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April 19th, 2008

Suicide Intervention

I'm taking the ASIST course, a sort of psychological first-aid suicide intervention certification which is not really useful for what I'm going to do with my degree, but will probably be useful in the long run.

Right now, I'm facing the uncomfortable self-analysis that, while I already do some of what the course teaches, my way of speaking is fucking lousy face-to-face (I've done some little counselling online) and I'm afraid of coming off as a callous sort of person. I'm not, obviously, but saying, "taking pills is a messy way to die" is decidedly not really the best way to go about it.

I really like this class though. It's making me remember a lot of things that helped transform me from a self-absorbed little twit into a much more compassionate person.

I don't think suicide is wrong, per se. I think if a person goes into it rationally, has very calmly decided that they would like to die and take matters of their own death into their own hands, they should be allowed to do so. People should be allowed to pick their death. My dad, for example, would like to be allowed to wander off into the woods when he's very old and near death (ala I Heard The Owl Call My Name).

But lots of people DON'T think things through rationally - suicide is more about "I HAVE BIG PROBLEMS AND I CAN'T FIND A SOLUTION" and as a result, I don't think these people actually WANT to die... they're just seeing all these insurmountable obstacles as a big hulking problem, and because they can't see a way to break it all down into more manageable bits, the pressure of it all crushes them. If you take the blinders off (as the teacher says), they start seeing that they don't actually want to die.

I'm not saying this as a person who wants to speak for suicidal people and I know there's no universal experience, so I say, if a person has really, truly thought through everything and isn't dying because of something that can be fixed that they would like to fix it (not wanting to fix some shit is not fine by me, but it's at least honest and I can respect that but obviously I have to think about that), then they should be allowed to die. It's their body, so it's a bit ridiculous passing judgement on them and taking control of them as if they can't do anything for themselves. (It's like passing a law banning abortion and blaming the doctors for it because apparently pregnant women are NEVER rational to think through things themselves.)

I'm saying this as a person who's been suicidal, and through some logical runarounds and a bit of tough love from a lot of online friends who really helped me open up and be honest, and I think that's one of the reasons why suicide seems like such a good idea: if you're isolated, then there's really not much holding you back. If a community was close-knit and it was in everyone's interest to invest in everyone else's emotional health, then I doubt suicide would happen (hell, I doubt depression would happen). But we don't live in communities where each depend on each other anymore. If I were to die today, I'm not leaving behind a gap which stops an entire institution or system from working; the gap would be emotional and it wouldn't stop the world from running.

But really, it just helps to be able to have someone to talk to without being judgemental or being, even worse, dismissive. To know your concerns are important even to a stranger is really important.

Year: 2003

Sitting in TGIF while a friend confided to me some deeply personal history - dropped it in a sigle sentence while staring me straight in the face. I looked back, and gave a tiny nod, but kept my face straight.

She smiled suddenly and leant towards me, reaching for my arm. "Jaymee, I AM SO GLAD you didn't react!!"


I don't know if I've ever intervened and changed a person's mind about killing themselves before... not in the real, serious, emergency sort of way. I've talked to others about their suicidal tendencies online (my perspective is that I would rather have them ranting their ass off at me online than off in the washroom cutting themselves), helping people get perspective. I've been told before what a good help I've been, and I wonder, if that had happened face-to-face, would I have been as effective? Or would I have driven them the other way?

It sort of hurts to think about it.

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