But this really doesn't make sense. The entire concept of suffering exists merely to keep us alive. We experience pain and despair and sadness not because it's some inherent part of being conscious, but because those sensations help us to avoid things which are detrimental to survival. When push comes to shove, the drive to survive is what's fundamental, and that will (usually) override the desire to avoid suffering.
As intelligent, conscious beings, we have the capability to understand when survival is no longer possible, making suffering a waste. Thus we can, sometimes, override our desire to live in the face of terminal illness. But what's weird is not the fact that we don't constantly kill ourselves at the first sign of trouble, what's weird is the fact that we do sometimes kill ourselves when things look completely hopeless. You might as well try to stay alive, after all.
If I had to be in serious pain every day but could keep doing many things I would rather keep living with the pain. The loss in experience is worse than any level of pain.
For the obvious counterpoint: I say that from experience not naivete. I've had a nerve in my hand accidentally sliced lengthwise (for a significant length) by a surgeon. The pain was so excruciating they had to put me under before I had a heart attack (heart rate+blood pressure both went off the charts, 290bpm)
However, before that happened I was much more interested in what was going on and how unique this level of pain was. It was fascinating. Prior to that I didn't really know how much pain it was possible to feel.
Anyway the point is, not everyone is afraid of pain and suffering. Especially not to the point that suicide would even be considered.
I'm going to try to shed a little light on how chronic pain and disability is a bit different than acute.
I've lived with chronic pain for over 10 years. As a registered person with disabilities, college resources helped me get by - but these did not exist in the real world for someone like me.
It prevented me from working in my field of study and preference and severely limited my freedom and willingness to take risks. I encouraged friends and peers to chase my dreams; they have succeeded where I could not.
On the spectrum of pain and disability I'm relatively lucky. My condition cannot kill me. At worst, it can only prevent me from doing what I want and deny my dreams. I have managed, and am somewhere in the top 20%. My old friends are in the top 5%. I burn my life doing irrelevant work because my employer has a good benefits package that has my back if I take a turn for the worse.
Now, with age, my body and mind is starting to deteriorate, and with it the dream of figuring a way to truly overcome my challenges rather than just get by.
I have it pretty good.
Anyway, I'm off to an experimental treatment where they'll stab me 20-30 times with a needle. Unfortunately my condition causes hypersensitivity. Acute pain doesn't really matter though. They claim to have improvement in 70% of patients but the published, controlled, literature is less encouraging. This is the best outlook and most hope I've had in years.
Maybe if I keep calm, remain positive, and make myself more susceptible to placebo I can get my life back. Or maybe I'll just be one of the lucky ones.
Chronic pain can be really, really, debilitating.
Think about what you are going to do in a few hours. Maybe you'll hop on public transit to meetup with someone. Or maybe bike somewhere. Or take a shower. Or make a sandwich. Or make love.
Now imagine if you had a really bad joint (ankle, knee) or back. Suddenly, taking public transit has additional complexities, like does the station have a lot of stairs and a lengthy distance to the train? Will I be able to get a seat? Or if I'm biking, is my commute going to flare up my joint/back? If I take a shower, I can't stand too long lest a joint start to get painful. Besides, I have to 'save' my pain threshold for situations that are a bit less controlled like walking to the bank or returning an item.
Whereas most people can spend 100% concentration on their surroundings, I have to expend mental energy thinking "Where's the next seat? How long am I standing up for? Am I causing damage to myself?" When science and medicine can't do much, and quality of life drops dramatically, it's hard not to think about alternatives.
Death is permanent but it does have one advantage: it's silent. There's no more pain.
In the US you only got the problem that the usually subscribed extended-release pain killer only works 2/3 of the period, but everywhere else this is a solved problem with its 4-6 hours cycle.
We know so much less about the human body than we think we do. When giving birth to our first son, she was given the maximum dose epideral and was told she wouldn't be able to walk for a few days because of intense numbness. Not only did she walk to the bathroom shortly after giving birth, but it didn't even lessen the pain.
Not everybody responds to and gets the benefits of modern medicine as we'd like. I'm grateful that medicine does work on me and my children though.
Scratch that: ~~~No, you (most probably) wouldn't.~~~
EDIT: this post is about severe chronic pain. Think cancer, or a serious toothache which lasts for years. And it's not meant to discuss the specific situation of the parent! I'm talking in general. I also agree that not 100% patients with severe chronic pain will consider suicide, however the percentage of people considering suicide in such group is much higher than in the rest of the population.
You may believe so right now, but that's totally irrelevant: just as you were unable to imagine "how much pain it was possible to feel" before your experience, you are unable to imagine what a serious, chronic pain can do to you.
