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Suicide (raganwald.posterous.com)
880 points by llambda on Dec 13, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 275 comments

This is important, and startup founders are especially vulnerable.

The expectations, both from the world and founders themselves, are often impossibly high - afterall there can be only one facebook and one Google. Failure in startups isn't the same as failure in a corporate job. Startups are so much harder that if you make it to the first line of code you've already beat 90% of the people that want to do a startup. If you launch you've beat 99%. If you actually become ramen profitable you're a superstar in my eyes.

The problem of suicide and depression among startup founders is more pronounced than you might think, both because of the high expectations, but also because the founder is the one who needs to always be positive, egg others on, and never show weakness. Often while constantly doubting his (or her) own abilities and chances of success. This is incredibly hard and can end in catastrophe if you don't talk to someone about it. It even happened for a ycombinator company (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=859117).

Remember to enjoy the journey - it's fun, and if you fail you'll be held in extremely high regard amongst fellow entrepreneurs and HN'ers for having tried. Most people just dream, the people that actually try are stars.

If you have any questions, or just want to talk please contact me. My mail is in my profile.

You hit the cause in your third paragraph.

Suicidal ideation is a process starting with falling short of expectations then blaming yourself for the shortfall. You start incorrectly rationalizing reasons why everything is your fault and how nothing can get better. Negativity permeates every thought. Your world breaks down into tiny logical blocks and you rationalize why everything is hopeless.

The only way out is to break the chain of elevating mental isolation and negativity. It's easier to stop it in the nascent stages. Try not to blame yourself. The world is a big place and we have so much to do.

> The only way out is to break the chain of elevating mental isolation and negativity.

How exactly to do that is the tricky part, though (and not just tricky for individuals, but the subject of much debate in psychiatry). Possibilities include pharmacological intervention, therapy, or some sort of change in circumstances. The latter is a really large set of options, but also poorly understood: there are semi-regular reports of people completely changing outlook after significant changes in circumstances (e.g. changing careers), but it's very hard to come up with rigorous evaluation of the success of that "treatment option", because it's not very easy to run a controlled study, and not always an available option.

> How exactly to do that is the tricky part, though

A good start might be with the book "Learned Optimism" from Martin Seligman — http://www.amazon.com/Learned-Optimism-Change-Your-Mind/dp/0....

He argues that most depression is just severe learned helplessness caused by your own pessimistic inner explanations of why events happened. He makes a good case for it & suggests techniques to build better explanatory habits. I haven't finished the book yet but so far it's quite compelling.

I don’t know if it is helpful with suicidal thoughts, but Learned Optimism has helped me with a more generalized despondency and helplessness:


My won feelings about helplessness learning to play Go parallel feelings if helplessness in my life trying other things where it felt like I had no idea what I was doing and no control over the outcome:


Again, I don’t know if any of this is helpful when someone is at the point of contemplating ending their own life.

Obviously since you posted this 21 minutes ago I haven't exactly had the time to get into it seriously, but reading that inspired me to check out Learned Optimism and just reading the first chapter it speaks to my personal struggle. Thanks.

Go is a great mirror; i'm glad it played a role -- even if an antagonistic one ;) -- in such a positive result.

"Remember to enjoy the journey - it's fun, and if you fail you'll be held in extremely high regard amongst fellow entrepreneurs and HN'ers for having tried. Most people just dream, the people that actually try are stars."

Just because most of us can accept failure as a part of founding a company and doing business in a capitalist system, that does not necessarily mean those around us have the same tolerances or understanding. It is within that context, and the pressures applied on entrepreneurs by external influences, that most feel suicide is the only way out when they fail or feel they are on the brink of failure.

While none of the start-ups I've been involved with as a co-founder, or first dozen employees, have been personally successful financially, I have enjoyed the experiences, learnt from them and I can even have a sense of humour about the situation when things go wrong. I can't say the same for all of my colleagues who have lost spouses, family separation, second businesses or incurred costs & significant family disruption because we had relocated to another country and the business failed soon after we arrived. As a (now) non-drinker, I've sat with them in bars or a park as they drowned their pains in alcohol, and wondered if there is something I can say that would brighten them up, help them out and make them want to live until at least the next afternoon, when we have to start over again on the road to recovery. Usually its finding a new project for them to work on or being able to spend time with their family in a more relaxed environment (neither are always readily available).

My failures with start-ups, while disappointing, are among the least of the problems I've faced in my life. So far its been relatively easy for me to deal with it. Watching my colleagues for signs they aren't able to cope with the situation has been a task that I maintain, to help my friends and our businesses, but also to make sure I don't also accidently fall into the same trap.

But people need to learn to accept (and even appreciate) their own failures.

One of my big realizations in my life was that all the crap I had gone through, from the bullying in grade school to being assaulted by a street gang, to being the victim of some pretty serious domestic violence at the hands of a very violent girlfriend had enriched my life in ways I could no longer describe, and that I am a stronger person who sees the world in ways that others often can't for having gone through them. I haven't ever had the luxury of ignoring the necessity for self-improvement, and therefore I am a better person for having gone through it all.

I try to teach my kids that failure is an event, never a person, and that it is a necessary stage on the road to success.

Recently it's been suggested that more women should create startups, that actually everybody should.

This post suggests to me that maybe it's not such a great idea after all.

mixmax, these are very reassuring words for someone at a very vulnerable point in their startup. I tried, its positive, be positive and something will work fine. Or even a more realistic realization if you are failing too that it is fine to fail.

But I think the hardest problem we all founders face is to find the person who can share the views and motivate the right way. Most of the time, someone consoling would also be irritating, you just want to crib (mostly) and you will get over it and start working the next day.

It is almost ironically, sometimes, you just know what you want to hear and you are just waiting for someone to come and tell that so that you are fine.

The problem is not able to comprehend how everything would turn out as there would be tens of big and small issues at hand any given day and getting clarity is a big part of not feeling negative.

I have been fighting with all the bad vibes in office offlate and it is terrible especially as a single founder with a 7 ppl team. We haven't launched our product - it has been 1 year since our first engineer. It is already negative as you don't have anything out there and now you put in pressure things are going to break worse, ppl don't want to put in extra hours. It is hard to pump in positive energy. Fearing I will give feedback wrong way or push people too hard at this time I became reclusive. Few people own up, leaving them on their own track helps but it is almost a problem as you got to pull it off as a team and for that I have to speak up, bring them together with lots of energy. It is a hard time right now.

Hoping the system copes.


Whenever I find myself having similar thoughts I reread Willa Cather's story, "Paul's Case", here's the relevant part, the very end:

"He stood watching the approaching locomotive, his teeth chattering, his lips drawn away from them in a frightened smile; once or twice he glanced nervously sidewise, as though he were being watched. When the right moment came, he jumped. As he fell, the folly of his haste occurred to him with merciless clearness, the vastness of what he had left undone. There flashed through his brain, clearer than ever before, the blue of Adriatic water, the yellow of Algerian sands."

Think about the "vastness of things left undone": Have you chatted with a homeless person in winter? Have you read Anna Karenina? Have you watched The Kid? Have you traveled to a foreign city and got completely lost? Have you held the hand of a starving child in Somalia or at least looked at a picture of her and wept? Have you written a letter to Santa? Have you kissed every (and I mean every) square inch of a woman's body? Have you sneaked in and slept among the ruins at Machu Picchu? Have you fallen in love with a woman who's monolingual in a language you don't speak? Have you tried to understand general theory of relativity? Have you tried to explain GTR to a bright 9-year-old kid over coco?

I could go on. These are all the things that come to mind that I haven't done. One day I plan to do at least some of them. Think about this.

Okay, so the last few years I've had time and means to travel, and I'd like to comment somewhat on a perspective I gained while doing so. The list you gave- I've done all of those things. Well, change Machu Picchu to Pompeii and Somalia to the Congo. I realize your list was not comprehensive- but let me realize the spirit of your post and say I've done a large subset of the "things I'd like to do before I die," save perhaps going into space or winning a Nobel prize and few others.

I made a pact with myself when I was miserable in high-school and my most suicidal, that I would give life a chance and see if things got better as I did more and more things I'd dreamed about and that people told me were worth living for as you've done now. If I did those things and was still unhappy, I felt I should be justified in ending my own life having given it fair chance.

Well, there was a moment, I rememember it in detail, where I was hang-gliding near Interlaken in Switzerland. A man near me said something to the order of "this is the time of our lives, huh!" And I realized then that not only was I still quite unhappy in this most excellent of situations, but that I still wanted to kill myself and indeed had never stopped wanting to kill myself. Not at the Louvre, not in Tokyo, not when succeeding financially, romantically, or in academics.

There was a quote in the Brother's Karmazov which has always troubled me, though I can't find it at the moment, when Alyosha tells a child that he "will always be an unhappy man" and the child says he knows. I believe myself to be fundamentally broken somehow genetically, and I feel that I no longer have any rational reason to expect to ever feel content as a person or free of the suicidal impulse. I will always be an unhappy man.

I can only assume there are others like me in this realization, and to them your words will seem hollow, cliche, and unrelatably foreign. To them what you've said is no different from "but you have so much to live for"- they know that and it doesn't matter. If such a person is out there and is now reading this, all I can say is, well, me too. I keep going somehow, who knows how or why, and I guess all things considered sometimes it really isn't so bad. If I can't ever silence the demons telling me to end it all, I can at least make noise somewhere else that they don't seem so loud. Not a happy result by most measures, but that's the way it is.

I feel terribly sorry that you feel this way. I don't want to mess with this kind of stuff on something this important but, speaking from my own experience, and I do understand this feeling very well, I'd say that this is evidence that the sadness and ideation comes from inside and that the road to resolving it comes from working on that rather than outside things.

I've come to realise this quite strongly myself over the years as various things succeeded/failed, that what I thought would help it didn't, and that all that helps is to face the depression and actively find ways to fight it. I've found schema-based therapy very effective, for example.

I really hope you find a way to resolve these issues, or at least ways of making it better.

If you want to talk (hope this doesn't sound awfully patronising) you can find my email address in my profile.

For many people, what you say rings true, but it's dangerous to imply that that these feelings are purely a product of someone's thinking and that they can fix them on their own. There are people who, no matter how much they sit down and think things through, try and sort out their problems, etc, are going to feeling depressed -- likely due to chemical imbalances and structural differences in the brain. Thinking about suicide might be how this manifests.

Telling someone they can think themselves or "figure themselves out" to not being homosexual, schizophrenic or transgender seems crazy to many people, but not crazy when we say the same about depression. Pushing "think about it more! sort our your life!" as The Solution can be dangerous in the case where deferring more radical treatment is necessary or prudent, and the mentality that "I can think/will my way out of this" is a frequent excuse or cause for noncompliance with medication in some patients who actually do need it to not be a danger to themselves, or others.

I'm not implying the poster is such a case, or that such treatment shouldn't be tried, but it can and will fail in certain cases, and it's easy for others and the patient to justify "well I just need to try harder" or to push blame when that's deferring necessary treatment.

"There are people who, no matter how much they sit down and think things through, try and sort out their problems, etc, are going to feeling depressed"

Although you're probably right, it's also dangerous to promote that viewpoint. A depressed person accepting themselves as inevitably and irreversibly depressed is not productive, even if that's the case. It's not analogous to being gay where you can accept it and live a happy life.

I suppose accepting that you're permanently depressed could help you cope with it, but I'd be scared of having people assume thats the case before exhausting all other options.

You're wrong about not being able to live happily ever after: It's never accepting you'll be forever unhappy -- it's accepting you can't be without aid or intervention (e.g. medication, therapy, etc). I never stated that they're doomed to feel depressed, just that they're doomed to feel depressed if they don't do something other than sit and think. Depression tends to lead to a lot of rumination anyways, so it probably will seem pretty ridiculous to them to be told to be more introspective.

To clarify, I put those (schizophrenia, homosexuality, transgender) as examples of brain structure and wiring (just like clinical depression) and mentioned homosexuality explicitly because it seems less stigmatized than mental illness currently. A gay person can accept being gay and live a happy life, but they can't think themselves into being straight if they try hard enough. An individual diagnosed with major depressive disorder can accept they are clinically depressed and require treatment, then take the treatment and live a happy life, but they can't think themselves into not requiring outside aid to be in a non-depressed state. Society is a lot more accepting of the gay person than the depressed one though.

I didn't mean to imply that it can just be fixed by the person working on their own, rather that you need to face the depression itself rather than go down the road of trying other, outside, things in an attempt to indirectly fix the feelings themselves.

Of course medication/therapy/even acceptance of a chemical imbalance are not off the table at all.

A big problem with depression is that it makes you feel very guilty, unnecessarily, so I really want to make clear that I didn't want to imply somebody should feel that it's somehow their fault at all.

In many ways a large part of it is getting outside help. I really do recommend that, and have found that extremely helpful myself.

This resonates with me unfortunately well. Note that happiness has definite genetic links - twin studies show that it is a somewhat heritable trait, and some mechanisms have actually been found as to how it's heritable (for example, see http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu/genes_economics_and_happiness.pdf).

I am very much like you. Have you considered, given your minimal value of anything, that the costs associated with recreational drugs don't apply to you? I started (ab)using marijuana this year (daily). It makes life worth it for me. At the very least it's worth considering as an alternative to death.

Its easy to hide. Most the people in my life don't know. You can vaporize to minimize the health effects (also bad breath). If you do it regularly enough the cognitive deficit is less severe. Mostly just occasional memory loss. Again, nothing that you seem to care about anyway.

