I was saddened to learn of the recent death by suicide of Chris Capel, known here as pdf23ds. I didn't know him personally, but I was an occasional reader of his blog. In retrospect, I regret not having ever gotten into contact with him. Obviously, I don't know that I could have prevented his death, but, as one with mental-health issues myself, at least I could have made a friend, and been one to him. Now I feel a sense of disappointment that I'll never get that chance.
Having said that, I must say that I take his arguments here very seriously. I do not consider it to be automatic that every suicide is the "wrong" decision. We can all imagine circumstances under which we would prefer to die than live; and given this, we should also be able to imagine that these kinds of circumstances may vary for different people. And if one is already accepting of euthanasia for incurable physical suffering, it should not be that much of a leap to accept it for incurable psychological suffering as well.
Of course, as Chris acknowledges, this doesn't imply that everyone who is contemplating suicide is actually being rational. People may for instance be severely mistaken about their prospects for improvement, especially while in the midst of acute crisis.(Conceivably, that could even have been his own situation.) Nonetheless, I think many of the usual arguments that people use to show that suicide is "wrong" are bad arguments. For example, consider what is probably the most common argument: that committing suicide will inflict pain upon friends and family. It frankly strikes me as absurd (and grotesquely unempathetic) to suppose that someone for whom life is so painful that they would rather die somehow has an obligation to continue enduring it just in order to spare other people the emotion of grief (which they are inevitably going to have to confront at some point anyway, at least until we conquer all death).
Ironically, society's demonization of suicide and suicidal people has negative consequences even from the standpoint of preventing suicide itself, as Chris points out:
I passionately hate that all of the mental health people are obligated by law to commit me to an asylum if they think I’m about to kill myself. They can’t be objective. You know, if they could talk to me without such stupid constraints, they might have prevented this very suicide
It seems to me very possible that our society's fervor to prevent suicide may result in denying severely depressed people the compassion they need. This could theoretically be worth it if it prevented enough suicides that turned out to be worth preventing, but cases like Chris's raise doubt about this, in my mind. (From both angles: if Chris's decision was the right one for him, then the system is saving people it shouldn't be saving; if on the other hand it was the wrong decision, then we clearly see how the system failed him.)
Although I'm inclined to be sympathetic to Chris's view -- perhaps because I haven't always been maximally enthusiastic about my own existence myself -- there are some arguments that do worry me. Such as: if you think of future versions of yourself as separate agents, then suicide is a form of homicide. However, usually suicide is carried out on the belief that the future selves would approve of their nonexistence; and all of our decisions have consequences (often irreversible) for our future selves, so this is a general ethical problem that transcends the specific issue of suicide.
This post is a place to rationally discuss the ethics and rationality of suicide, as well as our attitudes (on an individual level, and as reflected in our institutions) toward suicidal people and, more generally, those suffering from psychological conditions such as depression.
I'm sad that Chris won't be able to participate.
As a kid, I was sometimes suicidal. I thought I didn't like being alive.
It turned out I just didn't like being a kid. I simply had nothing else to compare it to until I attained and got to try out being an adult. (Which is awesome.)
This wasn't so much about failing to have hope as it was failing to realize that there was a thing to be hoped for. I didn't have anyone telling me that being an adult was really really cool and would make me happy, so I didn't expect it as a kid. So, I guess my statement is that there should be black-swan hope for things no one has bothered to put forth as happiness-inducers.
As a general note to whom it may concern: I consider it (deontologically) wrong to bring mental health professionals into the life of a non-dangerous-to-others person whose sanest available preferences indicate that they don't want such professionals. I am not a professional of any stripe myself, but I am willing to converse with (a non-overwhelming number of) sad people if they want someone to talk to.
Hasn't worked out very well for me... maybe I just still haven't managed to achieve adulthood in spite of having lived for 28 years? (I'm still dependent on my parents for food and shelter and feel limited in my ability to refuse demands they make of me.)