Chronic pain is a lot like depression: there's no relief, no hope, nothing you can do to ever feel any better. Assuming that you'd be able to do anything - and that doing that would even make you happy - is... well, very improbable, to say the least.
> Anyway the point is, not everyone is afraid of pain and suffering. Especially not to the point that suicide would even be considered.
Sure, it's easy to be brave in the face of the unknown. It's a lot harder to be brave once you see what "chronic pain" really means. And there is no notion of being brave (or not) once it actually happens to you - there's only despair and suffering. Really, only that. Nothing else, at all.
We have a lot of pain management methods at our disposal now and, in many cases, it's possible to reduce the symptoms and make the patient feel "well enough". Without such help, however, it's only a matter of time before (most of) the patient considers suicide - no matter how brave and "suffering accepting" he was before.
It doesn't matter if the "the percentage of people considering suicide in such group is much higher than in the rest of the population" if that percentage is still small within such a group.
E.g. if 1% kills themselves in the general population, while 2% or even 5% kill themselves in such a group, that's still 95%, an overwhelming majority, that do not.
In which case, what the parent thinks now is not "totally irrelevant" but mostly correct.
>And there is no notion of being brave (or not) once it actually happens to you - there's only despair and suffering. Really, only that. Nothing else, at all.
I've seen people with chronic pain (including long-term fatal cases) that are not just "despair and suffering". Including people who have dreams and follow them (creative work etc) despite the pain.
> I've seen people with chronic pain (including long-term fatal cases) that are not just "despair and suffering". Including people who have dreams and follow them (creative work etc) despite the pain.
Without any kind of pain management? With severe, chronic pain?
Well, what I witnessed may have been outliers, but once you hear a person you care for begging to "please, just make it stop" every time she was able to actually articulate some words instead of screaming in pain... that leaves a mark.
What I'm saying is that there is - possibly very different for different people - a threshold of (pain-intensity times pain-time-length) above which everyone will be considering suicide. That the people you know are below such threshold doesn't mean it's not there. Having seen people way above it I really can't accept people telling me that they'd rather "live with the pain". What they mean is they'd rather live with bearable pain, which is OK; however, there is such a thing as an unbearable pain and I don't believe there is anyone who'd like to live with it.
You seem to conflate chronic pain with "living in total agony", like some terminal patient.
People here are not talking about that. Maybe do some reading about what "chronic pain" means medically? It's not just a single thing like the one you described.
It bothers people around me that I limp though. Oh well.
I gave the example of acute pain because that was more challenging to me than the chronic.
I have those types of issues too. Most of us do once we get old enough.
They don't really bother me. Like yours, I can overcome them. Almost everyone does.
I suspect if either of us had trained all our lives to be, and wanted to be professional runners, it would bother us greatly.
It is merely your opinion that he wouldn't keep going with chronic pain, he has a different opinion.
There's no way for us to verify yours or his claim.
Also, the "(most probably)" part of that sentence in my previous comment is there specifically to show that I'm not making absolute statements...
Pain and grief, even when they are absolutely horrible, don't appear to be strongly correlated with suicide. Inescapable problems, even when they are not so severe, absolutely do.
Broadly, people seem to turn to suicide either when their circumstances seem unimprovable (chronic pain, inescapable debt, irreparable loss) or when they lose the ability to imagine recovery (acute depression, various forms of psychosis). I think that when considering suicide, experiences like "I've been in that much pain" are basically irrelevant - the operant part is the permanence, not the severity.
Kind of like being short, or not as smart as the next guy. It's just the way it is. No point worrying about it.
However, if you viewed it as a serious problem and when is it going to be fixed and then... never... yeah, that would be very different.
Even with chronic pain, it's probably not the end of the world when it's "an ache in my knee when I move in this direction" or even "a mild ache in my knee always". But if it's "at random, frequent times, my back hurts too badly to stand or function", that's super hard to ignore or get used to, and I can see being incredibly upset by it. Cluster headaches come to mind as following this sporadic + devastating pattern, and indeed they do cause a fair bit of suicide.
"Can't escape it" and "can't get used to it" are an ugly combination.
It was down to just like broken bone painful then so I decided to just deal with it so I could learn how to tolerate severe pain (I was 14 at the time), I figured it would be a useful skill. My parents were a little shocked that I decided to deal with it. I passed the time reading c++ books.
The pain did make me take a lot of breaks and sleep to bring my willpower back.
I still feel it now, but it's more like the feeling of a minor cut on your finger.
Honestly, I think I have the opposite problem. Pain hasn't been sufficient for me to avoid injury. I probably could have avoided many issues if I listened to it a little.