All three of you are incredible, wonderful, collections of atoms, the chances of whose formation and resultant animation may have been a brilliant fluke in a huge universe.

Your years are 120 or less, and then the universe will reclaim you as its own. For the universe, the span of your life should have been not even the fluttering of an eyelash before a blink. From a cosmic perspective, the existence of our whole galaxy was set to be one giant quantum fluctuation - the birth and death of a mere grain of matter, falling from one eon to another.

But then something incredible, something unexplainable, happened. Inanimate matter came forth from the deep waters. It grew legs, it started to paint on cave walls, not yet aware of the implications of what it was doing. (Have you ever wondered - of all the things the most significant cluster of particles in the whole universe could do, why would they choose to paint?) We started to reproduce. We started to communicate, to love, to build, to live! There is nothing else like us in the vast cosmos, and there may never be again.

The Milky Way should have be one passing glow of light, but somehow this humble galaxy became greater than the remainder of creation. The wondrous flash of light as our galaxy passes through existence will be most glorious moment that the universe ever experiences. You alone - a lonely sentient creature - would be that blinding flash of light even if the rest of us had never existed. The wonder of you, even as you contemplated an end to your solitary existence, would fill space long after every sun died and time itself drew to an end. In such a universe, you alone would have been notable. The fact of your existence is more incredible than the largest sun or the most massive black hole. Your glory - the glory of us all - will fill the universe forever, a single proud memory in the vast emptiness of space.

We tend to take our existence for granted, but it is an incredible fact - a miracle which all the religions on Earth were born, or given to us, in order to explain. Who would have thought? Who could have guessed that this tiny backwater planet on a spiral arm of the Milky Way would end up defining the vast cosmos forever?

Now, here is the important part: All the dead matter in the cosmos - every particle of the sun, the galaxy, and the vast everything - would give it up to be you. Sagittarius A* would disappear in an instant, if it could change places. It would give 13.2 billion years of existence for your measly 120 years of life.

Your life, unfortunately, will some day draw to an end. You know that, your atoms know that. Perhaps you are tempted to end it earlier, but no mistake could be more grave. I know not what you believe, but even if there is heaven or hell, there wont be anything like now. Let your atoms live. They have eternity itself to be inanimate.

A handful of misfiring neurons has no right to bring you to an end. The world is blinding. If your neurons can't see, you must do everything you can to fix them. Depression has easy medical fixes. Being treated for depression, fixing such a tiny flaw, may be the hardest challenge you ever face - but it is minor in the grand perspective.

Lastly, I leave the cosmos behind and appeal to you. Whoever you are, however you came into existence, and no matter what your purpose is, you are capable of understanding deep philosophical arguments and complex equations. I have none of that for you, merely a saying often heard on HN or in rejection therapy groups: Never say no. Ask yourself what is necessary to make life worth it. If you need a vacation to Hawaii to make life enjoyable again, take the next plane to Hawaii. If you cannot live in a meaningless world, leave for the mountains of India, where you may seek enlightenment in silence among fellow travelers in the sanctity of a Buddhist monastery. The parent posts' comment on marijuana is right on, but free will can do more than justify life - it can make it as brilliant and wonderful as you desire. The universe envies your ability to choose.

Before I end, I want to point out that all of you left comments here instead of suffering in silence. You are already ahead of the game. You can email me at aantny@gmail.com anytime. If you email me or call me on Skype, you would be helping me take a break from schoolwork to discuss philosophy. If you're in Israel, I would love to meet a fellow HNer in person.

You are brilliant. You are incredible. No matter your flaws, your crimes, your inabilities, I would kiss you. I would hug you. I would bring you into my house and eat with you, only to hear you speak, to hear your stories and your laugh. It may not always feel so, but you are a wonderful, beautiful creature. Love yourself, so that we may too.

+1 Very well said.

I used to suffer from depression - including suicidal thoughts starting in middle school up through high school. I used to abuse drugs to escape for a couple hours at a time every day. After a near death experience while tripping on a high dose of dextromethorphan, I realized I needed to talk to someone. I spoke to my parents, who put me in rehab. There I met a man who spoke much like you did. He didn't tell me I needed to stop doing drugs, or tell me that I needed to live. He didn't He gave me his impression, a glimpse, into what he felt like living in this universe. He had a minor in physics and would explain to me in detail how everything worked - how lucky we are to be alive. It worked. I wake up each day realizing how lucky I am to be in existence, how all of us are lucky to be in existence. I appreciate everything in life, whether its good or bad, because I understand, to some degree, we are all a lucky arrangement of atoms and when we die our atoms move on to someone or something else.

Cheer's to you good sir!

an incredibly profound post. The rarity of life really is what makes it so precious

I've experienced something similar, not as bad as you. But, some things have helped me. I'm sorry if this is somewhat cliche, but based on my own thought and decisions I've continued my faith in Jesus and God from my childhood, and this is also consoling.

On the other side, I've almost if not completely become an atheist at one point, and even then I realized that suicide was too final a choice for how little I knew about reality. In fact, atheism also consoled me, in that the thought that nothing lay beyond death meant I needn't fear death, nor anything in life, at least rationally (instinctual fear remains).

Finally, starting from an atheist perspective, that I didn't need to fear life, I realized I was searching for something that I haven't found yet, and that is a large part of why I've felt bad. Suicide again was too final and inadequate an answer to that desire inside of me. My desire and ignorance of reality give me hope I will find what I am seeking, and even the seeking is fulfilling to a degree.

Martin Seligman, who has been mentioned above, also has a book "Authentic Happiness" which you might find interesting. As he points out, and you have experienced, inborn predisposition is the biggest factor in happiness.

However there are other big factors which you can partially control. You've probably already discovered some of them.

I think you would like the book because Seligman recognizes the fundamental difficulty of the problem. As you may have guessed, Seligman himself is predisposed to unhappiness.

It's hard to respond to this. It's extremely honest, and leaves only room for the choices you make for yourself.

> I've done a large subset of the "things I'd like to do before I die"

At least you have a concept of the things you like, somehow.

I feel like this sometimes, but usually when I'm doing something that I'm really into (I mountain bike, snowboard, wakeboard, road bike, swim, climb, kayak, hike, powerkite, jet-ski, water ski, water tube, motorcycle, and hopefully soon fly, white-water raft, autocross or rally, and skydive) I'm not thinking about being sad, but I definitely get sad during great moments.

I was at the Grand Canyon a few summers ago and I just sat on the edge out past where the fences are where only a few sad kids dare to go. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think at least a few times about jumping, even if it was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. I felt like the canyon itself was a metaphor for my life in a way; huge, full of possibility, complex, but still far from inhabitable.

The helicopter ride just before that was crazy fun, though. It was something like $240 and it was worth every penny (I was making about $140 a week at the time working in retail). I can't put into words how it felt to have my first view of the canyon be from inside a flimsy carbon fiber helicopter that was trying to tear itself apart going over the edge of the canyon at what felt like a 90* angle and jumping from ~200ft above the national forest to about a mile up above the canyon floor. I highly recommend it, if you ever have the chance.

For the curious:

Before you dip in: http://pics.seanp2k.com/phx/DCP_5441+%28Large%29_exposure.JP... & http://pics.seanp2k.com/phx/DCP_5430+%28Large%29_exposure.JP...

During: http://pics.seanp2k.com/phx/DCP_5495+%28Large%29_exposure.JP... & http://pics.seanp2k.com/phx/DCP_5496+%28Large%29_exposure.JP...

After: http://pics.seanp2k.com/phx/DCP_5578+%28Large%29_exposure.JP... & http://pics.seanp2k.com/phx/DCP_5545+%28Large%29_exposure.JP...

I figure that there will be more moments in the future like that too, and I guess that's what I live for, just to see everything there is to see. My 9 day for-no-real-reason-with-nothing-planned vacation to San Francisco was also great, and I met more awesome people DOING STUFF there in a week than I have here (Detroit/Metro area, Michigan) in years, which is why I'm moving out there in a few months.

I probably have many more stories about majestic woods that I've biked and hiked through, hidden passages on rivers in a kayak, etc. but what I'm getting at is that life is an adventure, so go explore, because the worst thing you can do is live a boring life and die old without having done anything (risky|exciting|challenging|scary). Talk to the girl. Go to that party even though you're already in bed. Apply for that perfect long-shot work-from-home job. The worst failure is not even trying.

And I know how hard trying is.

+1 for Willa Cather's "Paul's Case"

But the problem with serious depression is that you lose interest in even the things you used to love, let alone things you could love. You find it hard to find meaning in even the most meaningful things. The things you have done become meaningless. The things you could do in the future don't even cross your mind.

You become horribly short-sighted and pessimistic. The key is regaining a fair perspective on life, which is on par with "finding meaning" -- something many spend their whole life trying to do. It's no easy quest. There's no easy answer.

I'm never sure what to say to friends who are depressed, besides what's cliche.

Glad, you mention Anna Karenina. That's my all time favorite book. Read twice :-)

Marriage creates a very deep and important link between two people, but once one of the two sides no longer want to continue, it is better to look forward: you will not lost all the good things about your marriage, they are inside you, but you can discover that you can be so happy, with a different partner, again.

It happened to me in the past, I felt lost, now I'm happy again with my new partner. Time is an important factor, don't be impatient, and focus again on yourself for a while.

I wish I could see marriage this way. After being with my girlfriend for almost 7 years, we married. Turns out, a few days before the wedding she started an affair with the leader of her theatre group, whom she invited with the group to our wedding apero, to play some theatre plays for us. Two months later, she spilled the beans, and so much shit has happened since, that I can't look at a couple without thinking which one is cheating the other or if they are cheating their partners together. Living in a country where there is no apparent social consequence for adultery has pushed me to the point where I don't want anything to do with what marriage or relationships represent. I left the country I grew up in to come here for this girl, and I'll be leaving without getting the divorce most people would want. I can't face it, and don't give a rat's ass about all of that anymore. Just getting my life back, and finding some inner peace again is all that matters.

I've also left suicide as an option open, but I've got one plan ahead of that which is just to stand up and walk away, loose ends untied.

My point is, the meaning that most people take for granted from an intimate relationship with someone, for me personally, has died. I'm no longer willing to sacrifice so much for someone else, because it took so much from everyday since. The trauma steals your life because your mind simply isn't capable of thinking of anything else anymore.

The conflict of loving someone and at the same time hating that part of them that destroyed you, is a paradox that makes it impossible to be blind to the reality that you can no longer trust anyone with your life.

I'll be glad to get out of this heartless country and back into the sunshine, where people have the balls to speak their mind and call a bastard a bastard, and a bitch a bitch.

Brother, don't do it for this lady's sake. You clearly deserve better. Just give life a chance, and I think you are doing the right thing by moving.

Actually, if I did, it wouldn't even be for this female, but simply to get relief from the emotional and mental torment that I have to endure most days. Turns out I'm a fighter, and I intend to make it, but when things go down far enough, you just never know, because things feel bad enough that it becomes a serious consideration. Right now, it's not an option. I know that I'll quit my job and flat next month, and head back home 4 months later (everything has 3 months notice in this country).

It is sad to have lost so much. And I know people have been through much worse, and right now there are other people that are going through ten kinds of hell, and I can even understand them a little.

When the pain was really bad, one thing that I thought I could really understand well and empathise with was a parent that loses his or her child. You can't understand what it's like unless you go through it yourself. And the reality is, that that sort of trauma changes everything. Who you are diverges so much that it's impossible to merge back into the main line. You're completely forked.

Actually, if I did, it wouldn't even be for this female, but simply to get relief from the emotional and mental torment that I have to endure most days

Looks like you are already feeling better. From the other comment, I came to know that you have managed to get over the dependency. So now hopefully, it should only get better. But even the journey to recovery has its down days.

Turns out I'm a fighter, and I intend to make it, but when things go down far enough, you just never know, because things feel bad enough that it becomes a serious consideration. Right now, it's not an option. I know that I'll quit my job and flat next month, and head back home 4 months later (everything has 3 months notice in this country).

Yes you are a fighter, as you have chosen to. Give a good fight. And please remember (as you already know) that a big component of these kinds of fights is test of your patience. God willing, you will win.

And please remember that you are not alone. There are others perhaps facing pains similar to what you are facing. And there are a whole lot of _good_ people who care, for goodness sake.

>a big component of these kinds of fights is test of your patience

This is a good insight. At some point you manage to carry on despite all the bad feelings, and you're simply dragging yourself through the last bit of crap that's holding you back. I recognise that my patience is limited, so I've set myself a goal that I can attain before it runs out (getting out of here and back to a sunny country).

It's frustrating to know that many people said, while I was going through the worst of it, that going back to Australia, back home, would be running away from my problems. One thing I learnt during it all was that everyone gives different advice. You're so vulerable, and no matter what people say, you often follow it. It took me at least one year, if not two, to not take advice too seriously, except that which I gave myself. It's nice to get some control back, even though the things I can't control (my thoughts and feelings) still make life difficult. It's been good to just vent a little even if it's to strangers and in public, though mostly anonymous.

What I find difficult is that I don't really know many people that are willing to simply listen.

Mostly people brush off how you are feeling with "everything heals with time", but all you need is "yes, you're feeling absolutely rotten right now. I understand." It's the people that really can relate that stop ignoring you're current situation, as if it didn't matter because something better will be there eventually.

So much more to vent, but I'll save it for someone else :)

Home stretch. Just 2.5 more weeks, and I can quit my job and then the rest is just logistics.