I'm the same age as you. Personal autonomy, as in "I can do whatever the fuck I want whenever I want and not justify myself to anybody", is one of my biggest sources of happiness. I distinctly remember the jump in happiness that I felt when I moved away from my parents and started renting an apartment with a girlfriend. Some years later we broke up and I started living alone, and I got a big pleasant shock from that too (outweighing the pain of breakup and then some). What's more, the joy of autonomy doesn't seem to wear off for me, I still feel happy about it every day. YMMV.
If by any chance you'd like to become more self-supporting by finding a programming job, lately I've been getting more and more experience in advising people how to do that, so I can try to help out. (That also applies to everyone else reading this, of course.)
It's also probably useful to note that this kind of freedom seems to bring happiness even if one doesn't actually use it for anything particularly interesting, which is not so obvious when one is in a position of not having it.
Just being able to consider pants entirely optional and ice cream with bacon on it to be dinner and 4am to be an entirely reasonable bedtime (or 6pm a reasonable bedtime and dinner optional and your favorite tea as an anytime drink, or whatever) is enough, in other words. You don't actually have to go skydiving or build the next Google on top of that - unless you want to, of course.
For me, putting up with parents was way worse than putting up with a boss. When I lived with my parents, I had no personal space but didn't know it. I thought my room was my "personal space" because that's what they told me. But it was only true for a very stretched definition of the word "personal". When you begin living on your own, you feel the difference.
Also, putting up with a boss is easier in some kinds of jobs, e.g. if you're doing some startuppy thing and everyone shares the same goals. I don't remember ever feeling subservient to a boss in my life, because all my jobs were interesting and that provided enough motivation.
One very significant difference between having to put up with parents and having to put up with a boss is that your boss doesn't live with you - outside of work hours, you don't have to answer to them at all.
If you think you're going to want a 4am bedtime, don't apply for jobs that start at 8am. You do have a choice in that matter. Sometimes it's not an ideal choice - if your preferred job is one that does require you to be there at that hour, you might have to decide whether your preferred bedtime or your preferred job is more important to you. The important bit is that this is your choice to make, though, and that isn't changed by the fact that the choice is less than ideal. You can choose to go with a less awesome job, if you want to go with the more awesome bedtime, and that is the important bit.
... so long as you stick to things that can be hidden from them, which is a pretty major limitation.
ETA: Also, this situation requires that you keep their preferences in mind, which may be significantly detrimental even if you're generally able to work around them. Not carrying that particular cognitive burden seems likely to be a significant part of it, and with a regular job and boss, you only have to carry that burden during set hours and don't have to worry about it the rest of the time.
They do exist, they're just rare and hard to find. (I have one, but I don't know how to find another.) Or you could do temp work. Or, you could change your definition of 'make a living' - I wanted to run this by... (read more)
Wow, this is insanely relevant to my life.
In particular, it clarifies the cause of my increasing frustration with a certain associate.
Deliberately avoiding details, much of my interaction with this person feels like moving backwards in terms of autonomy. I've been feeling slightly guilty about my growing resentment, because they are (truly, from their perspective), "just being helpful".
This comment matches my experience extremely well; reflecting on the periods in my life when I've felt the best, they were often precipitated by a (sometimes involuntary) increase in autonomy - moving out, moving to a foreign country, etc.
Your comment has made my emotional state less opaque. So thanks!
An option gives you the right but not the obligation to buy a security. Imagine you have an option to buy a stock in five years for $10. You are better off the higher the variance of the stock because you get all of the upside but in five years you are no worse off if the stock is worth $10 compared to anything below $10. Consequently, "black-swan" events raise the value of the option.
If today the stock is worth $4 and you believe it will probably be worth less than $4 in five years then the option still has value if there is a non-zero probability that the stock will be worth more than $10 in five years time.
Because of your future ability to commit suicide you have an option on your future life. This option value reduces the expected gain to you of committing suicide even if you would be better off today if dead than alive and you think that your life will probably be worse five years from now than it is today. Knowing you can commit suicide in five years, consequently, should make you much less willing to commit suicide today.
The analogy of life to an option isn't perfect because with an option you don't suffer while you wait for it to expire.