Unfortunately, whatever caused the arthralgia was (and still is) a complete mystery, and by day 5 of having top pediatricians explaining "nothing is out of the ordinary" I pragmatically, unemotionally contemplated suicide for the first time in my life. Somehow the ailment completely disappeared over the following weeks and hasn't returned, but it's quite something to feel that pain will truly and honestly never stop. It's not even that your brain goes into panic mode. It's a different mode of existence altogether – I can't even imagine people suffering through years of pain even 1/100th of the intensity of what I had.
It isn't easy. The pharmacological therapies I know would be most effective are too expensive. And so I have to choose how to avoid suffering from my pain, every day. I choose work, music, my family, antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication, and participating in communities (like this one) where I may find peers.
Humans are very often disabled by pain alone, with neligible body damage. That's clearly evolutionary disadvantageous. Makes torture possible, etc.
Relevant xkcd: http://xkcd.com/883/
Generally speaking, of course, that's not a safe bet. Suffering tends to be associated with damage and psychological stress, which are rarely good things. I'd take 8/10 pain every day for the next 40 years though over something like dimentia or advanced alzheimers.
That said, I'd also take pain over severe depression. That shit sucks.
My back gave out once and for about a week nearly every movement was excruciating. Getting out of bed was a 10 minute ordeal. Trying to sit down on the toilet or stand up was excruciating. Trying to sit down anywhere or lie back down on the a bed sent daggers of pain through my back. Turning in a chair or in the bed was just as bad. If a doctor had said "the rest of your life will be like this" I would have seriously considered ending it.
I've also had bad experience with bungled root canal and a resulting toothache that required 600-800mg of ibuprofen every 2.5 hours for 4 weeks while I waited for an appointment with the dentist to fix it. If the ibuprofen had not worked and had to live with that pain I would have unquestionably ended it.
Had a fingernail pulled out by a doctor once with no pain killers (well, he tried 3 injections of whatever over about 20 minutes but couldn't get the area around the nail to go numb). There's a reason denailing was used as torture. It causes extreme pain.
Whether others experience similar amounts of pain or I'm just a whimp I have no idea but of course I only have my experience to go on and I have a hard time believing if people experienced the same amount of pain every day they could truly live with it.
Suicidal ideation is due to the latter, not the former.
I wonder if you could model the "suicide critical point" as the point at which the importance of pain is greater than the importance of pleasure.
Somebody suffering and in pain but hopeful is not likely to commit suicide.
Someone with a good, stable life and/or future but fixated on negative aspects or thinkings may be more inclined for suicide.
your post brought back a memory of mine. i crushed my finger once while doing something mechanical. the bone was crushed into pieces.
it hurt so bad i started laughing. i had to be driven to the hospital because i couldn't even see straight.
that level of pain is something else, for sure. it hurts so bad, but you can detach yourself from it, somehow.
The View From Hell is written by an anti-natalist and, if I recall, 'nonpracticing suicide'. This, I think, is someone who has a radically different baseline for "desire to live" than a lot of the people responding to it.
And, on the flip side, a statement like "the drive to survive is what's fundamental" might well sound completely bizarre to the writer. The idea that despair and sadness are about avoiding things detrimental to survival is at best situationally true, as evidenced by all the times when people find those feelings themselves detrimental to survival.
But aside from all of that, I think this doesn't invalidate the basic claim that a lot of the things stopping somewhat-suicidal people are not the desire to live. At the point where someone is considering suicide, their "life drive" wiring is obviously not a whole answer - so it remains relevant to look at the large number of suicide ideators who are held back by fear, or motivation issues, or other indirect reservations.
I think hope plays a big part. We don't kill ourselves because we have hope. If we are suffering and have no hope, that's a recipe for suicide.
*Excluding hospital assisted suicide where someone OD's on pain medication under end of life pain.
Think of people who commit suicide over inescapable scandals, chronic pain, or terminal illness. Extremely depressed comes with 'no hope', but that's cancelled out by 'decreased agency' (which is one theory for why antidepressants carry suicide risk). Not every form of hopelessness shares that loss of agency.
Alternatively: People can have goals related to the actual outside state of the world, rather than their own internal state. If you can only conceptualize goals in terms of your own internal state, then sure, you might kill yourself to avoid pain, or wirehead yourself at the first opportunity.
But if your actual goals are out there in the world, then it's essentially as you say above. Dying reduces your influence on the world. If you're not alive, it's much harder to steer the world to your desired state. Survival is a convergent instrumental goal, for people as much as for AIs.
Evaluate these 50,000 options as pass fail. Change a few randomly, shuffle with another set. Repeat.
