimes it’s really neccessary. I always remember something Pat Deegan wrote about staring at the walls for long periods of time [months/years] and how that WAS doing something

  7. I can relate very much to this from both sides of the fence. My brother committed suicide when he was 33 years old, I was devastated but the response from others was essentially that of silence so I not only learned yet another hard lesson about people and life but I also had to once more deny and bury my feelings.

    I made a vow to myself many years before to avoid like the plague the ‘Mental Health’ profession and not just psychiatrists. I innately knew from a very young age (14) that there was something very wrong about the way the whole set up operated after my experience (among others) of being in their clutches when I could no longer cope with being bullied at school (long story that I could say so much about).

    After making somewhat of a comeback from all this, my life again took a nosedive in later years when my marriage deteriorated. Due to the particular troubles I found myself homeless for a short time and this led to me being temporarily placed in a women’s shelter. It was all very stressful for me, I was far away from home, I missed my son and I knew nobody. I was then transferred for 6 months to a women’s refuge. During this time I tried to get a grip but inwardly I was very insecure and frightened. I then had thoughts that I would be better off dead and knowing my brother committed suicide, this actually made it a little bit easier to think that way. I stupidly shared my thoughts with the lady in charge who I sometimes had conversations with. Well, that just prompted her to say it was ‘her duty to inform authorities’ and I couldn’t talk her out of it. I was then taken to hospital. I was kept in the emergency room section where the staff kept an eye on me, There was no one really to talk to as the emergency room staff were busy doing other things so they hardly said anything to me except that I could not leave and that I had to wait for the next day to see someone. I felt awkward and frustrated and didn’t know what to do with myself all night.

    The whole thing was so contrived and once again I had to deny and bury my real feelings. I knew also that I had to play the game, act ‘normal’ etc otherwise I may not get out of there the next day. All it did was further cement my feelings toward this bankrupt system that suppresses and punishes rather than liberates through genuine care and understanding which is all I was ever really after – a need so simple yet so seemingly impossible to feed.

  8. I think it’s good to focus on “the importance of taking collective action to ensure future crises are prevented.” Peter Levine’s book, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, discusses how healing occurs when the focus on trauma is counterbalanced by the focus on its opposite – peace, joy, strength. Healing occurs when a focus on an uplifting purpose prevails.

    It’s possible to measure whether people experience harmony or disharmony (in their brain waves and heart rhythms) when experiencing talk of suicide. This can determine when the discussion is progressing in a way that increases health for its participants. This kind of proof could help schools welcome healthy discussions. I’m posting a related comment on MIA’s facebook page.

  9. Dear Jen, thank you for so honestly sharing your moving experience of intense grief over losing your dear grandmother. Yes, often all it takes is the kindness of one friend to sit and listen and simply “be” with you in those moments/days/months of intense pain.

    I am so sorry for the grief in your Asheville community over the suicide of that young man and the quiet shame surrounding his death. Of course, suicide needs to be talked about. I know Sean Donovan here in western MA runs a wonderful group focused on suicide. He also has a blog here on MIA.

    Thank you again for sharing your personal story. It always helps to know that you are not alone.

    Love, Dorothy

  10. Hi Jen,

    Thank you for the courage to bring this “shadowy” topic into the light, and for doing so in such a powerful and thought-provoking manner.

    When we stop to really think about it, it’s not difficult to recognize that it’s actually a very natural response to consider suicide when we feel profound hopelessness and powerlessness in the face of tremendous pain–hopeless that this intense suffering will ever pass, and powerless to do anything about it. And yet, what is the socially accepted response (and a legally mandated response for some of us)to someone in such a painful place? To lock them up against their will and either coerce of force them to take spirit-dampening drugs, and typically try to convince them that they need to “have insight” into the fact that they have a lifelong brain disease. In other words, here’s someone struggling with overwhelming hopelessness and powerlessness, and our response is to strip away any remaining wisps of hope and power. Wow. Really?

    This topic is near and dear to my own heart because one of my closest friends–one of the only people who supported me in my own time of overwhelming distress, and a fellow lover of the sky (a hang glider pilot like myself)–committed suicide inside a psychiatric hospital.