I would say that's a fundamental and critical flaw in the analogy. Living five more miserable years and then committing suicide leaves you five miserable years worse off. All that you really need to calculate is the expected utility of staying alive.
No, but option pricing theory is the math behind that logic.
(anonymous posting as what I did may be illegal in my locality)
My mother committed suicide a few years ago. Her first attempt failed, and there was about a 2 month period where she was honest with my brother and me about the fact that she intended to try again. I decided to accept her decision and spent the time with her well, instead of fighting with her or attempting to get her institutionalised.
I think her decision to commit suicide was rational. Three years before her suicide, she'd become addicted to pethidine, an injected prescription opiate. She was in a profession that gave her ready access to prescriptions. After about a year of addiction the professional body found out about her abuse, and action was taken against her. Ultimately she failed to comply with their regulations and was banned from practicing her profession.
At the time of her suicide, she was in her late 60s, with no savings, unable to work, and in deep despair over what had come of her life. She was in poor health and had alcohol and codeine dependencies. Her assessment was that she could not see what she had to look forward to. I reluctantly agreed.
I loved my mother, and she achieved a great deal in her life.... (read more)
ETA: Warning - Link may be devastatingly depressing.
The saddest thing is it could have been prevented. His suicide note got posted to his blog early, and linked to from here. I (and I think other people too) ran a whois on his domain, found his address, and reported it to his local police department. I'd have done more, but was somewhat limited by being many thousand miles away. Presumably the police were unwilling/unable to act on reports by email from another country :-/
I once talked an individual I was very close to out of committing suicide. He had experienced a number of rather terrible situations, with severe psychological and physical issues, that were causing him a great deal of pain. He was utterly hopeless, and firmly reiterated to me several times that there was no way to fix his life.
After getting him to calm down a little bit, I had him talk to me about what his problems were. I asked him why he thought it wouldn't ever get better. We talked for a while, and I realized that there was a solution that had just honestly never occurred to him. It would take several painful months before his life started improving, but there was a third alternative that would almost certainly improve his life drastically. He decided not to kill himself, seeing that this other choice, although it would be painful and difficult, was significantly better than suicide.
Now, in this case, he had mentally searched for a third alternative for months, ever since he first started contemplating suicide, and I genuinely think he would have accepted one if he had found it. He was just not able to find the way out. Chris argued in his post that it is possible for someone... (read more)
I can't recall the name of it, but I think there was documentary about people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. The filmmakers interviewed a bunch of people who had survived their attempts, and most or all of them regretted jumping as soon as they were airborne. I'm in favor of a right to suicide (not to be confused with thinking it is a good idea in the vast majority of cases) but I think anyone who is really set on going through with it should be encouraged to do so by means of a slow-acting poison that has an antidote, or some analogous method, just in case they discover an unexpected revealed preference for living after beginning to kill themselves.
I think you're right, but there's a possible selection effect. The ones who survived but didn't regret jumping could have successfully committed suicide later. Then they wouldn't be around for any interviews. Some quick searching doesn't give me any useful stats about the likelihood of survivors re-attempting.
"The Bridge". There was one person who survived and said he changed his mind once he was airborne. My recollection of the movie is that most of the people who jumped had been wanting to die for most of their lives. Even their family members seemed at peace with it for that reason.
I assume you mean 'they didn't learn anything by jumping', which doesn't seem obviously true to me: They could have made predictions in the form of "when I jump, I will feel X" or "when I'm no longer in a position to plausibly feel responsible for taking care of X, I will feel Y" or "when I am certain I will die, I will feel X", and had those falsified.
My gut level ingrained belief that people on the Internet don't die is badly shaken.
This is a troubling thread. The ethical and rational issues raised by the death of poor pdf23s are not as urgent as the practical issues.
There are suicidal folks and badly depressed folks more generally who read less wrong -- we now have awful proof. I do not think this is a great opportunity to pinpoint and record those situations that would be so horrible as to make suicide understandable. The next marginal "less wrong suicide" is not likely to be a person facing such a horrible problem. They are quite likely to be someone of a depressed temperament hit by a period of intense but temporary emotional distress.