Sure, it works for minor things eventually. But, in the short term only the most major things have noticeable impact.
Meh, I just fear hurting the ones I love.
with regards to people I would not place on it on the desire to live, I figure it because there are so many distractions in life
Many people choose not to suffer, because "suicide is an option". Or pills. Or therapy. Or, the lucky ones, they can switch it off.
Depression (noted in another comment) further limits the ways by which one can control the suffering brought on by pain. I know this well. Many of us do.
For a depressed person, their brain is constantly torturing them, and the depressed point of view seems much more real. "You can choose to pretend you're happy like the rest, but you know how life really goes."
In general every morning we make a decision on whether the expected future happiness is going to outweigh the expected future suffering. When that fails (and it does) we find reasons of duty to keep going, for the people we love etc. You're right, depressed people have a skewed vision of the future and it destroys their expectations of happiness.
Emotions are often themselves detrimental to survival. They are there to make sure you survive and reproduce, not that you survive without issue.
The hope is always there, just change the purpose.
Instead of a life without suffering one expects to end the pain.
That is the final hope that the suicidal people embrace.
Sometimes people find themselves in situations where the unimaginable is a better option than whatever it is they're facing. The act is equally horrific, but preferable to the alternative.
> At least 200 people are believed to have fallen or jumped to their deaths [from the World Trade Centre on 9/11] while other estimates say the number is half of that or fewer.
> The New York City medical examiner's office said it does not classify the people who fell to their deaths on September 11 as "jumpers": "A 'jumper' is somebody who goes to the office in the morning knowing that they will commit suicide. These people were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out."
Many people opt-out of aggressive cancer treatments that may add months on to their lives, and increasingly euthanasia is a (legal) alternative to letting medical conditions run their course.
There are situations where ending things early can be one of the valid choices made available to you.
I'm not sure how it's possible to come to that conclusion.
(And to be clear: I wasn't originally trying to suggest that everyone that fell from the WTC made a decision to jump. I think it's probably fair to say almost everyone that fell was simply trying to get away from the smoke by leaning out of windows, etc. )
"Using data for 27 Texas counties from 1978-1987, it is shown that the incidence rates of suicide, homicide, and rape are significantly higher in counties whose drinking water supplies contain little or no lithium than in counties with water lithium levels ranging from 70-170 micrograms/L; the differences remain statistically significant (p less than 0.01) after corrections for population density."
Edit: on a second thought, it wouldn't drive them crazy, it would literally calm them!
Edit 2: I'm not proposing adding therapy-level doses of lithium to the water, just equalizing it to the water in other regions.
You're giving many people who really don't need it a mood stabilizer, if it's enough to affect those who are at risk of suicide, it's surely still having an influence in the minds of those who don't need it. Why should the entire population have this alteration performed when only a few will benefit. Seems better to go and seek out those few. Personally I'd take the increased suicide risk.
Point is, people will disagree about this, the optimal solution is to just let people who want it add it or take it as a supplement in their own homes.
PS: There is little (ed: zero) evidence that Lithium is and the human body puts effort into removing it. But, it's also common in the environment and may have positive impacts at low levels so it's more debatable than you might think.
Sadly, there's too much prejudice and taboo over mental health in our society. People treat it as a badge of shame, not a disease.
They wont always seek help.
They are. I hope however that we can agree that they are in fact conspiracy theorists.
Crazy ideas only get crazier when you don't calmly address them with education and instead find some weird necessity to ostracize those with differing viewpoints.
The studies you linked to show an interesting correlation between lithium in water supplies and reduced suicide levels, but you can't judge the net benefit on a single metric alone. Lithium is not without side effects, and it's unreasonable to suggest that the vast majority of the population that is otherwise healthy be subjected to those side effects for the incremental benefit of a select few. The magnitude of these side effects may be relatively small in the levels we're talking about, but the net effect is likely not negligible when applied to entire populations over the course of their lifetimes.
It doesn't matter if you call it an element or a medication, it has non-negligible medical effects and side effects. If it had no relevant effects, we wouldn't be discussing it here.
> The ones who consume slightly more kill themselves significantly less, with no side effects.
"No side effects" is an impossible claim to make. The studies we do have show a correlation between lithium in the water supply and suicidal frequency in the population. The side effects have not been studied.
For some hard evidence: Lithium in drinking water is correlated with changes of thyroid function: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114818/
Lithium most certainly does have side effects that are dose- and time-dependent. The side effects may be minimal at low concentrations, but when applied to a population over the course of a lifetime, they would certainly add up. Especially for those who are most susceptible to the negative effects.
