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Do you work with the suicidal?

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The July 6, 2008 issue of New York Times Magazine has an incredibly powerful article on suicidal ideation:

…in 2005, approximately 32,000 Americans committed suicide, or nearly twice the number of those killed by homicide.

I’ve heard that 98-99% of people have contemplated it in their lifetimes. If you do client work, or even if you don’t but you like helping people, the article is worth reading. I especially appreciated this rather NLPish angle:

The bigger problem with this mental-illness rubric is that it puts emphasis on the less-knowable aspect of the act, the psychological “why,” and tends to obscure any examination of the more pedestrian “how,” the basic mechanics involved. But if we want to unravel posthumously the thought processes of the lost with an eye to saving lives in the future, the “how” may be the best place to look.

I found the part about the “British coal-gas story” enlightening. This story, and others like it, show that a key aspect of suicide prevention is simply this: “put more time between the person and his ability to act”.

I may have quoted too much for “fair use” already. I hope the NYT won’t mind, as the message is a massively important one. If you ever find yourself between a person ans his suicide attempt, I’ll ask you to remember this, one more quote from the article:

“I’ll tell you what I can’t get out of my head,” [Kevin Hines] told me in his San Francisco living room. “It’s watching my hands come off that railing and thinking to myself, My God, what have I just done? Because I know that almost everyone else who’s gone off that bridge, they had that exact same thought at that moment. All of a sudden, they didn’t want to die, but it was too late…”

Here’s a link to the printer-friendly version of the article and here’s a link to the regular page.

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 27th, 2008 at 3:44 pm

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