Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Pain of Suicide

by Pa Rock
Social Worker

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say:

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

(Taken from "Suicide is Painless" - the theme from MASH - by Johnny Mandell.)

Suicide, as the old saying goes, is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is anything but painless.

This week, Cameron Dabaghi, a junior a Yale, became the thirty-fourth known person to die from intentionally jumping off of the Empire State Building. Young Dabaghi, from Austin, Texas, left a note in his dorm room stating that he was going into the city to die. He would, he solemnly declared, jump from either the George Washington Bridge or the Empire State Building. He ultimately opted for the skyscraper, riding the elevator up to the observation deck on the 86th floor. When he got to the observation deck, he calmly climbed over a barricade, ignored the pleas of shocked on-lookers, and took a running jump off of the American landmark.

The Empire State Building is really, really tall, and the pavement surrounding the building is really, really hard. I know this because I have been there. Some of the more lurid reports talked about Dabaghi's head bouncing after he hit the concrete outside the Bank of America. Not surprisingly, his skeleton was shattered. A good Samaritan at the scene tried to shield the view of the young man's remains with an umbrella. Eventually a crew from the coroner's office showed up, bagged the body, had hauled the deceased away.

Life in New York went on - just not the life of Cameron Dabaghi.

Also this week 15-year-old Phoebe Prince from South Hadley, Massachusetts, killed herself after suffering relentless bullying, helping to coin a new term: "bullycide." A middle school in Mentor, Ohio, has had five suicides in two years - a middle school!

An estimated 50,000 teens attempt to kill themselves each year, and 5,000 succeed. Young people are dying because they can't communicate the depth of their suffering to others. They aren't talking, or we aren't listening, or more likely, we aren't paying close enough attention

I work in a mental health clinic. We assess every client who comes into the clinic for the potential of homicide or suicide. One way that we do that is to ask the question on a written screener. But not everyone is honest - in fact, a person who is truly intent on committing suicide is often quite adept at keeping that information secret. It takes time to come to that decision, and once it has been reached, the person intending to die does not want to be distracted from his mission.

The other way that we screen is through direct observation. How is the person behaving? Are there tears, statements about hopelessness, an obvious depressed state? It doesn't take a big degree to spot someone who is suffering emotionally, someone who seems to have given up on life. If you suspect that a person you know is thinking about ending his life, get involved. Ask if he is having thoughts of suicide. Get an answer. If the answer is yes, don't just recommend that he seeks help, take him to a counselor, a teacher, a minister, an emergency room, or someplace else where he can receive the support from a trained professional.

Pain is not ended by suicide - it is just passed along to others.


molly. said...

That last line is so true.

BK in MO said...

Suicide is the ultimate, selfish act.