It's also not hard to imagine that lithium's suicide rate reduction effects (which are purely correlation at this point, FWIW) are due to it's tendency to mellow people out. The cognitive dulling of even small amounts of lithium orotate in healthy (non-bipolar and non-suicidal) people are palpable. Would you still advocate for lithium in the water if it reduced the average intelligence of the population by, say, 1%? I'm picking hypothetical numbers here, but the reality is that there are certainly downsides to mass-medicating people with small doses of lithium.
I'm not going to argue with the fact that it results in "better" outcomes in some people's minds, but personally I'd rather accept an increased suicide risk. I'm sure I could take any number of mind-altering substances every day and I'd feel great, but that doesn't mean it's something I want to do.
Additionally, when you talk about mental "diseases", things get a lot more iffy. We have a terrible understanding of the brain, our diagnoses for those diseases are literally check lists, without any proper tests, many people would rather have their natural mental performance than a modified version of it, which is what something like this would force you into whether you like it or not.
While you can't make people exercise and eat their vegetables, they will usually drink the tap water.
But you then have to provide a way for people to opt out without any de facto penalty, which is the problem. So this would so something more suited for a dedicated drinking water system in an apartment building or complex. The mineralized water on tap goes to sinks, drinking fountains, and refrigerators, and regular old municipal water to sinks, toilets, showers, and laundry machines.
It may be a case of doing it, and warning people not to eat too much of it. But you need actual research to discover that.
That said, there is a form of lithium that is available over the counter: Lithium Orotate. The amount of elemental lithium per dose is lower than you'll find in prescription lithium carbonate treatment, but you wouldn't want to attempt to self-medicate in to the prescription range anyway. Lithium has a notoriously narrow therapeutic window, and it would be too easy to dose yourself into the toxic range.
I've tried lithium orotoate myself out of curiosity for circadian rhythm modification. Although the dose is lower than that of prescription lithium, the effects and side effects were still palpable. Personally, I found no positive benefits but substantial cognitive slowing and general feelings of malaise. It's also worth noting that lithium is moderately toxic to the kidneys over time.
Having tried low-dose lithium orotate myself, I would never advocate for any amount of supplemental lithium in water supplies. Let's leave the medication to those who need it, rather than forcing it upon the entire population.
Would you remove the lithium from other water supplies?
I have been following the field of psychology and psychiatry closely and let me tell you, they are not only far from understanding and curing the causes of mental disorders, they are also prescribing very harmful medication based on biased research funded by pharma. What you are arguing for is very dangerous.
And even if it was shown to be beneficial beyond doubt, why not make these supplements available in another form, cheaply and conveniently? State mandated force medication is not only infantilizing to the extreme, it also violates essential liberties of the people.
In both cases, you're forcing a chemical on people that the evidence says would be to their benefit, but with a Knightian ("unknown unknown") risk of really hurting them.
This may be true in the US, but in Greenland it seems like suicide rates have changed in response to changing ways of life:
There's a bit of variance in the US numbers, and I wonder how means reduction, a decline in chronic pain/terminal illness, and various way of life changes compare. I'd be surprised if none of those things were relevant, but less surprised if they didn't add up to a clear trend.
This was inspired by @antiquark's comment:
>>Probably has something to do with the theory of natural selection.
It might have been a mere speculation but it kind of makes sense.
Rather than take the time to bare and raise one child, that time is better spent taking care of your 6 grand children.
* Women stop having children after 40 because it's more important to raise the children you already have.
* Women don't stop having children after 40 because bearing more offspring increases your chances of survival.
Your explanation barely makes sense even on its own merits. Surely, if nature wanted us to have N children and then take care of them, it would have set a cutoff on N, rather than on the time. What if someone has no children before 40? Is it to their evolutionary advantage to care for the children they didn't have?
Or, if your explanation were true, why would women not spend ten years gestating and given birth to a healthy 10-year old? It's illogical to design a system that can pop out one baby every nine months and then say "okay now that you've had anywhere from zero to thirty children, it would be best if you stopped and took care of them.
To design? Are you a creationist?
Assuming you're just confused, evolution doesn't "design" life. It's just a "whatever works" process.
For example, angler fish have a lure that resembles prey for their prey. This has been selected by the eyes of their prey. It's not that the prey wanted their predator to fool them, it's just that angler fish with bad lures starved and died off.
In the case of humans, if what your parent comment suggests is true, then it would just be that some women had some sort of defect where they couldn't give birth after some point and that turned out to give their grandchildren an advantage over the grandchildren of women without the defect. Over a long period of time, more and more descendants with defective reproduction genetics would survive compared to those without and so it becomes prevalent.
That's how evolution works.