Thanks mate.

Sure, mate. And I wish you future happiness. Bye, got to go off to do something now.

You remind me of a line from a TV show (I think an episode of "Quantum Leap") where a woman has just been dumped by her married lover (or something along those lines) and someone talks her out of committing suicide by telling her something to the effect that if she kills herself over him, that would just send him the message she "couldn't live without him" and feed his ego and is that really what she wants to "say" to him?

Well, the frustrating thing about love, even after betrayal, is that your biological make up makes you believe you need that person. It took me a long time before I lost hope and decided even feeling that way wasn't worth being with that person. You can only be walked over so much before there's no other option but to say fuck it, I've had enough.

As for killing myself, to cause her pain. It just doesn't work, because I don't get to see what effect it has. And she'll get over it far too quickly, anyway.

Not to put you down, but I seriously doubt you are as acquainted with relationship drama as I am. It can be gotten past. Below is the link to my blog, where I have spent the past few months "anonymously" talking about my love life, debugging my own wetware, blah blah blah. It is specifically the link to the archive. I suggest you start at the beginning and go through it in chronological order (edit: Though the beginning is kind of slow and things don't pick up until mid June, I suggest you bear with it).

Consider it a Christmas gift (because I have so far mostly tried to keep this off HN -- I really don't need 500 men hitting on me). However, I have added a donate button and I have a t-shirt in mind I want to create. Given my current situation (which I know you know about since you replied here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3350035), any suggestions on how to monetize it are welcome. I think it's a good read. I'm not asking for charity (if you get value out of reading it and donate, hey, that's not charity. Comics do that all the time). I just historically have never managed to get much monetary value back for what I put out there and I would like to change that.


Peace and happy holidays. I'm going to go to work now.

> Not to put you down, but I seriously doubt you are as acquainted with relationship drama as I am.


So far, no one has been murdered or gone to jail over it. So far, so good.

I hope you enjoy the blog and I hope it helps you get through this.

Logging off now as my shift is starting. I don't typically post from work.

I appreciate you offering the blog to read, and I've skimmed some, but the several mentions of infidelity are simply salt for my wounds. I have an absolutely furious anger towards infidelity, for which I won't ever again be made to apologize.

EDIT: I appreciate your background, and also that you offered the blog in good faith.

I'm sorry to hear your story. You deserve better.

Remember that you have all the options in the world. If life is only be worth living with a fresh start, sell your apartment, take one suitcase, and travel to Paris or London or Australia. Your life is yours to do what you wish, not what others expect. Live in whatever way makes life worthwhile.

If you ever want someone to talk to, you can email me at aantny@gmail.com. I can probably host you for a night if you need to crash in Israel.

Wow, cool offer :) Australia's my next destination. The place I used to call home and will again soon. It's my light at the end of the tunnel, for the moment.

Did you move to England?

Nope, Switzerland. The people here don't have the concept of having your back. They figure, if it doesn't affect their person directly, they're better off keeping to themselves. The neutrality of the country matches the way they deal with day-to-day problems within the country. This is an over generalisation, because there are some wonderful people here, like everywhere, but the general attitude that I've seen is the one I've described. If you don't fit the standard mould, or can't fake it, you won't be very successful here, and the standard mould is extremely conservative.

One of the important lessons I learnt growing up in Australia was that you have to be there for your mates, even if you have to put your body on the line. I've seen what can happen when you don't and I'll never allow that again, if I can help it.

Yes, I meant that in the sense you understood. That lady's behavior was really a below average case. I believe, that on an average people are not so bad. So I believe that our friend, deserves a better hand in future.

  > Living in a country where there is no apparent social
  > consequence for adultery has pushed me to the point
  > where I don't want anything to do with what marriage
  > or relationships represent.
I find it sad that for many the essence of the relationship boils down to whom you sleep or don't sleep with.

It has a lot to do with trust. Without trust, how can a relationship work?

Also, do I want to find out twenty years later that I raised the child of another man? No, I don't.

Thirdly, getting blood tests that may turn out positive through no fault of my own is down right fucked up.

And fourthly, it fucking hurts to be betrayed like that, regardless of how you judge the morals.

Why is rape bad? Not because sex is bad, or forcing someone else to do something might be considered bad (parents force their children to do things all the time), but because it fucks the victim up. Cause and effect.

Through observation it's easy to see that a person experiences extreme pain through the infidelity of his partner. Maybe some don't feel a thing, but I did.

What frustrates me is that people see another causing this damage to another, and they don't give a shit. That's the crux of my problem. Complete and utter apathy for the suffering of another human being. Simply another form of complicity.

I am sorry for what happened to you but here is some hard truth: there is not a single girl in this world who is worth killing yourself over.

Hang in there, Avner! I'm also in the middle of a divorce which would have seemed like a very bad joke had someone told me about it 9 months ago, but that's life.

I don't have any good advice, I can tell you a couple of things that I'm currently doing that sort of help me go through this pit of despair.

First of all, I'm trying to leave my past life behind me, that is I try to connect with my future ex wife and her parents and friends as little as possible, and when I do I do it only for "administrative" reasons (like collecting my books from our apartment and stuff like that).

Second, and I don't know if this applies to you, I'm lucky enough to have smart co-workers who kind of understand what I'm going through and they always try to cheer me up. That makes me feel guilty about displaying my depression at work, so that for the duration of the 8-9 hours of daily work I try my best to be a normal human being, reacting to jokes, small chatter during the cigarettes break etc. I don't know if medically speaking this is the best take on the situation, but at least I get to "cheat" on that feeling of emptiness for around a third of the day.

Third (even though I think the counting doesn't matter anymore), I've tried to set up some tasks for me to accomplish in the near and medium term. For example for the upcoming holidays I plan to finish one of my personal projects which would be of really valuable help for at least a dozen of people, and during the winter months I plan to put enough money on the side to buy me a VW second-hand van, so that I'll go around the country when summer comes.

And last, before this becomes too awkward of an answer, I've given myself "proud-of-myself" points for not opening that wine bottle that has been sitting on the kitchen table for 2 months, since I moved out of my former apartment. Maybe you can find something similar to cheer you up and make you feeling proud of yourself, it doesn't have to be big.

Hang in there!

Yeah... keping off alcohol was the first thing that occured to me. It has been fve months and I am still walking dead. Does anybody know how long hefore it starts to go away?

Avner, divorce is terrible but please believe me, you will get through it. Probably you can't imagine how, but life is full of surprises, and despite all the pain and loss you're experiencing now, the mystery of life is that you will end up wiser, stronger and happier. We don't get to see the future, yet it happens.

If you like literature, it might help to try to view your situation as the hero's journey.

Find some things that give you comfort, and just hang in there. For me, it was music that got me through the dark days.

Immerse yourself, escape for small amounts of time, and find things to sustain you -- mentally, emotionally, physically. Reach out to your family and/or friends. Just endure any way you can, and you will come out on the other side of this.

wow. that is very honest of you avner. dude, keep smiling :) and don't fucking check out. i don't care about your responsibilities. you are more important then all of those and then some. i mean, i have no idea what you're going through, besides what was stated, but i do know that you are more important than anything else in your world (unless you have kids) then they come first, then you ;)

if you live in SF, i'd love to take you out for a drink; sometimes the simple pleasures (a drink, a toke) and a complete stranger to talk with can help..

Hang in. I commend your coping mechanism too. I'm in what sounds like a similar situation, and its the hardest thing I've ever dealt with.

I've thought about suicide in my past, but since then have lost friends to suicide and other senseless reasons. I know somehow now that it is definitely not The Way, regardless of remaining responsibilities.

There is just too much awesome shit in the world to leave early, and suicide is a decision that will prevent you from realizing that forever.

It sounds like you could use someone to talk to. Catch me on Skype any time, my account is "alandipert". Or e-mail/Jabber me at alan@dipert.org.

Instead of saying "good luck," I will say: I don't know you, but I care about you, and would hate to know you went this way. Talk to someone you trust, or me, if you feel it coming on. It's not worth it.


I went through a painful divorce a couple years ago. As others say, there is life on the other side. I'm as happy now as I've ever been.

Also, Reddit Suicide Watch was helpful to me: http://www.reddit.com/r/suicidewatch

Wow. Thank you so much for the outpouring of support and wisdom. This really, really helps.

I guess I can only really say hang in there. I was divorced before 25 and embarrassed about it, and there were times when I really struggled with wondering whether I had done the right thing to break something that was mediocre but not horrible to find a happier future for both of us. Within about 18 months, I had met someone new that pushed me and inspired me, and we travelled the world for a full year, through 20+ countries and varying experiences. About 8-9 years later, we're married, have built a new house and I can barely even remember that time during and after the divorce. Stay busy and social. Time alone mulling it over is often difficult.

Once the responsibilities have been carried out, consider the option of just walking away, if it's an option, instead of offing yourself. It's just one of many options. I wrote a post a bit further down. Probably my situation is similar but also very different, but it has also dragged me down far enough that I was short before doing the same as you several times already.

I've struggled at work for two years, just trying to survive. Days go by where I'm totally useless and am unable to produce anything (days add up to months, etc). It's an added stress knowing that the personal problems you are having might lose you your job if you don't somehow fight and pull through.

I'm fortunate that I have the option, which I intend to use, of in a reasonably short amount of time (3-4 months), can cancel everything and leave the country to return back home.

I've also recognised the things I enjoy doing, even if I'm incapable of doing them at the moment, I'm fighting for the day when I'll be free of the mindfuck going on right now, and will be able to focus on those things again.

If it ever gets moments before killing myself again, I'm going to buy a plane ticket back home with my credit card, and leave everything behind. I'll face the consequences later when I'm mentally healthy again. Right now, I'm fighting through those things that I need to do, so that I can leave without too many loose ends. I can't tie them all up, but most.

I have to say I am not envious of what you are going through.

On the personal side, I can just say this. I have been through horrific times in my life. I will say that I have always found that I have come out of these things changed, more confident, stronger, but with some submerged baggage that has had to be dealt with. Not only will you get through it, but if you keep your eyes open for opportunities, ways will open for you when you most need them, and you will come out a stronger, perhaps even happier, person as a result.

Don't use your responsibilities as a reason to hang in there. There are better reasons to stay. You have your whole life ahead of you. I know that sometimes in all the craziness of life you can forget why you're still here but the reason is simply to live. I read a post here a few weeks ago about a guy who saved up a few dollars, got out of his home and just travelled the world for a few months. He worked on some projects while he was away but his main goal was simply to get out there and see the world. I thought it was beautiful and a reminder as to why we're really here.

Get a change of scenery. Do something you've never done before or have always wanted to. Remind yourself why you're alive. I promise there's more than a few excellent reasons to stay here (as in alive). You just lost sight of them, that's all.

Edit: I'd like to add that divorce is very close to the top of the most stressful events a person can ever experience and I think it even trumps a death in the family if I remember right. It's normal for you to feel so defeated because of this but always remember that this bad state is not permanent.

1) family and friends are very important. spend A LOT of time with them.

2) exercise/sports.

3) take a break and go to hawaii or some place you like and have some fun with family and friends.

4) start dating. have fun.

5) if it becomes worse pls. seek professional help.

Posts like these are dangerous. If someone feels horrible, seeing "You may feel like you are alone and nobody is as bad a person as you are" just makes the person feel worse.

You can't shove detached, inexperienced logic in the face of someone with temporarily broken brain chemistry.

For a more thorough understanding see http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb4345/is_7_32/ai_n291...

Thank you. What do you suggest?

I've never been entirely sure. A while ago I made http://suicidescale.com/ but the wording still feels awkward to me. You have to strike a balance between explaining and understanding without sounding condescending.

Explaining the temporary condition can help so people know they aren't alone (knowing you are one of millions who have had the same exact thought processes is a wake up call).

Mentioning the processes can be caused by certain foods and medications in some people seems like a good idea too. ("Feeling suicidal? Did you just eat twelve pancakes with half a gallon of syrup? All the sugars have screwed you up for a while. Sleep it off. Did you just start a new antibiotic and now you want to jump off a bridge? Sleep it off. Call your doctor to get different meds. Your brain will reset.")

I just checked your website. I'm in the step 5. And, yes, I now feel this post is very dangerous because I never thought of suicide. Worse. I have recently dropped of colleague and don't have any friends right now. (didn't talk with a human for something like 15-20 days). Any quick remedies? I'm feeling more anxious.

As vtail said, professional help is the long term treatment. If you need a quick fix, shrink your mind down to simple tasks using internet drugs: cuteoverload, reddit, hulu, tvtropes, HN, plan a trip to japan (doesn't matter if you even go), http://symphonyofscience.com/videos.html , ...

For me, two things help: reminding myself nothing matters as much as I think it matters and setting a medium-term goal. Our decisions can be anything and it's fine. The world--universe--is a big place. Take risks. Nothing worthwhile is judging you. So, build something new. Meet people. If you make a fool of yourself, it doesn't matter at all. Let other people wonder why you're impervious to their hostility. You've seen the truth. In the grand scheme of things, we can't even be seen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble_Deep_Field

The world is yours to do with as you please. Take advantage of it.

To tvtropes I also want to add comedy and music. Humour is a mild painkiller, interestingly enough: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=laughing-ma...

