The great debate.....

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Posted by Simon ( on August 29, 2001 at 19:35:01:

It's rare these days to come across two great posts in one day on, and by great, I mean ones that advance people's thinking while challenging it. It's a shame that one of them was misinterpreted and descended into the usual farce, causing its essential importance to be obscured. Thanks Elaine and August, the one emotional, the other rational.

Suicide is such a difficult and dangerous area for this board that it is rarely discussed at any length for fear that it may incline people to something they hadn't considered. This is patent nonsense as all the statistics regarding suicidal thoughts in CHers show, so lets discount that.

There are really very few different perspectives on the board, and those depend really on where one is coming from. Some have considered it in passing, thought about it seriously or tried it themselves, and others have been affected by it in their family or circle of friends. Some have moral objections to it on religious or other grounds.

All of these are immaterial though if we are talking of helping someone who has expressed an intention, however tenuous, to do themselves harm. What must be considered, if we are trying to prevent such an occurrence, is how they are feeling, and some appeciation of the type of person they are. We all know people who would respond well to a "kick in the backside", but, and it is a big "but", I do not think any of us know anyone via the board well enough to risk that.

People posting here in those terms have, as I see it, four reasons. First are the genuine nutters, here just to get a rise out of us all - these are normally obvious. Second are those who are just trying to make sense of things, and for whom writing here helps clarify their thoughts. Third are the "cries for help", people who are desperate, but probably a little too scared of it to follow it up. Finally are those who are genuinely committed to this and are writing to wrap things up, and leave things neat and clear.

We also have to think about those who would never write "I am going to kill myself", but who, by the style and substance of what they write or the absence of posts, reveal that there is something very wrong.

In all cases we really need simply to let the person know that we are aware that there is something wrong and that we are concerned. Being judgmental in any way is ABSOLUTELY out of the question. Remember also that being judgmental includes the "I would miss you" and "how would your family cope" lines. Both of these induce exactly the sort of pressure that someone in that situation does not need. It is not something which will "snap them out of it" but is more likely to make them feel guilty, and to think that their removal would actually help. I would venture that few CHers in this position have CH as the ONLY thing causing them to consider suicide - domestic pressures would come high up on the secondary list.

Cultural differences must also be borne in mind. American "sentimentality" or British "coldness" might have a dramatic effect on someone on such an international board as this. Further, imposing one's own moral viewpoint is dangerous; remember it is possible genuinely to believe that there is nothing wrong with ending one's own life. Though it might seem distasteful, we have to accept if they feel that it is the "right" thing to do, we have to question whether our "interference" is for their benefit or our own....

A final thing is to remember that this is not a short term frame of mind. It can persist for months, and even years with flashbacks. Once someone has made a decision to end their life, a barrier has been breached which makes it easier to consider it again. Watch for the signs in those you care for, you will eventually some to recognise them, as they themselves do.

Some of you may have guessed by now that I speak from personal experience. I am not generally one to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I have been there. Once a long while ago, before CH, and more recently, again ironically when the CH has been at its best for several years. On the recent occasion only Elaine, Mob and Mo picked up anything, for which I thank them. Their offers of practical help, to remove pressure, and to be there if I needed anything were more valuable than rafts of (bluntly) trite and vacuous expressions of concern would have been.

Whatever you do, think very carefully. Posting humourously in a suicide thread is NEVER appropriate, and remember YOUR wishes and opinions are the least important part of the equation.


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