I don't grieve for strangers but I often empathize with them. To those writing veiled and bald allusions to their own suicidal ideas: I wish I could communicate the empathy behind my contrary wishes. Don't do it brothers, sisters.
I remember in Influence how there was a whole chapter about increases in suicides after highly-publicized suicides, and even increases in apparent accidental deaths after highly-publicized accidental deaths. I'm surprised no one else has brought it up. Has this been debunked in some way, or is this thread a really terrible idea?
Those are not the only two alternatives.
If minimizing the number of suicides were the only consideration, then you might have a (weak) argument that this post is a bad idea. (But note that gimpf's link specifically discussed television coverage; more generally, the "copycat effect" is generally considered to be a result of sensationalizing or glorifying suicide, not merely discussing it.) However, there are other, competing, values involved, such as:
and in my judgement these outweigh whatever tiny increase in the probability of some future suicide you're worried may result from this post. Not to mention the possibility that some people reading this post and the comments here might be less likely to commit suicide than they otherwise would have been. (Even if a significant copycat effect applies to this kind of discussion [unlikely], the LW readership is an atypical population, more likely to be moved by argument, and more likely to be regretful of Chris's death in particular.)
I regret not killing myself a few years ago, after losing the things that made me happy and getting further away from other things that could make me happy. This actual future self wouldn't mind being murdered. At the time I was rendered psychologically incapable of even trying to help myself, and was also incapable of applying my knowledge that it probably wasn't going to get better with my then-strong motivation to die.
I'd felt suicidal before I was happy, but wasn't certain it was a good idea. So I picked someone who would listen and understand, and tried to get a second opinion. She couldn't take the pressure and I preferred not to torture her, so that stopped. Apparently people don't want to deal with suicide as an issue, and that may also lead to ineffective attempts at prevention.
And I have this other friend who, like me, isn't in any particular pain most of the time, but would choose to opt-out of life if it were convenient to do so. Thanks but no thanks, reality, we'll have no more of this. For us, inflicting pain on others from our suicides is relevant. That may be the only reason she's still alive. At least I have someone to text "opting out kthxbye" to, just i... (read more)
A suicide note written in lolspeak. That's one way to show your contempt for reality!
Yikes. This post strikes me as harmful and irresponsible. Less Wrong is less of a community than I'd like -- less there for its members, less mindful of what effects each person has on the others and on the rest of the community.
I agree, actually, that all subjects are fitting subjects for rationality. But if you’re going to talk with someone who is suicidal and unstable about the detailed pros and cons of killing themselves, you risk having seriously bad consequences. Saying “but free speech is good, and thinking through all subjects is good” just isn’t enough of an answer to that. Talking about some subjects brings responsibilities -- responsibilities for thinking carefully through who you might harm, and how you can support them during the discussion. Offering help.
LW has a number of seriously depressed people.
Since this thread is already up -- let's make an effort now to reach out to anyone who needs reaching out to, to increase the odds that depressed LW readers have social support. That is: if you know a LW-er online or in person who is depressed, make contact with them. If you're a good listener with a couple of free hours in your life, echo Alicorn's offer of help. If you have a bit of spare money and a good CBT book to recommend, offer to mail it to someone who'd read it. If you have useful well-being tips and can write, consider making a front-level post (on happiness tips or CBT or the like, not on topics that might prime suicide).
On the other hand this attitude - and the associated active suppression of such conversations is one of the contributing factors that Chris cited in his parting note. And not without good reason.
Suicide is a subject about which there is much cause to be cautious. It is, after all, a matter of life and death. Yet looking over this post specifically it does not appear to fit the category of harmful or irresponsible. I am glad to see that it was received positively and not the victim of a typical knee-jerk downvote spiral.
I am not, in fact, currently depressed, although I have been in the past. But I (in my non-depressed state) respect the feelings, wishes, and preferences of my depressed self, just like those of someone else like Chris.