Dear csomar,

Having been in your situation, the things I found helpful for a quick fix were exercise and food. It doesn't matter how much or what. If I am in a slump and feeling like it is all too much I force myself to do some exercise. A chin-up, a push-up, go for a run or a swim. If I am feeling really bad I will make myself do one push-up, on my knees. or just kneel on the floor and do a negative repetition. That's usually enough to get me started on doing something. Then I will go and eat some food. Or more likely, go to the shops and buy some food to cook. Then eat something. For me doing a little bit of exercise and then eating often makes enough of a difference that my misery is manageable.

There is some evidence that exercise is helpful for others in dealing with depression, e.g. [1] (A review paper) Anecdotally, this seems particularly the case if you are at all ADHD.

Long term I agree with all the other posts pointing out that seeking professional treatment is the best option. The pride factor was a huge problem for me and still is. I treat it like research. Psychiatrists and Psychologists, are experts in there field who I pay to explain options for treatment an methods for assessment and monitoring. Thankfully this has only happened once, but if they can't explain the different options and why the course of action they recommend is the best I find a different doctor.

1. http://www.annals-general-psychiatry.com/content/7/1/13

I've being in your shoes. One of the _most_ effective thing for me was to talk to a mental health professional - it was by far the best investment I've made in myself in the last several years. After 5 sessions I was able to resolve many anxiety, guilt, worries and other issues.

My biggest mistake was postponing the decision to talk to somebody for several months out of false pride, thinking I'm able to handle it myself.

False pride nearly damned killed me.

Social contacts are more important that you might think. I used to think that I'm introvert, but nowadays I've discovered that I need a daily dose of real life social interaction.

Problem here is that when you finally meet someone to chat with, you're probably way too desperate to get that feeling that someone cares about you. It might be hard not to talk only about your self. That's how it goes for me at least. And people smell that despair far away. My advice is: remember to force yourself to ask questions when you chat.

Internet relay chat is good place to rehearse social interaction, but it's bad supplement in the long run.

"didn't talk with a human for something like 15-20 days"

I'm not an expert, but try going to a public place, maybe a museum where you'll be forced to interact at least with the ticket guy. Or even a mall, and maybe ask some questions about some product ("does it come in blue?"). I'm not saying it's a solution, but it might get you an encouraging quick fix for some human interaction, to give you some energy to do other stuff.

Thank you so much for making that site. I've never come across such an accurate description of the symptoms of depression. I can relate to a lot of what's written there and it really helps put things into perspective. Meditating, exercising, and spending time with friends has helped me feel a lot better.

Probably better to write for friends of a potentially suicidal person, but in a way that a suicidal person reading it gets the right takeaway.

Hi raganwald. Your post might be dangerous. I am not an expert. It is worth further research. You can start with the following sections on Wikipedia to give you a gist of why it might be dangerous and then research further:

- Journalism codes for reporting on matters related to suicide: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copycat_suicide#Journalism_code...

- Social proof model for explaining copycat suicides: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copycat_suicide#Social_proof_mo...

- Cialdini's book, Influence: the psychology of persuasion, references some scientific studies on this subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copycat_suicide#cite_note-isbn0...

Thanks for the feedback, I'm choosing to leave it up for now.

Yes, suicidal thoughts are the result of an unhealthy brain. Many creative people are a little bit bipolar, experiencing alternating periods of extreme productivity (hypomania) and low productivity (mild depression). Prolonged stress can make the lows much worse than normal.

Bottom line: If you have suicidal thoughts, you should consult a psychologist. They have experience helping professionals fix their own brain chemistry.

Some people I have known got to the point where they've tried calling those hotlines. Their feedback is that the hotlines were not useful at all and just made them more frustrated. Perhaps there are better options?

Since this is posted here I'll assume highly intelligent but depressed people are the target audience. Do we know that methods used at hotlines work on all categories of people equally?

When I was in high school several decades ago I knew a girl that had seriously attempted it a few times. One day I brainstormed with her on more interesting ways she could do it. Some quite flamboyant, which required drawing diagrams. I got in trouble for having this discussion with her. But she stopped trying and later told me it was because the conversation she had with me was the first time someone had really heard her talking and treated her as an individual rather than just try to stop her from being depressed because depression makes the fake happiness society uncomfortable.

I've been previously diagnosed with clinical depression (although I think I've managed to recover from it now, touch wood) and, stuff like this is so insanely difficult to process, let alone understand.

A depressed person faces not only the pressures of their own mind distorting their own reality, of their own feelings seemingly working against them and altering their behaviour; they face the pressure of friends and family who don't or can't understand what on earth it is they're suffering.

The more people can understand this and take it seriously, the (marginally) less difficult it will be for depressed people to seek help and not feel ashamed of suffering a 'mental illness'. And I know as far as my own experiences go, I wouldn't wish depression on my worst enemy.

Ok, that was a little scary as a title considering the URL was raganwald's blog. I had to click it fast to ensure that all was safe. Perhaps a better title, atleast on HN is in order?

Yeah, for me it seemed that if someone needs to see his words that the headline might not be the best motivator.

My thanks to @knowtheory for pointing out that suicidal people often feel alone/apart/disconnected from other people. I struggle with this, myself.

This point is also relevant with New Year's Eve coming up.

Invite a couple of extra people to your New Year's Eve party whom you might not have thought of inviting, and you might do more good than you think.

It's also worth mentioning that being alone is perfectly fine, but when people become lonely, it's something that needs to be addressed. It's all a state of mind, after all.

Btw, I figured this out at some point:

A cursory examination will likely not demonstrate loneliness. If I am lonely, then I will be happy when I'm in the presence of any of my friends, and so I'll appear happy and just fine to them. I'll even feel happy, in case they ask me how I am. Loneliness is thus peculiarly difficult to diagnose except deliberately.

[I suppose that once you know this, you might try to detect loneliness as "being really happy to see you" or something. Obviously you might find false positives (being happy for other reasons), or false negatives (if they don't feel you're a very close friend). Still, it's a starting point.

The cure, of course, is to continue to be with your friend for as long as he wants (to the degree possible), let him interact with you, and encourage him to share his feelings and his doings with you. (But no pressure. Encouragement is a friend who's happy to be with you and happy to hear anything you have to say without giving unasked-for criticism, not one who asks you hard questions like "How are you?" Such a question can be helpful to establish that you're interested or willing to listen, but it can also be difficult and annoying to answer, so don't press if he stumbles on it.)

This is kind of a natural resolution, isn't it? I've said that, in response to seeing that your friend wants to be with you, you should continue to be with your friend; and that you should encourage him to share things that he probably would like to share with you (in a way that isn't unpleasant or difficult). This is kind of "duh, that's how to be a good friend", and "that's how to make good conversation, at least in this situation". But it's probably helpful to have things like this written down; not everyone has figured out or internalized every part of it by himself.]

That's brilliant advice, I will make sure to send out a few extra invites this year!

I'm not planning to do anything for NYE myself. I don't particularly even want to be around my family as that can really be not fun at all, further isolation is actually a better option out of those two.

Thank you for the post, raganwald. It's always good to have a reminder, no matter how many times it may have been said before. I personally really appreciate it.

Hey, no worries. I think it's worth asking people to think about the people they know and ask themselves "when's the last time I had a good/meaningful conversation with that person?"

That's the flipside to your post i think. It's not enough to tell those in despair "don't give up hope". We should reach out and find out how those around us actually are.

Minor typo: "hard one by" => "hard done by". Great post though, on a very important topic. Thanks raganwald.

Also, "felling" => "feeling".

There is an organization called bluehackers, that tries the help the hacker-minded (aka hn-style) crowd with, to deal with those days: http://bluehackers.org/ If it saves one life, it's worth it.

I think that manic-depression is extremely common among startup entrepreneurs. The emotional roller-coaster one goes through when trying to create a company exacerbates any bipolar tendencies that might already be there. The great news is that when one is in the state of hypomania they are often at your most creative and productive. Read this description from a well-known, UK-based charity in the UK:

"When I'm in a manic phase, I feel as though I am capable of anything and everything. This can be an amazing feeling, but I sometimes get frustrated and angry with people. Ideas flow constantly and quickly, as if my brain is on fast-forward. Everything happening in the world has significance in my life. But when I'm depressed, it's as if I'm completely crushed and living in slow motion. I feel capable of nothing. " http://www.mind.org.uk/help/diagnoses_and_conditions/bipolar...

I was glad to upvote the thoughtful and helpful blog post submitted here and many of the thoughtful comments that other HN participants have posted here to help one another. I'm looking up Web links about what season of the year is the peak season for suicide


because of the mention of the Christmas and New Year holiday season in the post. Any time of year is the wrong time to kill yourself, but according to medical textbooks I have read, the peak danger of completed suicide for most people who live in temperate zones in the Northern Hemisphere is actually May rather than the turn of the Gregorian Calendar year.


The risk factor that peaks in May appears to be related to daylight variation with different seasons. Data from the Southern Hemisphere temperate zones and from the tropics support the hypothesis that sunlight variation is one influence on risk of completed suicide.

But anyway it's good any time of the year to remind people how to get help when they think about harming themselves. Other resources I just turned up during my Web search include




Stay healthy and enjoy the holidays and many years afterward.

Just to add a more optimistic note here: I had a severe suicidal depression a couple of years ago, and managed to completely recover from it by learning something new, which is one of the things that always lifts my spirits: web development. I am now in the process of starting my first startup and feel very happy about my life.

(I took antidepressants btw, don't be scared to take pills - they very often help and am convinced they made a difference for me)

So, if you are feeling depressed and learning new things tends to get you excited, consider dropping everything that is bringing you down (I started ignoring my job pretty much and got fired eventually, but it saved my life so I have no regrets), consider learning something new!

Really important stuff. Man, Raganwald, thanks so much for this blog post.

I think one important thing for anyone who's struggling to remember is that however you're feeling, it's not permanent. It's temporary. It will change. It might feel like things are never going to get better, but they will. It might feel like you're never going to feel better, but you will. You just have to hold tight to that fact, and trust it, even if it seems impossible. Then, six months or a year or three years from now, you'll be so glad that you hung on.

I recently learned that a former student of mine committed suicide, and I think about him all the time. I wish I could have told him all this while he was alive.

Thanks again for this post.

This is a good little post, but you actually are branded in the US if you seek paid treatment for depression. See this: http://behavioral.kaiserpapers.org/prozacharm.html

The article doesn't state when it's from, but it does mention a 2001 Georgetown study, which means that it's probably from around 2001-2002.

It looks like the health care reform of 2010 prevents insurance companies from denying you coverage due to pre-existing conditions (starting in 2014): http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/0324/Health-care-...

Even earlier in some states, too. If I were uninsurable, I'd give serious consideration to moving someplace like Seattle.

Move to Seattle and the lack of sunlight will pretty much guarantee that you need antidepressants.

Spoken as someone who knows.

They make lamps for that.

Absolutely, and many people have claimed they have worked for them. My mileage has varied.

I know many counterexamples of people in various states who have received health insurance coverage even after seeking treatment for depression. The problem of denial of coverage for "preexisting conditions" is much broader than that, anyway. Insurance companies have been playing that game for so long with so many different disease conditions that regulation is increasingly denying the companies the scope to write their contracts in that manner.

Wonderful thought and worthwhile effort. And I see that Facebook is also making similar efforts. I'm glad to see that.

My meta-thought about this is how do you make this proactive instead of passive? If you don't visit raganwald or Facebook, how will you get any encouragement this Christmas season?

I've often thought that some corners of the Internet could benefit from a virtual chaplain who could approach members of their online community if they suspected something was wrong. Or they could be a low threat pre-suicide (or other issue) conversation and make themself very approachable for those moving in that direction to try to steer them onto more healthy directions.

Is this a good idea, or is it just my inner pastor thinking out loud?

I don't think it's that easy to tell, especially not on the internet. A better question might be, how do you reach out to people suffering in silence and convince them it is okay to talk? (An anonymous online suicide hotline which doesn't report cases to the authorities might help, but I suspect it would be trolled.)

What Facebook effort are you referring to?

I just heard this on NPR this morning, so I may not have the specifics: Apparently, FB will provide a link that somebody can click if one of their friends writes something that friend thinks indicates their friend may be having suicidal thoughts, and their friend will get a message for a real-time chat with someone from a suicide prevention place.

The FB effort is this one:


And your point about it not being easy to tell is very true. This is why the thought about the virtual chaplain. People would hopefully carry enough real-world positive thoughts about chaplains into their virtual dealings to feel comfortable "talking" with an online chaplain. If a community had a designated chaplain, that person would be known to the other members of the community and anyone with issues would be encouraged to have confidential communication with that person. (Chaplains being licensed religious ministers are usually permitted by the law to keep the contents of conversations private ... except in a few very specific cases such as child abuse mandatory reporting situations.)

It is probably this: http://www.chron.com/news/article/APNewsBreak-Facebook-aims-...

(I work at Facebook, but am not involved in this feature.)

So what? There are people who'd like to help you. So what? When I have suicidal thoughts, I don't care in the least about other people who could help me. Posts like this are helpful, of course, to raise the awareness of the problem, for other people. But when I, as a person thinks about suicide at the moment, look at this page, I just think: so what? and close the browser tab.

Exactly! That is one of the odd things about how people couch this. They always talk about coming to them for help. It has to be an intervention, not an offer for help. If my goal is to remove my cranium with a shotgun, and you have just offered to "help" (prevent me from achieving that goal), why in the hell would I ever seek your help? If someone comes to you for help they aren't seriously considering anything, buy them a beer and let them bitch, help them get in to see a shrink.