    Tragically, this all happened while I was living on the other side of the planet (staying in Buddhist monasteries with only infrequent access to email), and so I didn’t even know that she was going through all of this. Fortunately, another close friend of ours remained in contact with her during her final days, and so he was able to share with me his understanding of what had occurred:

    After a traumatic childhood, she continued to struggle with ongoing social and emotional difficulties, including occasional bouts of severe hopelessness several times prior to this incident. She feared that this time she might really try to take the ultimate “exit strategy.” She didn’t know where else to turn for help, so naturally she went to a psychiatric hospital. She apparently made it very clear to the staff that she didn’t want any drugs, as they had only made things worse for her in the past, and that what she really needed was someone to talk to and to keep an eye on her–to make sure she didn’t do anything impulsive (i.e., attempt to take her life). The staff failed horribly on all counts. As soon as she checked in, they forced her to take drugs (I don’t know which kind), refused to allow her to leave, AND failed to provide her with genuine human support and compassionate watchfulness–the only things that she had asked for. Several days into her stay, she walked out onto the hospital grounds, climbed to the top of the tallest tree, and dove headfirst to her death.

    As you can imagine, upon hearing about all of this, I was grief-stricken and enraged. Really??? This is the kind of “support” that we can expect to receive in our greatest time of need? Perhaps the one good thing that came from this was that it represented one of the last straws that led to my own resolve to commit to working towards a more empowering, humanistic, and compassionate health care system.

    And meeting people like you, Jen, and others on this forum keep the hope alive in me that such change is a very real possibility,

    In support,
    Paris Williams

    • Oh, Paris, I am so sorry about your dear friend’s suicide. And especially sad since she was completely let down and disrespected by the hospital. It is so often the case (myself included) that the death of a close friend in the system inspires us to activism.
      Love, Dorothy

  11. Is having more reports about suicide in the news, the way that you can pretty much assume it will be reported, is this going to help prevent suicides; or will it go the same route as everything else that’s reported and turned into a means to get people riled up, scared and perpetuate the problem? I’m sure they would start talking about the drugs that are supposed to help that have only been proven to cause suicide. I’m sure they will get everyone so alarmed that they would fail to see that a person on the brink of suicide is also highly alarmed and doesn’t need more alarming contributions, as well meaning as they are. And I’m sure all the money and attention will go into organizations (and have) which would talk about escalating numbers of suicides; while they monopolize on everyone’s alarm to make them think their measures are helping, although this wouldn’t be the case. The same with cancer “drives,” the same with the war on “terror,” and the same with religions teaching people that being terrified of going to hell brings you to the gates of heaven; the same with governments waging wars to alleviate the “bad guy” while in doing so they create a pattern of misunderstanding between cultures rather than the peace they say that needs to be maintained by the wars, and never has.

    Is it really wise to have the focus on why wasn’t this more in the news, rather than don’t buy into all of this alarm and you will be to relate to the person whose life you are trying to save?

  12. The reality is that if people seek “help” for suicidal ideation and psychache (unbearable psychological pain/distress), they will be subjected to any/all of the following: armed and dangerous police presence, public humiliation, incarceration/involuntary detainment, loss of civil rights, chemical and physical restraints, intrusive constant observation and no effective reduction of the causative distressors. The blog, Incompatible With Life (http://incompatiblewithlife.wordpress.com), chronicled this, investigated the research and clinical literature and proposed or endorsed treatment strategies and resources to reduce suicidality causes. The Reading List page of the blog contains references to suicidal theory, research and effective (evidence-based) treatment and care to reduce distress.

    It’s also salient to note that suicide/suicidality is not a psychiatric disorder, that there is no curriculum to teach any licensed professional about it, and there is no endorsed treatment for suicidality. Of course, the biggest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt. No one has studied the nature of this, but I’ll throw out a bone: an animal trainer once said that if you want a puppy to come to you again, you shouldn’t smack it on the nose when it does. Humiliating, degrading and imprisoning people who encounter “help for suicide” will fur darn sure make certain that they don’t willingly allow that to happen to themselves again.

    • A fellow UK survivors observation;

      “I think that survivor support (survivor solidarity) is something we work with on a small scale rather than something the whole “movement” is going to adopt. Szasz’s type freedom crusade grew out of a different soil than the solidarity of people who have suffered and seek to understand one another. But for some survivors, Szasz’s perspective gives an orientation and meaning to their activities together – that is, they use it to support a solidarity i.e. “This is what we are about”. I think it gives some people a belief in autonomy and mutual respect for others (which is good) – but it then gets caught on the problems of real life and real distress where those who do not fit the model become those outside the fence”.

      Life is complex and messy and I try to find humanity and maintain humanity in amongst the painful mess.
      I can feel outside the fence when I see the line of sink or swim, how stupid is anyone to choose to take drugs [that’s sometimes a choice no matter how much we might not like it],use services, be in receipt of any welfare support which means using the given diagnosis [iatrogenic damage suddenly loses its validity], too linear.

      I can’t take a people die so tough shit line. I’m enraged by clearly preventable suicides where choice is not truly a choice, such as punitive welfare sanctions [for those in and out of work].
      Otherwise I respect anyone’s right to die but would obviously want to see society and anyone paid to support react quite differently to anyone suicidal coming to their attention i.e. no forced drugged incarceration, and access to non-medical sanctuary.

