We don't talk about suicide in society very well let alone within the startup community. Founders find themselves in extremely stressful situations and living lifestyles that exacerbate the effects of this stress. Remember to eat well, try to get some routine exercise, seek both quality and quantity of sleep, and have a couple of confidants that you can rant to. Remember that the alpha males spouting off about toughness and pulling death march schedules while eating nothing but energy bars and coffee are often the ones hurting most (i.e., just like how a lot of the most vehement homosexual bashers turn out to be homosexual).
I know YC likes to promote flocking together as founders, but I think it's really healthy to have one or two close confidants that are completely outside the startup community. You need to be able to rant to these people and unwind emotionally. A lot of your rants might be non-sensical, might be hypocritical, and even a tad self-centred. The last thing you need is another opinion in that situation, especially one telling you you're wrong for feeling the way you do. You're least likely to find one from people that simply aren't interested in entrepreneurship.
I receive annual suicide awareness training at work. One of the things they train us to do is, if we suspect someone might be considering suicide, to ask point-blank: "Are you thinking about hurting yourself." Most people will answer honestly, and then you can get them help if they need it. So while discussing suicide in the abstract can trigger others to commit suicide, discussing it directly with a potentially suicidal person is a critical first step in preventing suicide. Also, most people don't know what to do when dealing with someone suicidal, and the only way to teach them is to talk about it, which creates a bit of a catch-22 when you combine that with the Werther effect.
There's a big difference between talking directly to a person who may be suffering, when you should be direct and then be able to guide them towards help; and talking in a thread like this with a lot of speculation and abstract talk about suicidal behaviours.
tl:dr - you're right, and I missed the point you made in my post.
Thank you for mentioning that. It is very paradoxical and quite an unfortunate phenomenon. And I think it is very real. I have a sample of one (a local high school) that suffered what seemed like a large cluster of suicides within a short time range. Then found out about Werther effect.
During my sophomore year of high school, there was a string (about once every other week) of suicides. They were all linked in some way, a nasty chain of relationships. I think some of the early talk might have kept the chain going. The high school finally sent for proper grief counselors from the local university. It had been 3 or 4 months of gloom. I am not sure if they helped or it was just an ending, but they did stop (could have been the ending of winter thinking about it).
The truly sad part (beyond the ending of so many young lives) was the utter cynicism the rest of us got to. The grief counselor who was dealing with our class was utterly horrified by us wondering how anyone commits suicide by using a door knob and how we concluded that someone was using the suicides to hide a murder. Looking back, I suppose it was a coping mechanism.
Take care of your fellows and don't fool around non-professionals.
A good example of the Werther effect is the string of copycat suicides in South Korea after an actress, Lee Eun-Ju, took her own life in 2005. After her death, the suicide rate of the general population in Korea spiked with notable celebrities also taking their own lives. Here's a frightening statistic from the LA Times "In South Korea, 15,413 took their lives that year , or 28.4 for every 100,000 residents."
As an individual who has overcome manic depression and dealt with suicide personally and amongst friends, it is a difficult issue to approach and conquer, especially because when caught in a downward spiral everything seems to perpetuate it and nothing seems to help. It is not enough to simply ask if a friend is doing alright or has harmful intentions but it takes a person (family or friend) who can weather the storm with them. I feel that it is almost equally difficult for the person helping because they have to be willing to listen to and be understanding of the irrational thoughts that plague a suicidal mind. From an outside perspective, the burden of the troubled is vastly greater than the burden upon a helping hand but I think the cumulative process of helping someone can be equally detrimental and taxing. I hate to make a movie reference but the movie What Dreams May Come paints a good metaphor of the risks involved with trying to pull someone out of their sorrow, although not quite as dramatic.
> The Werther effect not only predicts an increase in suicide, but the majority of the suicides will take place in the same or a similar way as the one publicized. The more similar the person in the publicized suicide is to the people exposed to the information about it, the more likely the age group or demographic is to commit suicide. The increase generally happens only in areas where the suicide story was highly publicized.
(From Wikipedia which turn quoted Meyers, David G. (2009). Social Psychology (10th Ed). New York: McGraw Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-337066-8).
Please use use this service if you are even remotely affected by this discussion in a negative way. I fear this will escalate and push a reader over the edge who doesn't think they have an alternative. They do. If you are one of these, please seek help.
Keep their number in your phone. Hopefully you'll never need it, but IMO it's the second most important number after 911. Even if you have had a little bit of training, helping a suicidal person can be very bewildering and difficult, so if you find yourself unable to act effectively, you can pull out your phone, dial this number, and get help from an expert. I know people who are alive because somebody else (in one case a complete stranger) had this number in their phone:
If you find yourself dealing with a suicidal person and you don't have this number handy, dial 911.