I haven't said much of anything in response to most comments here; you seem to be extrapolating from things I said in the post. But there I was criticizing specific bad arguments, ones that are encountered in the general culture and not necessarily here ; the remark about lack of empathy was in specific reference to the argument from grief of friends and relatives.
That it was a tragedy is certain; unfortunately, that doesn't automatically imply that it was a mistake.
However, it may very well have been a mistake in Chris's case. I'm not sure he realized how close he was (a few keystrokes by him or someone else, like me) to the ... (read more)
This is a serious problem, but I should inform people that it's not as much of a catch-22 as it sounds. A sane therapist can tell the difference between "I'm going to shoot myself tonight" and "I wish I were dead a lot of the time, but I know it would wreck my family if I went through with it," and he won't hospitalize the second person. It may take a little gentle probing to see if your therapist is sane, but such people do exist; it is possible to talk to someone even about very dark thoughts without being committed. If you're very, very risk-averse about such things, there are suicide hotlines.
Western society has long suffered from what we might now call Schiavism, a desperate clinging to the idea that "only God gives and takes life". I suspect Schiavism plays a large role in holding back changes in attitude and legislation regarding cryonics, assisted suicide, euthanasia, but also medically assisted procreation, contraception and a host of other issues.
On the other hand, just because there exists a pervasive and ill-considered belief that people's lives aren't in their own hands, doesn't mean every such decision is automatically correct. In particular, depression tends to skew your judgements of self-worth systematically in the wrong direction.
In Chris' case there is evidence that he had amply considered what many here would consider the most rational option, cryonics, and reluctantly rejected it because society's Schiavism, and US laws in particular, make it inapplicable. He seems to have been aware of all the relevant facts: the biases introduced by his condition, the prospects for recovery, the probabilities of a change in attitudes or legislation. He and only he was able to weigh the scales of joy and suffering in his life, subjectively.
Chris' decision str... (read more)
The NYC LessWrong group has a standing offer of something called "rationalist therapy" that any member can request.
Here's how it works. You don't have to have a problem that most people would seek "therapy" for, though it's okay if you do; in the past people have asked for rationalist therapy related to bad relationships, problems with family, worries about career/education, social isolation, and other common problems. You explain what's wrong; your friends and fellow rationalists try to troubleshoot it. If you're miserable, chances are you're miserable about something, and there may be a way to fix it that you haven't thought of. It's not focused on "aw, feel better" so much as on "hey, we can come up with a plan to address your problems."
I think it's a good idea. It's best done with a group, but I'd give it a shot with anybody who needs it.
I always feel sad when I hear about suicide. Wasted potential. But then I think about all wasted potential and suicide just becomes one of many very depressingly true things that I can't pretend away.
Goodybe Chris. At least your not hurting anymore. I'm not sure what to feel or even think about the rest of it.
It makes me want to go to sleep, and not mind so much if I wake up or not. Not in a depressed way. Just in a 'This-is-all-there-is' way. Guess I'll just try my best and enjoy it. Wouldn't be much else to do around here anyway :)
Does it overall cause more suicides than it prevents? I don't know. However, speaking as someone who has a history of clinical depression, if I'm ever in circumstances where I am contemplating suicide, I want people to commit me. Because when I'm functional I'd consider suicide to be completely and utterly awful. So where is the line here? When do we decide that someone is rational enough to decide on their own to end their existence and when not? These are certainly difficult questions, but it does seem that the majority of people who attempt suicide and do not have terminal illnesses are being essentially irrational. On the other hand, preferences are hard to break down here, and if the technology doesn't exist to cure someone then should they have a right to end it now rather than waiting years? Another thing to consider is that from a utilitarian perspective, committing suicide generally makes everyone around you absolutely miserable, and will then always cause pain for them. In that regard, committing suicide is either misguided or selfish.
Not necessarily; it depends on whether the pain they will experience is enough to outweigh the pain that the suicidal person will experience by staying alive.
When I'm functional, I find the notion of being committed awful.
My experience (as someone who worked on a psychiatric ward for two years, in the middle of the last decade) is that after a short time 100% of those who were involuntarily brought in for attempting suicide were grateful for it, or at least claimed to be.