I concur. That is why I hate some of these types of blog posts. Even if you talked to someone those that are determined will do what they please. You can give them a 30sec elevator pitch of why not to, but ultimately leave them be as long as they aren't physically hurting others.

People who have seriously contemplated know whether or not they are happy and weighed the options. At some point you say screw it. If you have goals or aspirations, dreams and can't achieve them then why keeping doing mediocre crap and be miserable. That is settling for 2nd..3rd etc. among other crap going on in their lives.

I hate people that think they have a right to decide for others what I want to do with my life. Maybe consider the fact that the person weighed available options and that is their choice and hope that they find another route.

This is a good thing to post. It's uncomfortable to talk about, but it needs to be done, so thank you, raganwald.

That said, if I can offer just a small critique: I always found the sentiment of "Just talk to someone" to be insufficient, because even if other people might understand, sometimes you don't feel like they should have to understand. If I'm too weak to handle my circumstances myself, you'll reason, it would just make me an even worse person if I dumped that burden on somebody else. I think it's important to convey to depressed people that somebody wants to help, because that isn't necessarily obvious when even you don't like you.

(Again, I don't mean to bash on raganwald's post by any means. It's just a perspective that I think it's easy to forget when you're not in that mindset.)

Thank you! I am not a professional and there’s no particular reason that what I write is going to be helpful, and as others have pointed out, such appeals might sometimes be harmful.

In the end, my moral dilemna feels like the “Politician’s Fallacy:”

- Something must be done.

- This is something.

- Therefore we must do it.

But doing the wrong thing is often worse than doing nothing at all.

This feels like one of those comments that I'm going to write with good intentions and come away with one downvote and no replies. Still;

Your post is CYA advice. It's the socially acceptable least you could do - to encourage talking to a professional. not to imply that you owe more, or practically that you could do more, but...

You want to do something

You are afraid of making it worse

Those constraints lead to a nonpost. Who is adult and hasn't heard of a suicide hotline? Why is financial advice to always spread your investments to minimise catastrophic risk in the conmments of a site encouraging people to go all-in on a startup life? Because its nuance free and safe advice, at worst it can't hurt you for recommending it.

But what else can you do? Shrugs helplessly.

If you've been folowing my internet writing since 2004, you will notce that I have done many related things. It's a false *-chotomy to think that there is only one post you can make and that threfore it s critical that it be the one best possible post, and just do that.

Oh, to be clear, I'm not a professional either. I've just known a few people with bad depression and that was something they struggled with — the feeling that getting help was a bad thing.

So heres my experience with this whole topic:

When I was very young, I remember feeling trapped in life. It wasn't a particularly terrible life, but not a particularly great one either. There were times when I just didn't want it. As I got older, I spent a lot of time mildly depressed. There were expectations I couldn't live up to, it seemed my family wanted me to be perfect, and the repercussions for not being so were pretty emotionally damaging. Somehow I internalized this expectation, and it only worsened all of it. There were a lot of things that I didn't know how to do well: make close friends, talk to girls, ask for help. A lot of this was probably BS at first, and in retrospect everyone went through it. I know that for me there was a weird feedback loop tho, reinforced by craziness in my family, where they would push away my friends, and would ridicule me for needing help.

Anyway, all that led to this scenario where I felt even more alone an trapped. As others were working through this stuff, I couldn't figure out how to even start going with it. I wasn't a "forever alone" kind of guy, I stuttered through this stuff, but not in a particularly meaningful way. Not existing sounded amazing. I contemplated it off and on. At one point I had a serious sit-down with myself about the topic of suicide. I went over the pros, the cons, ways to do it, the consequences to others and so on. I decided, this was an option. I also realized, I only get to choose it once.

I found this realization very comforting.

Ever since, I have been slightly annoyed at the "suicide is not the answer" stuff I read. I get pissed at the people who deride it. I hate the people who talk about it as not an option. It is an option, but a pretty drastic one. (Raganwald: I like your stuff usually, but your blog post kind of annoyed me, even tho it's not terrible advice... it just doesn't work for me - nothing personal)

Since this realization, I have gone through some pretty down times. As I mention above, I'm a bit socially/emotionally challenged, and sometimes I just feel like I'm getting nowhere in the world of people. I see them over there doing their thing, and I just don't understand how it works. I occasionally even see them not as people, but the same way I would see a group of dogs or other animals interacting -- I notice their behaviours, I try to figure out WTF it is all about, but I just can't relate. This really bothers me when it happens. Other times I get really down over messing up with people, or not being a top 50 programmer, or not being 4 hr marathoner, or whatever else my perfectionism is going on about. In all these cases, if it's bad enough, I get this thought:

"You can just give up. You can stop existing."

I don't shy away from it, I don't push it down, that seems to make it worse. I'm not scared of it, I welcome it. Like I said above, it is a comforting thought to me. It reminds me I have some power in the world, no matter how fucked up things are at the moment. Afterwards, the next thought comes:

"You only get to do this once. Is this the time?"

And I get to decide if it makes sense. And I only need to decide for today. Do I want to do this today? Sure things are fucked up, but I sure would exit in a pretty shitty situation: things undone, house a mess, porn not properly deleted from the computer, finances not in order, etc. So I won't do it today. Maybe I'll start getting ready to do it. Tomorrow I can decide again.

Sometimes this goes on for a day. Sometimes it goes on for a week. But the very act of contemplating it seems to have a healing power for me. Now that I know I can at least do this, and I'm going to do it right, it reminds me that I can maybe do stuff. Getting ready for it, reminds me more that maybe I'm not so trapped, and there is a path forward, paradoxically getting me to the point where I usually put aside the silliness after a while, with a freshly organized set of life surroundings. Sometimes it's more than a while, but for me, this works.

I'm putting this out here, for the people who are contemplating suicide, and somehow reading these comments. Contemplate away, I won't begrudge you that. I'd like to remind you that this is a one-time deal tho, so if you're going to do it, make sure this is the right answer for you. If you are unsure, wait a while, see what else you can do also - the option doesn't go away, in fact this basic option is the greatest power you have, don't squander it.

Also: after this article leaves the front page, I'm going to delete this post, because while I think it is important, I don't know that having these words public for posterity is a wise decision.

I don't usually talk about this, but your post speaks to something that most opinions on the subject never do.

22 years ago I went through a fairly strange time: I was depressed, disconnected, and feeling deeply alone. It culminated in a very violent suicide attempt. Despite all my plans and precautions I was found still alive and hospitalised. Being young and antisocial I never went back to therapy and for a few months afterwards I kept going back to the idea of trying it again.

The turning point for me was realising that suicide was in fact an option. Admittedly a pretty drastic option, but one nonetheless. Neither was it 'the easy way out', or 'for the weak'. Destroying one's own life isn't a spur of the moment decision, similar to deciding which tart one should have for tea, etc. Driven by desperation, or severe pain, it is a momentous decision and the consequences are irreversible - no one who really makes the decision does so lightly.

The understanding that it was an option, gave me a feeling of control. Since it was an option and one that I could take at any time, I had some level of control over my situation. If that was an option, then perhaps there were other options. I decided to explore other options. I haven't been there in 18 years but I still know what it feels like.

We are adults. At your worst times, don't be intimidated by ignorant misconceptions about suicide. It is your mind, you have the right to explore it, and you have the right to make whatever decision you feel is correct for you. Just remember that if there is one way of resolving an issue there may just be another way, one that is less violent, less irreversible; one that may just provide further options, one that may eventually lead to happiness, however remote that may appear at the moment.

Despite all my plans and precautions I was found still alive and hospitalised.

At a time (a few years ago) when I really didn't want to go on, this was one of the things that prevented me from attempting suicide again: The possibility of surviving it again, knowing how negatively that would impact my life. My life was hard enough at the time without inflicting additional suffering on myself and also getting labeled "crazy" or something (plus potentially being saddled with additional medical bills, etc). A lot of people living with the kind of chronic pain and suffering (due to a health issue) that I was living with do think about killing themselves. "Bars do not a prison make". A body that tortures you ever single minute of every day is a pretty bleak prison to live with.

But I also was actively working on resolving the underlying problem that made me wish I were dead. I think that is a critical detail missing from a lot of the encouragement offered when this topic comes up. In fact, spending a year at death's door was very empowering for me in that regard because it freed me up from fear of doing something socially unacceptable. I never know how to properly express this, but I lived and began getting well because I stopped trying to dutifully keep myself alive and, instead, my one and only goal became to hurt less. I was rather annoyed when I realized that my efforts to hurt less were actually killing the infections the doctors didn't know how to kill because I realized it meant I faced a long, very hard recovery. I would have welcomed death 10 or 11 years ago because I was in constant excruciating pain and couldn't sleep and every minute of the day was torment. So in some sense I came to a point where my attitude was "fuck societal expectation -- what do I want?" Given what a people-pleasing doormat I tend towards, this had a very positive impact on my life.

What I am trying to convey is: If you are suicidal, if your problems are so bad that death is something you would consider, that fact can be used to say "well, why not also consider this long list of other stuff (ie possible solutions/options) I wouldn't normally consider because it's socially unacceptable/my mom wouldn't approve/whatever?" When I stopped being at death's door, I had to work at keeping alive that mental space for saying "fuck societal opinion -- what do I want?" because my innate wiring makes societal opinion way the hell too important to me. I made a conscious choice to find some way to keep that standard alive for myself, to say "hell, what's the worst that could happen? Oh, someone might disapprove? And that fucking matters why?"

Anyway, I hope that makes some small smidgeon of sense to someone. I find it a very difficult concept to express.

Please don't delete it.

I also felt Reg was off the mark (although perhaps not to the extent that you do), but that's why i messaged him what i thought was the real issue. I think it's important to communicate what that feeling is.

So many people misunderstand the actual nature of suicidal tendencies. They think that it's just about someone feeling alone, or unhappy or whatever. But those feelings all have "normal" analogues such that a person that's never felt seriously depressed will misunderstand what that hole is truly like on the inside.

True depression is knowing that not being is an option equally viable to being.

And that's a feeling, or an understanding of the world that can't be reasoned with. All others can do is make the choice of "not being" less convenient of a choice than "being". Whether that's trying to make a connection and rekindle one's interests in something, or dragging someone out to do something (which should be done carefully), or simply being present. Regardless i don't think people appreciate what it is they can or should do to keep someone else moored/tethered to the reality where being vs not being is an equal proposition.

> True depression is knowing that not being is an option equally viable to being.

There's a quote by David Foster Wallace that states it better:

"The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn't do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life's assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire's flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It's not desiring the fall; it's terror of the flame yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don‘t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You'd have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling."


I think there is always hope and a way forward. The flames are real and terrible, but there is always a way. Trust in Jesus. He is there for you.

In my experience true depression feels exactly like extreme grief: each morning you awake to the shock of loss and the total bleakness of a lack of a personal future, the confusion over what has happened and the anxiety of separation. It hurts, all over your body, really badly.

Have you ever felt like there was no point to your life after a bad breakup? Ever felt inconsolable after a close friend or relative died? That's the feeling. Grief has a purpose and people know how to help those in grief. Most understand that grief brings with it physical illness: tiredness, memory loss, eating disorders, anxiety (sometimes even stomach ulcers, hair-loss, skin problems etc). People understand that grief can last a year (or more) but with help the grieving can be brought back to functionality within a few months.

Real depression is rogue grief. It is an illness that destroys lives and kills. It usually comes without trigger and without reason.

Real depression works like a tsunami: each depression comes as a wave that often overlaps with the last. As you ride one wave out and begin to return to normality another wave crashes in. Sadness and pain becomes the normality and you begin to feel like you are drowning: if you let go and let it take you then at least the pain will go away. Won't it?.

It annoys me when people who have never experienced the pain of depression are quick to dismiss those who commit suicide as selfish. They are often the same people who would help a loved one die if they were in extreme physical pain.

True depression is knowing that not being is an option equally viable to being.

The few times I have been close to the brink, I wasn't even sure there was a distinction to be made anymore between being and not being. It was like drowning in nothingness.

Throughout my life, I have observed that the "nature of suicidal tendencies", which I think falls into the broader category called depression, is in fact nothing more than energetic deficiency. I'm of course talking about the kind of energy most of us know for a fact that it exists, but which is not scientifically proven and the mainstream health care system doesn't work with it. I think chinese call it Chi. I found out that a daily practice of a very simple visualization technique, where one closes eyes and imagines colored spheres at the 7 points of their body where the "main chakras" are said to be located, this energetic deficiency can be beaten to the level where it's not a problem anymore. Also, depression is not the only thing this works on, for example you can use this after you have eaten something your body finds hard to process, and basically to help solve any other problem. But you have to take a good care to not overdo it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra

Nonsense. Depression is a physical brain illness caused by an misbalance of neurotransmitters.

Dismissing a serious, dangerous and often fatal illness as something that can be cured by 'rebalancing your chakras' is akin to using homeopathy to cure cancer.

While I suspect those with mild mood disorders may be able to think their way out of a lethargic period those with a serious depression need real help.

Depression is a big killer:

• suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States

• 15% of those who are clinically depressed die by suicide

• The majority of suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress that need to be addressed, and not just a harmless bid for attention

Depression is an emotional-mental illness, and those two categorizations surely are not physical. Equilibrium of these aspects of the human being is not as simple as taking a drug - the drug does not correct the psycho-temporal conditions* that is causing the depression in the first place.

*For example, taking a drug will not relieve the depression caused by the loss of a loved one.

