I find this a complete non-sequitur. If you stay alive and become a bum, you will consciously experience a (potentially large) loss of status. Whereas if you commit suicide, you won't.

Maybe being dead is low-status too, but at least you're not around to experience it.

I think the fact that "you're not around to experience it" is the tricky part of reasoning about the utility of suicide. Visualising walking away helps because it puts the more selfish aspects of suicide in stark contrast. If I walked away from my life I'd carry with me a lot of guilt and I'd have to live with the awareness of how my absence has affected others. If I kill myself, the primary advantage is that I don't have to experience that guilt and that, I think, makes suicide easier to contemplate than making a serious commitment to walking away. That's why I say if I'm not ready to walk away from my life (and face all the consequences of my actions), I'm not ready to commit suicide.

How would you talk a stranger off the ledge?

by MoreOn 1 min read23rd Jan 201297 comments

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Last month, two people far at the periphery of my social circles have threatened suicide. Seems like a sign for me to learn some ledge-fu.

I reviewed the stuff I'd learned back in high school ("Listen." "Be supportive." "Don't argue." "Etc etc etc.") I have trouble believing that this would work outside of movieland, especially on strangers. More so, in person I'm an awkward, fidgeting introvert---the impact of everything I say is thus diminished, and I sound very insincere or clinical, like I'm following a bad movie script, when I say anything like, "You are not alone in this. I’m here for you." or "How can I best support you right now?" I doubt that this would sound any better in writing.

I suppose I could split my question into two related ones: what would you say to a person threatening to commit suicide, 1. in person, and 2. in an email?

I'm looking for out-of-the-box ideas that don't rely on charisma or compassion shining through. Personally, if I ever need to talk myself out of suicidal thoughts, I apply the "bum comparison principle": if my life is so crummy that I'm willing to commit suicide, then I should be willing to just walk out on everything I value and drift off in a random direction, survive by dine-and-dashing out of cheap restaurants and wash dishes if I get caught, maybe take odd jobs or hitchhike or gather roots and berries or blog from public libraries. I don't see this possibility in a negative light, and yet I still haven't done it. To me, it means that however bad my life may seem, I'm still too attached to it to walk out; therefore, suicide isn't on the menu.

People have different reasons to want suicide, and I understand that what works for me with my first world problems probably won't work for a person who is in too much physical pain from an incurable disease. To the best of my knowledge, the two people I mentioned earlier are both unskilled laborers who had lost their jobs, one of them so long ago that he's no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. I don't think I'll meet these particular people again, but I'd appreciate everyone's thoughts on what I could've said if my brain hadn't frozen.

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