People in that situation would have every reason to lie to you, though, wouldn't they?
It seems like that argument also implies that failing to bring into existence as many people as possible is comprable to homicide, since doing so would be depriving potential people of their lives. So, if you don't believe it's a moral responsibility to create more people, you shouldn't accept the argument that suicide is a crime against your future self either.
If you think suicide is irrational, consider this hypothetical. Let's assume you could aquire 10^5 additional average (not superhappy, just average) human life-years for yourself, but as a cost, you have to agree to be personally tortured severely (all with probability 1).
Would you take the offer?
This is relevant for anyone who claims suicide is irrational, while the decision of staying alive is not. I'd argue that, for any one person on the planet, the probability increase per year of continued survival for severe torture-like suffering, is higher than 10... (read more)
Given that we are Beyond the reach of God it's perfectly possible that a human being is born (or tortured) into a situation where life is not worth it. Suicide would be completely ethical all other things being equal.
At the same time person can be so messed up that they just cannot see a way out, even if it's right in front of them, or (even worse, if that is possible) their fears are illusionary. They can also be very convinced of this, and even convincing to others. This is why we tend to err on the side of discouraging suicide, since it's an irreversible option.
I'm going to try to explain the inside perspective here:
If you cannot see or act on a way out, it isn't a way out, even if you cognitively know it's there.
If you're sufficiently dedicated to rationality, living with constant suicidal depression really, REALLY helps you understand the shortcomings and limitations of your own brain like few other things will.
If we all agree that minds are simply the physical result of brain-states and not some mysterious, ontologically basic 'second substance', then it seems to follow that a mind can be constrained or limited in the same way that any other physical system is constrained or limited.
Imagine that someone is stuck down a well, and you lower a rope to pull them out. If you hear them shout up from the bottom of the well, "my hands are broken, I can't grab the rope", you will no... (read more)
This is a disaster.
It is the emotion of shame that others are spared. (As you note, the grief is going to come anyway.)
At the risk of sounding callous, because I did not know Chris or understand the suffering he was going through, I believe that Chris was wrong about this. I'm not sure that one can have enough certainty over (the lack of) future happiness that one can reasonably decide to cut one's losses.
There is a great deal of uncertainty and randomness in life. Good things (and b... (read more)
Unfortunately cryo organizations have to stay a million miles away from this sort of thing or bring on a PR disaster.
What upsets me the most is that, as far as I can tell, he didn't take out a life insurance policy before killing himself.
Suicide is covered? That's surprising. It seems about the same as getting fire insurance and a can of diesel. Which just gets you arrested.
(It is probably a good thing that suicide is covered. It just eliminates the incentive to suicide in a plausibly accidental way. 'Deliberate accidents' are far more likely to hurt others unless they are really well planned.)
According to U.S. law, life insurance companies have to cover suicide once you've had the policy for two years. (In at least one state, it's one year.)
(And as a suicide prevention measure, "if you're going to kill yourself, you should wait two years" might be more convincing to some depressed people than the usual "killing yourself is bad, we can help you" message.)
I've been diagnosed with chronic major depression as well, and I find that I agree with most of what was said in the linked argument. In the last several years I've gotten to be less bad, and I do have hope of a sort that things will eventually be bearable or even good. However... if easy euthanasia was available, I would have used it as soon as I hit majority or earlier if possible.
I don't know how many other people are like me in this regard. I don't know what the future will bring. I have hope, and sometimes I hate that fact.
Edit - please disregard this post
I 100% want a right to suicide if I need it. But I'm extremely wary of the consequences of such a right. I suspect the best course of action is to keep the "official" rules saying "automatically commit people who attempt to kill themselves", but give some behind-the-scenes leeway to doctors who help patients who really need it.
Your proposed policy has some significant problems in practice, since doctors are not automatically good at being unbiased judges of who 'really needs' to be allowed to commit suicide vs. who should be given other kinds of support. That kind of policy is also very hard to implement without giving doctors enough leeway to actively or passively kill people who actively do not want to die - often people who are disabled or very old, and who society says 'should' want to die, but who in practice do not.