Put it another way, if I asked you "would you think that evolution would select for women bearing children until their 40s, or until they died?", you wouldn't be able to answer, because there's no predictive power in the explanation. Contrast this with "the sun rises every day because the earth revolves around itself", which allows you to predict whether the sun will rise or not tomorrow.
I agree, that's what I said "if what your parent comment suggests is true"
In fact, said parent comment said "It might have been a mere speculation but it kind of makes sense"
I agree with you that there is no predictive power in explaining things that way (indeed, what I said is speculation, hence why I worded it in the conditional), but that was not what I was responding to. I was only responding to the "design" part of your comment.
That being said, evolution does make predictions which have been confirmed. Notably Darwin's long-nosed moth. Here's a list of more predictions
Well, I would argue that the vibe of your whole comment was coherent in that sense: you talked about what nature wanted, about design and about what kind of stuff would make sense while looking at it from a architect perspective.
It's a very odd way to look at it if you have no creationist conception of it all to be honest.
As for your point that not everything has an evolutionary advantage, I agree. Deafness and blindness exist after all.
But I don't really see your point as far as proposing hypotheses to account for certain prevalent traits, which, in my opinion, is what the original content was about (the grandmother hypothesis).
To talk about what nature "wants" is probably not very helpful. I can't speak for the idea that menopause exists because it is useful for old women nurture their grandchildren, but tendencies like it exist simply because they are helpful enough in an evolutionary sense.
I mean, why should we want to have sex without reproducing? If nature "wanted" us to have children, why not make that coincide exactly with our sex drive? It's because no one designs these things or thinks of logical solutions. Having a sex drive regardless of individually wanting to have children works to a genetically beneficial end either way.
> Is it to their evolutionary advantage to care for the children they didn't have?
Their evolutionary advantage? How can an individual gain an evolutionary advantage in itself? When I'm dead, I'm dead. Nothing can be an advantage or a disadvantage to me as an individual at that point. The process of evolution stretches across generations and concerns things that do sustain for several generations, like genes.
Why would a spider want to mate if it almost always gets eaten immediately after doing so? How is it to their individual advantage to be eaten? Why would bees be born without reproductive capabilities? It's because these are genetically beneficial traits, not because the individuals themselves will gain from it.
Exactly. The most we can say is "it's generally useful so it tends to happen". However, evolutionary biologists tend to paint their explanations with a certainty that just isn't there, and can look at any old random thing and say "well, this is obviously because X!".
"Evolution made spiders eat their mates because it makes sense that they would want to preserve energy". Yes, but it also makes sense that the mates would stick around to feed the offspring, otherwise all species would kill the males after mating. We aren't as sure about why things are the way they are as evobio would have us believe, and not to mention evobio explanations for human psychology, which are usually completely ludicrous.
In general, the process for explaining things using evolutionary biology seems to be:
* Look at behaviour.
* Find one advantage, however small, of said behaviour, regardless of disadvantages.
* Say "well obviously this behaviour evolved like this because of that advantage".
I'm not 100% sure how to interpret evolutionary minutiae in human society past the basic agrarian level. Factor isolation becomes quite difficult. E.O. Wilson effects come into play.
If I may, the Stoics thought suicide a perfectly acceptable reaction to being "checkmated" in life - if there was a significantly unresolvable ethical dilemma, fall on your sword. The Stoics were the principal competitors to the Church early on, which led to proscriptions against suicide ( some say ).
Some species to kill of one parent to provide the offspring with energy. Maybe with more mass extinction events you'd start finding species that die of natural causes when population growth becomes too large.
Not necessarily true either. If your suicide is beneficial to your siblings, for example, it won't be selected against (assuming they have the trait as well, but it hasn't expressed itself for them).
Because depression is a disease, its not just feeling blue because something happened to you and as such it probably has has the same distribution since the early days of humanity. Its a disease with no good treatments so we can expect the same mortality rate.
I think handwringing over people having easier lives but still killing themselves is fairly meaningless, and frankly, more than a little shaming. Depression affects people almost randomly. Wealthy people with easy lives kill themselves just as readily as poor people with harder lives. You can't will yourself out of depression because things are easy for you. The disease, unfortunately, doesn't work that way.
I have major depression. Its not caused by some negative life events or my parents not loving me or anything like that. Its clearly something I was born with or rapidly developed when I was just a child. I think its dangerous to talk about depression as not being a disease of the brain and as something that emerges from negative life events. Those things can certainly make it worse, but depression is a disease like any other, not a mood.
Do they? It's one thing to say 'i dont want to live' or "i wish i was dead", and another to actually go through the processes to do that. Suicide killers for example, need a strong metaphysical motive and promise of reward to do that.