I'm just sick of reading articles like this because I've been there, and I've seen what "help" looks like, and I was worse off for most of it. "Help" is what happens when people hear you say that suicide is a choice, because they assume it's their duty to take that choice from you.

Hey Steve, If you ever want someone to talk to, you can email me at aanty@gmail.com. I can't promise "help" of the sort you mention, but I don't mind discussing philosophy, meaning, etc. You aren't alone in the world. I would be happy to meet talk with you anonymously.

I can't stress the importance of the above advice enough; just talking to someone can give you the insight you've subconsciously been looking for all the time.

If you have been living in a certain way all of your life, you have little to compare to. If you speak to someone about how you live, what problems you have, how you've tried to solve them, you'll be amazed at what you might discover from just speaking with people about it.

Open up, the worst thing that can is that the person doesn't want to listen. Then find someone else who might.

My 5p.

PS. I've been feeling depressed, anxious and stressed for the most part of my life, after many years of effort I managed to get myself to see a psychologist (CBT) and it's without doubt the best thing I have ever done. DS.

The Samaritans in the UK don't offer that kind of help. They listen. If you decide to go ahead with it they will listen to you die so you don't die alone.

Well, this post is still on the front page...

I waver a lot on the "Suicide is a selfish act" business. On one hand you're right, it's your life an no one can obligate you to live it. It's very empowering to know that you've got the option to end it. On the other, someone out there needs you more than you think. And I still don't believe a person who wants to end their life is totally rational, at least not for the most part.

But that kind of talk leads to the worse feeling of all, the feeling of being trapped. And that's the problem with "suicide help" posts. You read them and at the end you feel trapped. And being trapped and suicidal is more scary than just being suicidal.

I don't know what I think. But I do hope that most people who feel suicidal get help of some sort. Not because I don't think it's their right, but because I've been on both sides of the problem. To have people depend on you, I mean really depend on you and to be afraid to let them down is a terrible feeling because you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. But then to actually be let down by someone else is also pretty terrible.

So, even if it's an option to end your life, it's also an option to get some help for that feeling.

Suicide is a selfish act

Is it any less selfish of others to force you to stay around and endure terrible pain (physical or emotional) because they need you? I certainly agree that you can and should get help, but I also think that there are cases when the "suicide is selfish" people are the selfish ones. Though, I'm sure that they're not as common as the cases where the person should have sought help instead, I don't think its helpful to somebody contemplating suicide to say that they are being selfish or doing something stupid. If it were me, it would probably make me feel worse.

It would make them feel worse, it's a stupid thing to say to someone at the time they are dealing with it. But, and perhaps this is survivor bias, I don't know anyone who was suicidal who didn't eventually end up getting past that. Maybe the ones who go through with it are the ones who truly cannot deal with it, but I doubt it. Suicide is permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hope those people can get help.

Suicide is permanent solution to a _temporary problem_.

This isn't always the case, even if it seems that way to outside observers, though I definitely agree that it usually is and that suicide should never ever be taken lightly. Most problems are temporary and seem a lot worse at the time than they really are.

I hope those people can get help.


You only get to do this once. Is this the time?

I'm glad that recognizing this was a viable option was valuable to you. In general, I think it would be valuable to analytical people, the type that frequent HN.

For the average Joe, however, I think it is probably a mistake. Most people are not analytical thinkers, and once an idea gets into their heads they do not know how to react to it. Psychiatrists try to get people to stop thinking about suicide because statistically that will save more people's lives. (I'm not a psychiatrist, but have had plenty of training on suicide counseling as a naval officer.)

I disagree. The real goal of all intervention must be self-empowerment. Otherwise sooner or later it will repeat itself.

I read somewhere that of the people who make half-hearted attempts to commit suicide, about 10% eventually kill themselves. Realizing it is a choice and not a valid cry for help is not likely to be a bad thing.

I once knew a bus driver that confided in me that she was once in her childhood ready to commit suicide (ready as in all preparations made and about to commit the act), and realized the same thing, that she was in control of her life at that point. She wasn't an analytical thinker. So maybe there is something to this realization.

You're right that self empowerment is the key. I'm just trying to point out that psychiatrists have conducted tons of studies about the most effective suicide prevention techniques are. Our anecdotes, in comparison, mean virtually nothing.

FWIW, you are supposed to ask them if they have suicidal thoughts, and get them to explain at length what their plans are. Getting things out in the open is always good.

As long as you're living someone else's life, not yours, you will feel suffocated and more and more trapped into externalities, and eventually you get depressed and see no point whatsoever in anything.

When you said that it helped when you realized that suicide is a perfectly valid option and you're free to choose it or dismiss it as you see fit, you touched your own life. The one you could continue or end, the one where your choices actually affect yourself only.

I think it's better to contemplate whether to end your own life than to try to live someone else's. Then you're bound to realize that your life will steer towards what you decide and what you think, instead of as if your life was a car that's being chauffeured along a predefined route that you don't particularly like.

Please, don't delete this post. In my opinion it's a much better alternative to all the tired, cookie-cutter posts on suicide prevention. I think it will do more good than bad if those in need can read it.

I'll edit this in the evening to continue with a short recount of my own similar experience.

> Also: after this article leaves the front page, I'm going to delete this post, because while I think it is important, I don't know that having these words public for posterity is a wise decision.

You can only delete or edit your posts for a limited time.

You seem to be able to write so well. Just wonder, if you manage to answer 'Tomorrow I can decide again' for some good 20-30 years or so. And while doing it, if you preserve a private memoir of sorts on these thoughts. Then surely you have a bestseller, in you, which will also be useful to many in the future generation. How's that for a possibility?

And it surely will also be an interesting perspective, to look back on what how you thought of things in the early days.

IMHO (and experience) 'time changes everything' ... and I really mean everything. The only way to test this is by giving more time. As you are rightly giving yourself.

Just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I'm dealing with my own kind of problem (incurable disease) and have had almost exact thoughts for many years now. Couldn't have expressed them better.

Wish you all the best!

Screw the other people, I can relate and I know many other people who can too. Some people think it's better to tie someone onto a hospital bed and medicate them so they don't commit suicide, and then they call suicide a selfish act.

The lack of empathy in the responses to your post is actually pretty sick, the best thing you can do for someone who is depressed is to try to understand, to listen to them, and to help them relax.

I think people sometimes forget what it feels like to be depressed, and how great the need to not be depressed can be.

I also find it hard to believe that some people live their life without at least considering suicide once. It doesn't mean I think it's near the best answer to life, but it's a lot better then some other things people do in life, and I think people have the right to decide what happens with their life.

If I may suggest something, you should go read Alan Watts' "The Wisdom of Insecurity". He was a very influential man who thought that some ideas in Zen Buddhism could be used as very powerful forms of psychotherapy, and on a more personal note I've found that some of the ideas in that book have helped me feel very peaceful and at home in the worst of my times.

It's the only book of his I've read so far, but it was really great (and short) and I plan on reading more. In 'The Wisdom of Insecurity' he talks about how too much people compare their present with their expectations of an impossible future, and with a misrepresented past. He talks a bit about God and religion, but I don't think it was so much a religious book as it was a book about a way of life.

For some extra Hacker News cred he liked to discuss about cybernetics, semantics, quantum physics, and sex. Seriously, if you ever contemplate suicide or even just feel inadequate then go to a library on a Saturday, and get the book; you can easily read it in a day and I think it'll make you feel better.

It's an interesting and possibly important point, but I doubt its relevance to most suicidals. It implies a sort of rationality that I expect is "out of scope" for people suffering a physiological mental illness. Clinical depression is a real medical condition, with real impacts on cognition and reasoning. I expect a great many suicides aren't "choosing" anything, but rather responding to complex pains, in a condition of diminished ability to perceive situations and alternatives.

For a person in such a moment, the first advice must be: Hold on. You can, at some point, see more clearly, and then see way out and up. Then: Reach for help. If help fails, revert to first advice. Never stop holding on.

I'm not saying you don't make sense. (And not saying you do, I think you're absolutely wrong about both the morality and possible rationality of suicide.) I'm saying you are trying to talk sense to a population that isn't really in a position to make use of sense.

To pick up on your last paragraph. I don't understand the connection you're making with morality... What has morality got to do with suicide? Are you saying that it is an immoral act?

For most people actively contemplating suicide, the rational validity of _any_ approach is orthogonal to their decision-making process. Even if the parent comment "made sense", I doubt it's helpful to most people in that position.

The comment about morality / rationality was just a reservation of agreement, on a point that I'm saying isn't actually pertinent to the parent comment's stated audience. I wouldn't pretend for a moment that I've offered anything like an argument on morality.

I spent about 12 years in a search for a really good psychotherapy. Honestly, most of the widespread psychotherapy is crap. I have found the really good one recently. "Core Transformation" by Andreas. There is the book. Also there are seminars - see coretransformation.org

Just a few remarks: 1) Don't delete your message. 2) Don't let anyone tell you what you can or can do.

Me? I could write lots of stuff about what I experienced over the last couple of years, but I'm done doing them the favor.

This is powerful stuff, thank you for posting.

Through early morning fog I see

visions of the things to be

the pains that are withheld for me

I realize and I can see...

that suicide is painless

It brings on many changes

and I can take or leave it if I please.

"You only get to do this once. Is this the time?"

Have you ever done heroin? Get drunk with a bunch of kids you don't know? Skydive? Steal a car? Wake up in a hotel in Mexico? Sorry to be flip, but there are probably a lot of things you've never done that you'd feel rotten about the next day, but at least there'd be a next day, and you could do it again. "Not being" is an option, but it's a stupid one. I didn't like Raganwald's post either, because it's saccharine and condescending.

Let's face facts: Most people who don't want you to kill yourself are just scared that life's meaningless; when they see people around them committing suicide, it upsets their sense of everything being okay. That's why they tell you not to do it.

I say screw that. I feel nothing for people who kill themselves. I think it's incredibly stupid, but hey, that's evolution. If you can't find anything worth living for, do it. You've gotta be pretty dumb not to think of any other way to spend your evening, but the world's better off without dumb people. QED.

This is an incredibly insensitive comment, I'm shocked, almost disgusted. One of the most admirable qualities that humans possess is empathy - the ability to understand and identify with someone else's emotional experiences. We reach out to people in such extreme emotional pain because in some way, we experience some of that pain. I'm using the royal 'we', but it seems you lack that ability to show any empathy whatsoever...

Really? Suicide's not a stupid thing to do? I guess there are cases where it's not -- like if you're terminal, or facing life in prison. That's a rational choice and I can empathize with those people. I've lived with depression and with other people who've suffered from it. Four of my friends attempted suicide in high school, and one succeeded. It made me angry. How dare they be so stupid. And since the two who survived it got better, they agreed. I get that it's usually triggered by a chemical imbalance, but people who are capable of having this discussion, and capable of writing the above, can choose to live and treat their chemistry, or they can choose not to. What they can't do is get pity from rational people just for saying they view suicide as a rational choice, because it's not, and I'm sick of hearing that. Try living with a depressed person and finding yourself responsible for their happiness; that line of reasoning wears thin.

So, right. I have no pity for people who choose to make or wallow in their own problems. Why should I? I reserve my empathy for people who don't have enough to eat, people who got cheated, falsely imprisoned, wrongly executed, were victims of racism, domestic violence, rape, slavery, forced prostitution, and child abuse; or who through no fault of their own had the bad luck to be born in Burma or North Korea. Not people who had the amazing good luck to be born in a first-world country where it rains antidepressants, distractions and opportunities, and who find so much time to spend navel-gazing that they finally hate themselves and want to die.

Previous comment of yours: I feel nothing for people who kill themselves.

Followed by: Four of my friends attempted suicide in high school, and one succeeded. It made me angry. How dare they be so stupid.

I'm sorry you got burned. Sounds like you are still hurting. It's an unfortunate nuisance when someone who is hurting disrupts a forum over it. I've done that a billion times (and counting, no doubt), so I'm not pointing fingers. Just trying to point something out to you, in hopes it might help you move on: Anger and denying that you feel anything are basically defense mechanisms. Maybe you haven't really fully mourned your loss. The woman who founded MADD said at some point that she didn't really mourn the loss of her child for many years. She threw herself into founding MADD and all that basically to avoid dealing with her own feelings. I've spent plenty of my life terrified of being alone with my own feelings. It's really not an uncommon reaction to something terrible happening.

Anyway, it's meant in a supportive way, FWIW.

Take care.

Everyone does stupid things sometimes.

I have lost two friends to suicide. One was an Iraq War veteran who didn't get the help she needed on returning to the states and committed suicide about a year later. The other was a man who had for a long time, I think, suffered from more than one neurological issue.

In the end, I think that people have a right to decide for themselves how they live and how they die. I don't think suicide is always a stupid thing to do. May key question is whether someone is competent to make that decision. Depression or PTSD are not good reasons IMO. However, what of someone struggling with a lifetime of schizophrenia?

And there are plenty of circumstances where I would commit suicide. For example, if I am ever faced with an alzheimer's diagnosis, I would prefer to end my life with clear thought and memory than to let them slowly fade away.

For every two homicides committed in the United States, there are three suicides. The death rate from suicide is higher than the death rate for chronic liver disease, Alzheimer’s, homicide, arteriosclerosis or hypertension.

Depression is the cause of over two-thirds of suicides in the U.S. each year.

Depression is a terminal illness: it kills 15% of its sufferers.