      In saying this, if a friend wanted to be hospitalised I’m going to help them [it does happen], just as if they wanted to escape I’d help them [I’d be happy to break any law].

      I’m not against suicide per se, I support assisted suicide [Dignitas] and feel they should see people for psychic/mental pain as well as physical [they currently don’t, few people would support me on this], because I’ve seen how grim failed suicide can be when it means living and body altering disabilities. If someone really needs to do it, then I don’t want them to suffer.

      I don’t want to see anyone degraded and imprisoned for being suicidal but I have seen a couple of people detained without any treatment forced to put a ‘pause’ into what was happening for them. I know this is rare, I’m just reporting it, to throw an idea for consideration, maybe as a stepping stone to forced treatment/sectioning/commitment laws being dropped.
      You may have to consider the shade of grey because the world may not shift to a Szazsian dream just like that.
      If you had the chance to secure something nearer to where you want to be rather than nothing would you take it? I would.

  13. Jonah – I’m saying I understand why they feel they have little choice – compassion – I’ve never advocated a prohibition on suicide and yes they are unnecessary tragedies because if policies were not so punitive people wouldn’t be placed in the position of considering that. It’s not my catastrophy, it was theirs, you can pathologise my feelings if you choose that doesn’t bother me

    • “you can pathologise my feelings if you choose that doesn’t bother me”

      Joanna Care,

      Pathologizing???

      I am not pathologizing your feelings (nor anyone else’s feelings). I’m not even referring to your feelings. I am simply remarking on the fact that you have repeatedly indicated that people who are facing eviction from their homes have no choice but to kill themselves.

      I have now objected to your saying that, a couple of times.

      I have said that, in my view, that’s your *catastrophising* their housing situation.

      I.e., your saying that someone had to kill herself or himself because s/he was facing homelessness is your painting his/her situation ultimately catastrophic. (Indeed, you now say, “It’s not my catastrophy, it was theirs…”) You are painting their housing situation as catastrophic.

      My pointing this out has nothing to do with pathologizing; it is me pointing out and critiquing the narrative that *you* are placing on these instances, of people committing suicide because they face eviction.

      Now, I feel I have said all that’s needed — especially, as I’ve already said that, in my view, you’re making a poor ‘excuse’ or an ‘apology’ for their suicide.

      By the way, in your preceding comment to me, you stated (above, on May 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm) that, “I know you can technically argue any act is a choice, but it isn’t an academic exercise when it comes to real life.”

      I supposed it may be true that one can technically argue any act is a choice, but I don’t forward such a proposition.

      In my view, it’s reasonable to say that, in some (rare) instances, some people are faced with choice-less situations.

      Perhaps, we can speculate as to what those situations might look like; however, that may be another conversation — a philosophical one, which this is not, really; simply, being faced with homelessness presents various options — more than just suicide.

      Unless or until you can concede that point (i.e., that the suicides of people facing homelessness are their choice), I am done with this conversation.

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

      • I have indeed stated they felt they had no other option, and that I can appreciate feeling that.
        I don’t use the language of CBT such as ‘catastrophising’ [just as we don’t use DSM diagnoses], so to me that is pathologising, whether you apply that to me or others.
        Yes I view their circumstances as having been catastrophic for them and a tragic loss – we all ‘paint’ our thoughts about others situations.

        “In my view, it’s reasonable to say that, in some (rare) instances, some people are faced with choice-less situations”

        Thank you, I think that’s all I needed acknowledged.

        “Unless or until you can concede that point (i.e., that the suicides of people facing homelessness are their choice), I am done with this conversation”

        It’s a “choice” but people can feel they have no other option, and not really want to do what they’re doing, but can’t face or do the remaining options.
        I’m saying it’s a choice that people can go into unwillingly

        • “I’m saying it’s a choice that people can go into unwillingly”

          Joanna Care,

          I follow what you’re saying — until you offer your last phrase (in that last line which I’ve quoted, above) …at which point I throw up my hands — finding we’re back at square one.

          Note — Googling “oxymoron,” here’s what appears: “ox·y·mo·ron /ˌäksəˈmôrˌän/ Noun A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction…”

          Seems to me that you’re offering a beautiful oxymoron, in that last line of yours (when you refer to, “a choice that people can go into unwillingly”); so, I think we should just agree to disagree…

          Respectfully,

          ~Jonah

          • Note – Google “contradiction” A person, thing, or situation in which inconsistent elements are present.

            Life and actions can be a contradiction, can’t you grasp that?
            People can self-harm without suicidal intent whilst at exactly the same time not wanting to.