I often wonder if a man stranded alone in an island , without any societal pressures would ever consider suicide.
I think everyone has the capability, just as they have to murder. That they have not found circumstance such that they can conceive of it taking place doesn't mean they can't. People discover surprising (for good and ill) things about themselves when pushed to their limits and beyond.
> I often wonder if a man stranded alone in an island , without any societal pressures would ever consider suicide.
Whilst they'd be free of debt collectors, divorce, job loss, shame and the various other factors that may increase suicide, they'd also have new factors. For instance perhaps the island has no, or inadequate food and water. If you had a revolver and the prospect of starving to death considering surely suicide may be considered?
What of disease or serious injury?
There are many examples of suicide bombings without religious motivation and with non-religious perpetrators.
What is interesting however, is how suicide rates haven't changed with other things like medical improvements and improvements to quality of life.
Check out, Chronic lower respiratory diseases at nearly 4x suicide. Can't remember hearing a thing about that in the news.
In the mid 90s, I remember seeing some anti-smoking campaigns that used people with tracheotomies (see ref 1); these folks almost definitely had lower respiratory disease.
Your point is well-taken - we hardly spoke about addiction as a medical health problem until recently.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7bHdo2DJHY - this is only part of one of the ads I recall
I think people are aware of it but it's a bit depressing to talk about given that solutions aren't easy. I can see it getting more coverage as other causes become less common in young people. It's the #1 cause for ages 15-45 in Australia for example (that's just the country that came up on random googling) http://www.aihw.gov.au/deaths/leading-causes-of-death/
I think it's more cheerful to give attention to making society happier and healthier which should have a knock on effect on the suicide rate.
Mental health is taboo.
I'm not trying to say that we should let people die, but the living standard has really skyrocketed, meanwhile we still have behaviors and systems that do damage to mental health, and we still disregard those problems.
The worst thing about war in my opinion is not just that people die, but that people live in constant fear of death.
I really don't understand this sentiment. Surely belief in an afterlife is a far greater motivator to off yourself than not? It's only religions that threaten you with eternal suffering if you do that would act as a special deterrent (easily eliminating all religions that don't have a concept of hell). Especially if you consider that some of those even go out of their way to make exceptions for certain forms of murder-suicide ("suicide attacks").
I don't fear death at all.
I fear dying slowly and in pain.
The idea that white men have the highest suicide rate is misleading - they have the highest rate of success, which is very likely because they are the most likely to own guns, which are far and away the most effective and effortless way to commit suicide. Effortlessness is important, because depression makes planning so difficult. FWIW I'd really appreciate it if we could not turn this into a debate about gun control.
The insight, of course, is that Elliot Smith didn't have a drug problem, he was looking for a drug solution. This is an incredibly accurate description of addiction. The saying in AA is "If alcohol didn't do anything for me, I'd never have let it do anything to me". Drugs and alcohol are a solution to the underlying problem, one in which we simply can't feel ok the way others can. Of course, they are a solution with horrible side effects, and one that eventually stops working. Many members of AA describe getting sober because the drugs and alcohol weren't working anymore, only to become suicidal and realize that the drugs and alcohol were only symptoms of a much deeper problem.
America is not the world
You can also use the Public Health England "Fingertips" datasets which breaksdown the data a bit more.
Here's the main Fingertips site: http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/
And here's the Fingertips mental health stuff: http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile-group/mental-health
And here's the Fingertips suicide stuff: http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile-group/mental-health/pro...
Currently the ratio of deaths by suicide for men:women is something like 4:1 or 3:1, and we think that's because (as you've said) men tend to use more lethal methods. (Although we've seen a really worrying increase in lethality of method in women in the UK).
Go careful when comparing the UK stats with the US. I think we count different things. For example: a death that would be counted as a suicide in someone over the age of 15 is not counted as a suicide in someone under the age of 15. I don't think the US does that.
I think this post is an attempt to make an obvious question seem like it has deep or non-obvious answers; but in reality I think the answers are pretty obvious. Most people don't kill themselves because they don't want to. It's that simple. It's like asking "Why don't more humans become ballet dancers?" Some try and fail but most just don't want to.
If the question is really; why don't more people want to kill themselves, then the answer is going to vary person by person and be difficult if not impossible to answer globally. Bob might not have any thoughts of suicide at all but Alice might think about it but want to see her nephew grow up and not inflict that pain on her parents.
Truly answering that question would involve a really comprehensive study of a lot of different groups to even attempt to answer it.
> I think the answers are pretty obvious. Most people don't kill themselves because they don't want to.