Depression is no more 'wallowing in their own problems' than cancer or Alzheimer’s. Depression is an illness caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. It has physical as well as mental symptoms. It is very common in young white men (of all classes) and it kills 20,000 in the U.S. every year. I wouldn't be surprised if Depression was the biggest killer of Y-Combinator readers.

Depression gets a bad rap because it shares the word people use when they are feeling a bit fed up. Depression feels nothing like that. It feels like death.

Try living with a cancer sufferer. Try living with an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Most young men with a mild flu are a nightmare to live with. Tough shit: that's illness: it's grim. People with terminal illnesses are grim company.

Why is it OK to say these things about Depression sufferers? Would you say them about someone with terminal cancer? If you did you would, quite rightly, be called out as a dick.

>It made me angry. How dare they be so stupid

And what right is it of yours to be angry? What right is it of yours to judge their decision? Those who react this way are the most disgustingly selfish people.

It's my right as a person with an opinion. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that it was a valuable choice or a reasonable decision for them to make. I don't lie to my friends, and I don't paper things over.

Quite a judgmental statement, to tell someone who's been through it four times what his reaction should be. Maybe it's something I've thought through and been through a few times, and decided that blunt force rather than kid-gloves is the only way to get through to people who want to take their own life.

Been through it too, here's my story:

My father killed himself when I was in high school after numerous failed attempts and a period of institutionalisation. A couple of years later a close friend killed himself, then an acquaintance a bit after that. I've suffered clinical depression most of my adult life, never seriously contemplated suicide but have thought deeply on it for many years.

Now that I've established my credibility by daring anyone to challenge my sad tale, let me tell you that to me your post reads like an excuse to be a righteous loud mouth on the topic of suicide without having to get involved with any of the ugly and complicated realities.

Suicide has touched your life. Doesn't make you an expert.

I'm not an expert. I didn't claim to be. I'm saying, there's always another way. Another option. And my modus operandi in dealing with it is informed by knowing what happens if you're too soft and tiptoe around someone's feelings who's considering it.

I don't know anyone who's survived an attempt, or who's been depressed enough to talk about it, who hasn't had better days afterwards. One of my friends is still -- well, sick, I think is the word for it. I've seen how too much sympathy just feeds suicidal thoughts and self-absorption. Talk about anything other than their problem. Get them out of the house. I've seen how being occupied with something brings her back to reality, and makes her 99% better. I'm not unthinkingly being a righteous loud-mouth; I realize my approach to the subject may rub the wrong way on people who think that talking can solve everything.

I don't know if you've been in a situation where you've been thrown into being the default "therapist" for someone you love, who refused to seek help and was telling you that they were considering killing themselves. I have. You'd probably think based on my statements that I'd be such a rotten bastard, it's hard to imagine anyone confiding in me, but it seems to work the opposite way. Maybe people want to hear something blunt. At any rate, there's nothing I've said here that I haven't said to a suicidal friend, in basically the same tone.

I know it does no good, at that moment, to become angry with a clinically depressed person who's out of their mind and talking crazy/suicidal. You want to throw water over them or slap them and snap them out of it, but you can't. At least, in my experience, anger at that moment doesn't work. What you can do is keep them alive, stay with them, distract them, and talk them back to reality. And as soon as they're back, hold up a mirror and show them how scary, stupid and irrational they were being. Make them admit they were being crazy. Make them swear they'll never do it again, even if you don't believe them. And of course, tell them why it scared you, and why it was a place they need to learn to stay away from in their own mind. Warn them when you see them changing that way again. Remind them of the last time. Sanity a muscle. Anyone can learn how to exercise it.

The secret to being sane is just don't go there. Take the option off the table, and start dealing with the world around you, and fixing the way you look at it, until you make it a tolerable place to be. Lower your expectations until you're happy just to wake up in the morning. Horrible? Yeah, but there's no rational alternative.

This isn't me "disrupting", it's not an excuse. It's an alternative way of dealing with the subject. I realize it probably sounds barbaric and medieval, but it's just practical. This is just the only way I've found to deal with clinically depressed people on a long-running basis, and the wall I've built to try and keep people I love -- and myself -- sane, alive, and improving.

The dumbest people are the most judging ones. They only see themselves, can't put themselves in other positions, can't accept other positions, and have to call everything dumb which they can't relate to.

Nice. Your comment makes it clear you don't understand any evolutionary theory, but you still feel ok judging people based on your ignorance.

Assuming this is an attempt at reverse psychology, I doubt it is likely to work with the type of people who frequent HN.

I am also shocked by the complete lack of empathy. And you QEDed nothing in no way.

You put all pains on the same level when, by definition, each person's pain is relative. It's relative to each individual's past experiences, sensitivity, life circumstances and so many more facts. That's my definition of empathy: being able to understand that, no matter what the appearances or what I think I know, a lot goes into one's shaping of an idea/opinion on any topic. Life and death more than any other.

Also, remember that it's not all about you. Your anger toward somebody else's actions does not grant you any right to judge.

You get the facts wrong.

Depression is intense pain. People usually kill themselves intentionally when this pain becomes unbearable.

But how you know for sure that "not existing" really is an option? What if there is an afterlife, and killing yourself just moves you into another phase of existence where you still exist, and are now filled with regret for an irreversible action?

Now that is depressing. I've always thought the idea of eternal life is a ton more scary than nothingness.

I attempted suicide at age 17. I was also hospitalized twice for being suicidal, once in my teens and once in my twenties. I spent a lot of time in therapy (to deal with an abusive childhood), a lot of time working on getting a life and doing some serious problem solving (with regards to personal issues), and a lot of time resolving underlying health issues (that were undiagnosed when I was younger). I am currently facing eviction and doing so fairly calmly. I have no idea where I will go. I may literally be sleeping in the woods in winter come January. And I feel like I'm losing my mind because I'm not suicidal when I "should" be.

If, as one person here commented, you feel there is something broken with your brain, take that seriously. I've read some things about arachadonic acid and depression. And this happens to be an issue I addressed for unrelated reasons. I consciously and intentionally changed my body chemistry to address my health issues and that is likely part of why I am currently not suicidal in spite of being very short of sleep and in serious financial trouble and feeling like the entire world doesn't give a flying fuck about my accomplishments, my situation and so on.

If you are going through major transitions and that is a source of stress, there are more effective means to deal with those things too. I'm too short of sleep to write a book on the topic, I just want to make the point that if you feel something really negative, don't focus on your feelings. Focus on finding the roots of the problem, whether that is solving stressful life situations, addressing brain chemistry issues or something else.

Anyway, this is not something you have to just swallow. And in my experience, the touchy-feely emotional outreach stuff is not real effective. I was suicidal in part due to health issues and in part due to being molested and raped. Healing my sexuality and my body has changed that and I can say that with confidence because I've spent the last 12 days wondering why on earth I am not suicidal while facing eviction, dealing with a mountain of debt...etc...ad nauseum. Instead of falling apart and having histrionics, I am making plans to the best of my ability and working overtime.

Best of luck to anyone struggling with something like this.

Thanks for your honesty. I live in a country right now where everything gets swept under the rug. No courage left here to face reality.

I seriously hope you can stay so strong and pull through. Keep on keeping on.

If you call the numbers given, is there any possibility they will call the police or otherwise interfere with you without your consent? Or is it a purely voluntary interaction in which they really just talk and listen?

No, not unless you say you're about to kill yourself.

So you're replying to the first question and you mean "yes" but say "no"?

that's normally what happens if you tell them you feel suicidal(by them I mean nurses,social workers..). They'll call the cops. You'll get to your place and the cops will be there asking you if you're ok. It's sucks when it happens and you already don't like the cops. It doesn't help.

If you're one of the 95% of humans who live outside the US and Canada and you want to talk here is a list of numbers to call: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

May I quote you?

If you google it you'll find some more lists I'm not sure if the one I linked is the most comprehensive one.

Suicide and mental illness need to been seen as conditions for which people need care and support rather than marginalization. Thank you for posting this.

The Christmas/suicide link is a myth you know.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, is not, however: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

A quick Google search does seem to confirm this and at reputable sources such as Psychology Today and the Mayo Clinic. However that should not be a reason to dismiss increased awareness especially as an outreach to those experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. In other words, it's always a good time to talk about it and to try to help. If the holidays increase awareness and get people talking about it I don't see that as a bad thing even if there isn't a statistical increase in suicide.

Edit: typo and formatting

It really doesn't matter if it's a myth if you feel like that. The pressures that you can feel when depressed and surrounded by family create bad situations that might result in an attempt later, once everyone is gone, or simply a really sad holiday. Frankly, neither of these is an acceptable outcome. This is the 21st century and a human being shouldn't need to feel scared and alone anymore.

Yes it is:


Snopes suggest it falls slightly over the holiday from 34 per million people to 30 per million people and then rises to 41 per million people at New Year’s.

It might be a myth, but but snopes' 2 obscure references to some "studies" that cover a tiny region of the world are hardly compelling evidence.

I want more proof either for or against this notion.

Snopes stories have the same problem that urban legends have: people are quick to believe them without checking it more, and for the same reason, feeling superior to those who don't know (the myth|the debunking).

Snopes tries to combat this by having fake stories as well. They are all segregated into The Repository Of Lost Legends(TROLL) section of the website though.

I've noticed a lot of people feeling rather dysphoric lately. Myself, I always feel very strange around mid Oct-mid Dec, I think due to the change in seasons and my natural cycle of brain chemistry (which isn't ideal). I'm not concerned about the holidays in particular, but when you do have a drab family or social life, it's hard not to feel confronted by that at Christmas and the New Year.

The economic situation as affected many people negatively, especially trying at a time that one hopes to have extra money for their family. I'd believe that we have more than an average share of despondence these days.

It might be a myth but it still happens and it still hurts - I lost someone on the 28th of December 2009.

I made the following comment on a previous thread about suicide and think it also applies to this discussion:

Both depression/suicide and dietary habits run in families and reoccur over multiple generations.

Low serum cholesterol has been shown to be a suicide risk factor. [1]

Get you cholesterol tested and try adding more good fats to your diet like oily cold-water fish (think salmon and sardines), butter, eggs (including the yolk!), and coconut milk/oil. You should aim for a low LDL and a high HDL number.

[1] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/...

What do you tell to someone who's decided that it's really quite pointless to continue working and living because the inevitable fate of the Universe coupled with the seeming inability to achieve sustained happiness?

To them living to make a difference is pointless because practically nothing survives Solar death, and nothing survives a maximizing of Universal entropy.

To them living for themselves is pointless because nothing brings sustained happiness. Solving problems, building things, etc. are just as much drugs as heroin. Once you've solved the problem you start seeking a new one. You can't be happy and satisfied with solving an important problem once.

If they exhibit serious catatonic symptoms, you take them to the doctor immediately. Otherwise, you explain to them that whoever promised them that life has a meaning on its own was lying to them in the first place, and that people have to make life meaningful by themselves, and then to read some existentialists, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer or Camus.

Death is just as pointless. Considering that you have all of eternity to be dead, it seems like a mistake to cut your brief life short, in case something changes in your perspective during the rest of it.

You don't "be dead", its not an active state, an ongoing experience.

You imply that the person would miss out and regret it, but they woudn't be missing out because they wouldn't be.

Suicidal people reading this and thinking I'm arguing in favour of it stop right there - I'm on a phone and can't write a full nuanced answer. But I think this is an important point which all the "permanent solution to a temporary problem" people don't really consider, and should, to see why its an inneffective exhirtation.

You could start with the lesswrong.com article http://lesswrong.com/lw/sc/existential_angst_factory/

EDIT: this wasn't really a coherent response. Maybe I'll come back later with something else.

Suicide does not correlate with Christmas holiday, quite the opposite, since suicide rate actually drops [1].

While depressed people have higher risk of suicide, it's generally believed that most depression patients are more at risk when they are recovering from it, as their motivation returns[2].

[1] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1734474...

[2] http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?Volume=60&pa...

I though it was somebody giving advices on how to commit suicide successfully, an article I have needed sometimes but I keep missing (by successfully I mean without risk of ending fatally wounded but still alive, which will make your situation even worse). But it's yet another article trying to take the idea from your head with a list of phone numbers to call.

I think western civilization still have a rather wrong approach to the issue of somebody wanting to end his/her life voluntarily. I've felt in this situation many times (now I do, for example). I don't want advices about how beautiful life is, or why I need to change my mind, or how many people are there that loves me and that will suffer my loss. I know that. I know people will suffer, at least initially. But poeple like me, people who have no energy nor desire to go on living, are nothing but a burden to those sharing their life with. Yes, I'm depressed. Yes, I'm under medical treatment. Yes, my doctor have tried on me several different drugs and nothing have changed. I feel myself a failure and I don't think there is any chemical compound that will reprogram my brain to avoid feeling like that.

I just want to be able to exercise my free will of not going on with my life, without drama nor fanfare. But this is, for some reason, a society taboo.

I wasn't sure to share this with you (I'm sure very few people will understand my point of view).

Suicide is an interesting phenomenon with multiple causes, some short-sighted (rejection from lover), some circumstantial (not being able to pay debt) and some misguided (not getting admission in a good college). But what sounds to me the most _genuine_ reason for suicide is someone who has contemplated meaning of life for long and hasn't been able to find any inherent reason why he should exist. That person may have friends, financially secure and may love having fun. But internally he may slowly realize the fact that his existence in this world is pointless. How do you call such suicide attempt as stupid? The person has clearly thought through it and decided not to exist.