  14. irenecardenas – when I’ve watched programme’s about tribes in the Amazon and elsewhere it’s very humbling. They build their homes from the materials around them, have to hunt and chop down their food. They live such a natural and better life in so many ways.

  15. Since I was entangled with this discussion about CBT because of a post from another blog that was shared, I think I should say something, or try to say something.

    To begin with, I agree with both sides of the argument.

    Catastrophizing is an unfortunate term, or can become one. At the point when someone is told that they are catastrophizing, are unrealistic, are in need of treatment, or would be in need of being indoctrinated by someone else, this becomes intrusive. I didn’t come up with that term, I was repeating it.

    I originally posted about CBT because I felt there was something there that can teach a basic tenet that heals both sides of the problem. It’s often overlooked that perhaps the wallstreet bankers causing the game playing, causing the economic collapse, causing people to loss their homes and causing distress amongst people less privileged than them: they may be run by completely unrealistic addictions and scenarios of what they believe happiness is. You don’t know what kind of an environment of “you must play along with the game,” or “you have to be cool and be part of the cult,” and all the programmed fear, the ingrained insecurities, the pangs of loss towards completely unrealistic scenarios that go on in their head, keeping them from actually finding happiness while they think they are in a chase scene to catch something that will forever elude them the way they are going about it.

    That’s what I originally was trying to point out as being catastrophizing, not the very real trauma of losing your house because you were deceitfully conned into a mortgage in order to have your monthly mortgage payments raised to impossible level; and have this all used as capital in corrupt investments that are gambling material for wallstreet games. There’s a difference between real catastrophes and catastrophizing. However, this could conceivably help a person, to focus on how their mind, in its distraught state, might start building up scenarios that make life seem impossible and suicide the only solution; when it could hold onto hope instead, and allow a softer more patient route to emerge than the harshness of ending one’s own life. There are wonderful movements that have come from people holding onto hope instead. It is possible to catch the mind before it gets locked into seeing only one desperate solution. It is possible to gently steer it into another mode. But denying the very real trauma, anguish and despair of being conned into losing your house, have the government bail out the bankers causing such trouble rather than the actual people losing their houses; and then having it insinuated that you’re into hysterics when this all gets to you: this isn’t the best way to encourage a person to have a more positive outlook on life.

  16. So many interesting posts here and thanks Jennifer for your reply to my earlier comment. On one level I get what some are saying about ‘choice’ and ‘catastrophising’ when used in a somewhat rarefied context. However when it comes to people’s lived experience this context can seem rather disingenuous. With both it appears that often no real consideration is given to actual perceptions/circumstances/driving factors. So with the former all that counts is what ‘choice’ is made and with the latter, ‘realism’ seeks to overwhelm perceived hysterical thinking.

    In relation to the former, perhaps in many situations it would be better to say they were reactions rather than genuine choices. Although I mentioned a few things before about my life it was of course a very incomplete picture. In my younger years I also developed panic attacks and agoraphobia which were quite disabling and lasted 8-9 years. Due to this experience I became acquainted with the catastrophising and choice dilemma. I can’t go into much detail about my experience as there are many aspects to it so I will just focus on the two mentioned. Although I understood the motive to use CBT, overall I had trouble accepting what seemed to me was a denial of and trivialization of the genuine distress and complex problems caused by recurring (and often severe) panic attacks/agoraphobia; especially if it took time to find out what the problem was and by then it could be well entrenched (which was my case). The reality for me was I had to quit my job, I lost all independence to the point where I couldn’t even go to the shop on my own and at 21 this to me was a catastrophe, I lost all confidence, self respect and so much more.

    Although theoretically there may have been ways to avoid/escape this problem, at the time I didn’t/couldn’t see it, it wasn’t available to me and that was the reality I lived – all I knew is what I was experiencing and from within myself I tried my best to overcome it. I don’t see quitting my job etc as being real choices – they were reactions to circumstances. As for making out that people catastrophize the effects of panic attacks etc (and therein lay the problem – wrong thinking) – well, let them experience this problem at full force and see how they go. I doubt anyone would become a virtual prisoner in their home against their will without good reason.

    I eventually overcame it mainly by being with people who were like me and by using my own inner resources (I used no drugs). The key thing was we truly respected and understood each other and didn’t trivialize the difficulties each was experiencing. One lady who I became close to had been through the mill of psychiatrists, drugs, ECT etc and was worse off for it. As difficult as it was I am glad I didn’t go down that path.

    I feel that in many instances of suicide maybe it is more a reaction rather than a genuine choice and I believe this was so in my brother’s case. That doesn’t mean the person was incompetent it just means they are acting from a (variously defined) inferior position which I think is the reality for a lot of people.