27
Jan
05

“Suicide Foresight?

The amount of foresight that some people demonstrate prior to committing suicide has always been of interest to me. Many people seem to have considered the ramifications of committing suicide—especially when they opt for a particularly devastating means such as a firearm. Of course, the preceding statement is just a gentler way of saying that they considered the mess they were about to make.

On numerous occasions I have worked firearm suicides that have been committed in a bathtub or a shower. The presumed reason for this choice is that these areas are easily cleaned. Others may put down plastic or wrap a blanket around their head to limit the resulting mess. At any rate there can still be property damage involved. Exiting rounds sometimes shatter lights, glass shower enclosures, and tiles. Even still, foresight can play a role. I recall one instance in which a person stacked several books onto the tile floor, laid their head sideways on top of the stack, and fired a round through their head that penetrated well into the stack of books.

Leaving the house altogether is really the only sure way of preventing extensive cleaning or property damage. It is really quite common for the person planning to commit suicide to simply go into the backyard or to a separate location altogether. Examples include local parks, back roads, and wooded areas. Oftentimes, the deceased is found not too far from a vehicle containing a suicide note or a copy of a will.

Some people even take measures to ensure they are found by someone other than a loved one. Perhaps the most common means is for the person to call 911 and state their intent or simply to hang up on the dispatcher. Either method will elicit a response from an officer. Typically the gunshot is heard over the phone or as the police arrive at the scene. I’m not a police officer, but I’ve been told that unexplained gunfire tends to be a little unsettling to those who are. Understandable.

Another measure is when the person has scheduled a meeting in advance. Inviting a family friend over while the kids are still at school or having a repairman come by the house at a set time are good examples. In a few cases, I have even seen notes placed upon entry into the house requesting that the reader notify police and avoid going in any further.

One of the most interesting trends in tracking this sort of behavior is apparent when considering how men and women tend to differ in this area. In a large percentage of the violent suicides I have worked, men have a greater tendency to follow the above behaviors than do women. However, it should also be pointed out that men are more likely than women to select a firearm as their preferred means for suicide.

Perhaps the most consistent behavior listed above that men exhibit is leaving the house altogether. The predominant theory is that men are concerned with unnecessarily tainting the house as the place they committed suicide—thereby further burdening the family with having to change residence.

Women seem to follow a different trend. Most stay within the house—retreating to a personal area such as a bedroom, bathroom, or closet almost as if attempting to hide their act. This behavior is seen in other means of suicide as well. With regard to firearms, however, women for the most part appear to exhibit more of a concern for “viewability.? That is to say, the person is concerned with whether or not they are still presentable for friends and family to view after the act. This desire is generally presumed when the entrance wound is located over the heart or in the hairline away from the face.

I can only suppose the reason people take these sorts of measures prior to committing suicide is that they are trying to limit the impact of their death on the family. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the devastating effect of their death will cancel out any efforts to “soften the blow.? One would think that if they truly cared about the family’s best interest they wouldn’t go through with it at all.

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2 Responses to “”


  1. 1 kg
    March 22, 2005 at 4:51 am

    One would think that if they truly cared about the family’s best interest they wouldn’t go through with it at all.

    As someone who once had far too much personal experience with the sorts of feelings that lead to suicide, just wanted to point out some things that a lot of people simply don’t know. In general, all of the folks I’ve known who are or have been suicidal are in immense pain. There is nothing I can compare it to…but it can indeed be a physical sensation as excruciating as any other. In a sense, it’s a cancer of the heart…but unlike other sorts of pain, there is no physical wound or illness you can point to and say “this is the cause; this is why I am hurting.” With a broken bone, a severe laceration, or even a terminal illness, there is a specific, known physical cause that can be dealt with. When dealing with psychiatric issues, there are no such certainties.

    When someone is in such extreme pain, they genuinely believe themselves to be a horrible drain on their family and friends. They don’t doubt that the loss of their life will be horrible for their loved ones, but for the one contemplating suicide, even that is no longer a significant factor. That interior, inexplicable agony overwhelms consideration of anything else. It distorts their thinking…at this point the suicidal person is doing the only thing that they can imagine will make things better for everyone.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning such a decision, but I can understand why someone would chose that path. If someone is indeed suicidal, they probably believe that their actions are indeed in the best long-term interests of everyone involved. This is why it is so incredibly crucial that if you even think it’s possible that someone you know could be contemplating such an extreme solution, they need professional help immediately. There is hope, but it’s crucial to find some sort of support, some sort of anchor as soon as is possible.

    In my case, it took me almost two years after I became ill before I really knew I wanted to live again, but it DID get better. But I’m one of the fortunate ones who has amazing friends, a truly incredible family, very caring doctors, and even a service dog who provided the support that got me through that.

    So please…try to remember that there is another side. Those who contemplate or commit suicide have made their decision truly believing that they are doing what is best for their loved ones. Once that pain is severe enough, even a loving family may not provide enough of an anchor to convince them to work on getting past the hard times.

    At any rate, I’m sorry for rambling so…just a pet subject as someone with both psych degree and too much first-hand knowledge. Never understood it myself till I ended up on the other side. Thanks for letting me put my two cents in…

  2. March 29, 2005 at 12:07 am

    It’s very strange what goes through your head. I made sure that my son would be away but also went to a hotel to ensure that he didn’t find me. I packed garbage bags and an old sheet to ensure that I didn’t leave a mess. You’re oddly focused. Methodical. You’ve made enough of a mess in your life. You feel some sense of responsibility not to leave more. Based on my experiences, the danger is greatest when there is less pain. Suffering makes us want to feel better and we naturally struggle against it. Calm certainty that we don’t wish to endure or inflict suffering again is extremely dangerous. It is also what makes it so hard for loved ones to anticipate the act.


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