Sacred Disorder | Cliff Bostock's blog – 'Finally, I came to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind' (Rimbaud)

Suicide and impulsivity

The New York Times Magazine today features a story about suicide and impulsivity. Research shows that a high percentage of suicides can be averted by making the means of death difficult to employ. When barriers are installed on bridges to make suicide more difficult, for example, the suicide rate there drops precipitously.  Most surprising, though, is the finding that the great majority of these people do not make a second attempt.

All of this suggests that impulsivity coupled with situational despair — not mental illness, like clinical depression — is responsible for a lot of suicide.

Dr. David Rosen, a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, interviewed nine people who survived jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge and one who jumped from the Bay Bridge. The author quotes him:

“What was immediately apparent,” Rosen recounted, “was that none of them had truly wanted to die. They had wanted their inner pain to stop; they wanted some measure of relief; and this was the only answer they could find. They were in spiritual agony, and they sought a physical solution.”

Although I’m not sure about the term “spiritual agony,” I do know from personal experience that the temptation of suicide is not about ending life so much as ending pain. The “agony” that Dr. Rosen describes is quite physical despite its “mental” origins. I have described it as a kind of tension — a tightly twisted rope, an over-inflated balloon — that won’t rupture. So, the violence of suicide by gunshot or jumping is attractive as a means of obliterating the pain, forcing the tension to end.

Of course, impulsivity helps explain why the majority of deaths by gunshot are suicide. The article includes some recommendations for subverting that process if you keep a gun in the house.

Read the entire piece here.

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