This is, in fact, an actual issue in society right now: I actually know someone who has narrowly avoided being killed more than once because of it.
She doesn't blog about the personal instances often, but a brief account of one is in the 7th paragraph here and another mention is in the 6th paragraph here. Searching her blog for the word murder brings up entries about the general phenomenon by medical caregivers and parents.
I've been thinking about this, in the context of having worked in a nursing home for four years. I came to two conclusions: One, her experiences don't actually surprise me all that much; two, it seems quite reasonable to me to estimate that there were probably between one and three murders or attempted murders (using a definition that includes intentional negligence but does not include legally-actionable accidents) per year in the 200-some-bed facility where I worked - and the place where I worked was not actually bad as nursing homes go.
Institutions suck in general, and it seems to me that there might be some low-hanging fruit to be picked in terms of figuring out what it is about them that tends to make peoples' moral systems break down. (And I'm speaking from experience there, too. :( )
I don't have a lot of intimate experience with suicide, beyond a few aquaintances and a few phases when I was younger.
The various links are dead for me, and I would be interested if anyone could provide them.
Also, Wikipedia said that a many people that commit suicide have metal health issues. I also don't know much about mental health, but I think it might be fair to say that many people who commit suicide may have been much better off staying alive due to the possibility of future treatment or cures that might result in a situation of not wanting to commit suicide, in these cases.
My main problem with suicide is that more often than not, rationality is not employed in the decision to commit the action. Most people who attempt suicide and fail regret the attempt almost immediately after jumping off the bridge, or taking the pills, or cutting their wrists. A depressed person is not necessarily the best, unbiased judge as to whether his life is futile.
As for the role of suicide in society, it may be an issue, but there seems to be little we can do about it. If a friend of mine comes to me saying he feels suicidal, my first call will be... (read more)
That is sad. I was hoping to find out if he had any success using modafinil to manage his sleep disorder.
Deleted because of accidental double-post.
Like Chris I think I have a pretty strong rational case for killing myself. Of course, this kind of thing can't be brought up in polite conversation - people are shocked and instinctively go into Emergency Survival Hero mode, in which they try to apply the verbal equivalent of CPR
This is strange, firstly because to me, the idea of my death is no longer 'a big deal' (the name "alt.suicide.holiday" neatly encapsulates the banality of it). It takes some effort for me to keep in mind that others don't share this view. [It's all too easy for me to att... (read more)
When is suicide without cryonics ever rational, aside from rare situations where altruism demands it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of any personal situation with zero possibility of improvement. Chris's suicide, like the vast majority of suicides, was irrational and sad.
The demonization of suicide by society and the effect that that may have on the suicide rate is a separate issue, and is less clear. It would be interesting to see a study on this effect.
If you, reader, are thinking of committing suicide yourself, please don't. Things will improve. There's no way things won't improve.
Neither can I. Nor does a lottery ticket have zero chance of winning.
There's no reason, in a world fundamentally unmoderated for fairness, that a miserable life must be destined to get better, or even be more likely to get better than worse.
I've personally talked two people down from suicide, because I was convinced that given their prospects, they were indeed better off alive than dead. I promised one of them, with whom I am very close, that if I ever truly believed that her prospects were bad enough that she was better off dead, I would assist her suicide.
She told me it was a great help, knowing that, and to the best of my knowledge given her promise that she would call me if she was ever considering it again, hasn't considered suicide since.
Most people who're suicidal aren't even subject to particularly harmful experiences, rather, they're in a depressive mental state where their baseline level of satisfaction is extremely low.
People experiencing random negative events are likely to regress to the mean, and people suffering depression may be treated or spontaneously recover. Most people who survive suicide attempts end up being thankful that they did, and I would never argue that suicide is not usually a bad idea in cases where individuals are considering it. But there's nothing that prevents a person from having systematic causes of unpleasantness in their life, which will not simply regress to the mean and cannot readily be treated.