That is a simple conclusion, indeed; and it's not wrong either. The article tries to reason how that conclusion came to be. People who have had suicidal thoughts but didn't go through with it did ultimately not want to do it, but before that decision they did want to, by definition of 'suicidal people'.
The article – inspired by the paper – opens with the premise that 'pain' and 'human cognition' alone should make a human want to 'give up' upon the slightest inconvenience, and then goes on to try and come up with other factors — like your Alice wanting to see her nephew grow up or not wanting to inflict pain on her parents — that prevent 'pain and brain' from having their way uncontested.
It does draw a conclusion:
> Indeed, there appears to be a slight elevated risk
> of suicide in people taking some antidepressants,
> especially young people. But the effect is tiny.
> And some people do think antidepressants relieve
> suffering. If depression caused suicide, treating
> depression should reduce suicide rates, but of
> course it hasn’t. This could be due to the
> ineffectiveness of treatment, however.
'But of course' this isn't the whole story.
The reasons that you posited for Alice not killing herself were among many mentioned in the post.
It's not as much about people deciding whether or not to commit suicide; it is, that all of the benefits of intelligence also come with one potentially huge evolutionary problem, suicide.
Given that any natural variance in likelihood to commit suicide should be very heavily selected for or against, what adaptations might we have that were picked up to decrease it's likelihood?
The idea in the post is that some mental illnesses may be connected to these adaptations.
So I guess rather than thinking the job's crap, I'll just have a jolly skydiving trip with no chute you get depressed instead. There might be something there - I've always been a bit puzzled by the evolutionary function of depression.
Rustin Cohle: I tell myself I bear witness. But the real answer is that it's obviously my programming. And I lack the constitution for suicide.
rolls up a booger between his thumb and index finger
People's experience change their perspective. What's important to you now will change. What you're able to appreciate changes.
If you remain active through your life, I think you're much more likely to stay active as you're older. I intend to retire by 40, but I don't intend to be idle.
I think the responsibility for the weight (or perhaps, levity) of the philosophical observations made in this article fall back only on the writer himself, and his own attitude(s) towards suicide.
Edited to add: The highest by-country rate using the statistics he cites is Guyana at 44 per 100,000, which is .044%: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_r...
Why? At what cost? For what benefit?
What is a reason to live if they are not your decisions driving it? Skipping over all (judical etc) consequences, if this is true, then life has no sense and it's more/less ok to end it - what's funny, suicide would also not be your (as in free will) decision... Meaning this is a time bomb programmed into any thinking brain (and any AI as, what's double funny, this logic also applies to any AI).
Dodge that homo sapiens :)
Science inherently approaches the universe in a way which leaves no room for materially meaningful "free will"; only strict material determination and randomness.
The twist is that the optimization mechanism relies on mistakes in copying itself. One outcome of a copy mistake could be a weakened will to live in certain negative life circumstances.
>Close to 100% of humans could suicide, and yet ‘only’ about 1.4% do
Maybe because I have known people who successfully committed suicide - it turns out people who survive almost always are thankful/happy they did. In fact, it turns out if you interview people who jump from building and manage to survive, as they fall, they are thinking they wish they hadn't done that...
It's funny that you should mention that...
> If there wasn't the possibility of killing myself, I would have killed myself!
I'm about there, myself.
P.S. When I wrote this, I missed the "few" in the title.
More to the point: what's the design goal? To quote EY :
> But when you look at all the apparent purposefulness in Nature, rather than picking and choosing your examples, you start to notice things that don't fit the Judeo-Christian concept of one benevolent God. Foxes seem well-designed to catch rabbits. Rabbits seem well-designed to evade foxes. Was the Creator having trouble making up Its mind?
When I design a toaster oven, I don't design one part that tries to get electricity to the coils and a second part that tries to prevent electricity from getting to the coils. It would be a waste of effort. Who designed the ecosystem, with its predators and prey, viruses and bacteria? Even the cactus plant, which you might think well-designed to provide water fruit to desert animals, is covered with inconvenient spines.
I don't deny that if there is a "designer", then he gets a lot of points for creativity.
I mean, it takes a lot of "creativity" to design an 8 limbed baby , twins sharing the same body  or a child with a skull that won't stop growing . Sure, it's very "creative" and even personal I guess (I mean, when you get ostracized for having an "elephant face" it sure appears to be very meant and taken very personally). So I guess you're right in at least one metaphorical sense.
I don't really know. Ultimately you can argue that everything happening in the universe is natural, but I would make a difference between things created by intelligent creatures and the things that appears with natural selection. That doesn't involve intelligent design.
Understanding how and why people cross that line may be a way to identify people at risk and intervene.