This doesn't mean I personally endorse suicide. I am a big believer in Absurdism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absurdism and think the whole point of life is to live in face of absurdity. The realization that you have to live (and it's OK even if you die because existence is pointless after all) gives you incredible power. You are no longer afraid of doing things like quitting your job, talking to girls in a bar, going sky diving and trying drugs. After all, no matter what happens, you have nothing to loose. We all are going to die one day, so why not die _after_ doing whatever your heart desires.

sounds like a plan

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a reference to a meetup that points to a mail list:

Unfortunately there is no direct link to the message, but here is the pasted header, if someone is interested in looking for it in the archive:

Forwarded message

From: Mitch Altman Date: Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 12:59 PM Subject: [Noisebridge-discuss] Geeks & Depression meetup To: NoiseBridge Discuss

The archives are "private" (not sure how private, but I didn't feel like signing up), but I found copy here: http://strangersinthebedroom.blogspot.com/2011/11/you-are-no...

Full text:

  From: Mitch Altman
  Date: Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 12:59 PM
  Subject: [Noisebridge-discuss] Geeks & Depression meetup
  To: NoiseBridge Discuss

  Geeks & Depression meetup
  Tuesday, 6-December, 7:30pm
  No Starch Press, 38 Ringold Street, San Francisco, CA 
  (near Civic Center BART Station)

  Let's have a meetup where geeks can talk about depression 
  and suicide. You are not alone. Share your story, if you 
  like. Share a friend's story. Or just hang out and 
  listen. Let's make it OK to talk about these things so 
  that we don't feel so alone with our feelings of being 
  alone and depressed or suicidal.

  This is not a support group -- none of us are trained 
  professionals, but we can get together in a safe, 
  confidential space to talk about depression and suicide 
  -- an important part of life for so many of us geeks.
So it's already happened I guess. Anyone know how it went?

There is a second meetup tomorrow, as far as I can tell: https://www.facebook.com/maltman23/posts/10150415871850918

Mitch's Google Group for the meetups is here: http://groups.google.com/group/geeksanddepression

I hope I can give people some context. I have never thought I would feel so down that I would consider ending my life. I don't mind poverty, I'm very flexible in relationships, lots of things in my life have not turned out the way I hoped. And of course, there are lots of things I never expected that have enriched my life (one of those things is programming).

But for the past 10 years I've been in pain every day. Even that is bearable (though most painkillers have no effect on my pain). The thing that has got me down though, is the pain that comes all through the night. Not being able to sleep night after night and the exhaustion that comes from it is the most depressing thing in my life.

Even then, I know things could be worse. I could be disfigured. I could have lost my sight.

Of course, those rationalisations are of little comfort when I'm being woken up for the 20th time, and bed feels like an implement of torture.

Most things in life are "fixable" if one changes one's attitudes and behaviour. But uncontrollable pain is depressing.

I don't know what constant pain is like, or if I would have the strength to hold out like you. If you ever want someone to talk to, you can email me at aantny@gmail.com. I would love to hear your story.

If you want to talk in private about things, email me. phzbox at gmail.com. I know life is not supposed to be easy, but sometime it helps to be listened to.

I just want to say that 4 months after a break down in my marriage and with little experience of real life outside of that marriage, the approach to this holiday season, for whatever reason has been quite difficult. I was really considering not making it into 2012.

I have since taken control of my thoughts and am feeling much better about things. The main realisation came from realising that now, the present, is the most important thing, not the past, nor the future.

Don't wanna sound all preachy but this book (I'm listening to it in audio form) really helped me: http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B004EX04PK&q...

This reminds me of http://www.google.com/search?q=+commit+suicide which returns a help message (generally a phone number to a suicide prevention service in your country).

Ironic that, for me, the first hit after the telephone number (same one raganwald lists) is a Wikipedia article on suicide methods.

for me it doesn't http://i.imgur.com/1d8pK.png

It gives me a US toll-free number. They probably only show it to people for whom it probably wouldn't be an international call, so if you're outside the US or using a proxy, that would explain it.

Neither does it for me (I'm in the UK)

Yep. It'd be nice if they added some different numbers for different countries. Paging Matt...

Getting the numbers for different countries and making sure that they're current might be tricky, so I don't know how hard this would be, but I'll pass the request on.

Let's not forget about the civic duty to call 911 if you suspect that your friend or your neighbor is suicidal. Emergency medicine has experts that can help much more than National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

This is the problem with how we deal with suicide. People seem to think its their "duty" to take the right to end your life away from you. Police and emergency services will go as far as tie you up and lock you in a padded cell to take this right away.

What we need to is make it clear that suicide is your right. Treatment should be completely voluntary at all times. I would wager that the possibility of being restrained for days or weeks prevents many people from seeking help that could actually have made a difference.

No, it isn't your civic duty to take the right to suicide away from someone. It's your duty as a friend and a human being to be a non-judgmental ear and shoulder. But in the end you have to respect their rights as an autonomous being.

That might be true for some people but not everyone. Do you take into account situation where someone can get treatment and change ones mind? Since you, a non-medical professional, cannot make that judgment it's better to use as a rule to always call.

Emergency visits are not about locking someone away but about figuring out a best treatment. Whether a person will follow the treatment or not that's a different story but at least someone was there for them, to listen, to help, and with means and experience to do it.

Here is a thought that has helped me get through episodes: I would rather suffer this pain (which is probably not permanent, even though it feels like it is) than inflict on others the lifelong burden of a father, or friend, or companion, or spouse who committed suicide. This one thought has gotten me through a number of episodes. Nowadays I'm doing better, with a combination of therapy, Prozac-family meds, and meditation. Episodes do still roll around at times, but they are much shorter in duration (order day instead of order weeks/months).

Having spent quality time in the hospital for a suicide attempt, I really do embrace the idea that "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" except when it is not. Prolonged and painful cancer, Alzheimers, etc all make perfect sense to me as a suicide solution because there is no "future" that improves the situation.

Depression is defeatable on the other hand and sometimes you just have to grind through and get to the other side. I tried the suicide route due to it and I won't ever opt for it on a temporary situation again.

For the very most people Depression is not defeatable. It can be surpressed for some time or some symptoms, but one rarely can be "healed" from it.

  Simply call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or in
  Canada 1-800-448-1833
Or 13 11 14 in Australia (Lifeline, http://www.lifeline.org.au).

Or 143 in Switzerland (http://www.143.ch)

It wasn’t really right to put this in the post, but:


I miss you, Sam.

I know him from high school. A great talent and a really nice guy, lost far too young.

Ben Huh, Cheezburger Network founder, wrote a great post on how he contemplated suicide after the failure of a startup: http://www.benhuh.com/2011/11/29/when-death-feels-like-a-goo...

If you want somebody to talk to this holiday season, about anything at all, I extend an invitation to talk over Skype. Although I can't say for sure yet, but you are probably a really cool person if you are reading hacker news. If you find the time, I would really appreciate it if you reached out. I have nothing but time on my hands this winter break and I'd really like to avoid just mindlessly surfing the internet or coding all day long. Just send me an email at "moc.liramyrahcaz@kcaz".reverse().

Semi-repeat of this post: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3349993

Forgive me if this is a stupid question, but if you're feeling alone, why not come hang out on IRC? It's been a source of camaraderie for me for years.

Ben Huh, Cheezburger Network founder, wrote a great post on how he contemplated suicide after the failure of a startup: http://www.benhuh.com/2011/11/29/when-death-feels-like-a-goo... "It wasn’t until after I seriously contemplated suicide that I was ready to handle a $30 million check. "

To chat things through, in the United Kingdom, call 08457 90 90 90.

This is the www.samaritans.org number, a trusted and respected resource.

Bear in mind that the Samaritans do not see it as their place to stop you committing suicide, rather they exist in part to be there at that time so you don't die alone.

I found hope and sense of life when I began to understand who Jesus is. When I am in depression I pray to him and this helps me. Wondered why noone was talking about that. This is what Christmas is all about, Christ brining us hope.

NY Times re:Caltrain, really really sad story.


I have a nice alternative to suicide. Since you hate your life so much that you want to end it, why not just say "fuck it all" and go start a new life from scratch by having some crazy (and possibly dangerous) adventure?

In my childhood I was told a "tale of two frogs" http://bquot.com/8jl This is really helpful for understanding why you should never give up!

Several related threads from this discussion a couple weeks back


A kid I knew in High School just killed himself the other day. No one knows why. It was rather a shock to everyone.

I have profound problems with the standard yada yada about suicide. Yes I believe that life is precious and in my teens I spent a number of years as a volunteer working the phones in crisis centers, so I do know the whole rap. But if life is truly precious our society should treat it as being precious with deeds as well as cheap talk. Society has gutted the mental health system, here in Santa Rosa, CA the two existing mental hospitals have been closed in the last few years. The mental health system is now configured to only act only at the final moment of extremity when people are ready to commit suicide and then with only the mathematically minimal amount of intervention possible. To me and many other people it seems that the science is very clear and that issues like mental health and education can’t be dealt with without dealing with the intertwined socioeconomic issues.

I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s, depression and anxiety. In the Nineties is was a successful software consultant and then the dot com crash happened. I went from being able to get a job anything in a week or two to being unable to obtain a single response to the resumes I would spend out over the course of a year. Five years ago I was given an SSRI for the first time in my life and I had a horrible reaction that almost killed me and the resulted with leaving me with a very serious problem with sensory overload. A few years ago I spoke to the head of HR at O’Reilly who asked me why didn’t I just move down to Silicon Valley where I could make six figures. I didn’t tell the gentleman that I had a serious problem with sensory overload and that I had a hard time seeing how I could function in a crowded urban environment and that living in the semi-rural environment of Sonoma county at least provided me with a quiet place that I could marginally function in.

Now I am having a profound problem with sensory overload that has literally trapped me in my apartment. Loud sounds and large array of other types of sound literally cause me pain. But the experience is actually far worse than pain, because I have a high pain tolerance, but an occurrence of a sensory meltdown can strip me of my very sentience. Because I am now poor I have been absolutely unable to engage in any medical or psychiatric intervention. I have tried to connect with services through ever possible channel I can think of, but to no good. Society’s reaction has been to say, let us know when you are planning to kill yourself, because that is the one thing that we will react to. Several years ago when I first tried to get help for my sensory overload, I realized that few doctors had any idea of what sensory overload was, and none of them had any idea of how to intervene in it. So their answer was to play hot potato with me. One doctor I saw kept redirecting the conversation from sensory overload to asking me if I might be suicidal. When I answered I wasn’t he just kept digging deeper asking me if I wasn’t sure that I was having a problem with suicidal ideation. He was desperate to relabel my problem with sensory overload as a problem with being suicidal because he did know how to deal with that. Dealing with a number of incidents like this over time can make in sick at heart. And mental hospitals are absolutely not the solution. When you can barely tolerate any sound whatsoever the answer is not to lock you up in a noisy environment that you can’t escape from.

So I have begun a hunger strike as a political protest for the lack of necessary services for myself and others. I at least have the intellect to enunciate the problems with the system as so I feel the importance of escalating this to the level of a political protest for others as well as myself. I have started a blog at http://dannyslittlerevolution.blogspot.com/ detailing my issues and concerns, but so far I have received zero feedback. I am now in my fifth day of my hunger strike. So my final comment is to suggest to people that bland statements about life being precious and that people shouldn’t commit suicide because things will get better are absolutely meaningless drivel meant to assuage the conscious of the speaker unless society acts to truly treat life as precious. I get that many in society holds life to be precious for unborn fetuses and for people about to commit suicide. But if life is truly precious it should be treated as being precious during the period of time between conception and death or else talk of the preciousness of life is an absolute sham. My training and gift is in understanding how complex systems work and any system to refuses to deal with the underlying socioeconomic problems is just pissing in the wind. Peace.

Very well said. I agree, it seems that in this society mental illness, depression and suicidality are more used as a label to further ostracize those in distress instead of as a signal to actually take steps to help them while they can still be helped.

If anything would make me want to suicide its listening to other peoples suicide tales. I don't know how they do it.


(edit: Sorry, this is pretty random. I still wanted to share my view.)

For me it looks like pretty much everyone was suicidal in the youth/adolescence. It may be a horrible coincidence, but really I have never ever known a person that didn't feel suicidal at least once. No, I am not talking about the "Oh god, I love someone, I want to die sort." I knew people who killed themselves, so I guess I am pretty good at knowing the difference.

Don't know why but these folks often talk to me. Maybe it's because I don't get too emotional about it and they know I won't tell anybody. I believe in the right of suicide, even for mentally ill persons. I mean if it's chronically then it doesn't make sense. It's probably a lot harder then another kind of illness. Something I never understood was the "(s)he is going to die anyway" argument. Everybody is going to die in the end. You also don't know about the when or how. Of course it can be more likely to be sooner and agonizing, but you can't know for sure.

On the other hand I consider it to be a stupid idea to ask some kind of doctor about it. A doctor, in my opinion should be someone who keeps people alive and not someone who decides about whether someone dies. I consider this to be a major problem. And when you ask about the "quality of life" I think nobody else should answer that question. If I am not feeling good it doesn't when a doctor or whoever says something different.

Still, if anyone out there feels suicidal then get help. There are a lot of people who are _glad_ to help and won't treat you in a generic way. I talked to a lot of person and never thought about something like "what's the best way to convince someone to stay alive". Also, yeah there are _many_ stupid psychologists - and I mean it like that. They often see stuff that I consider to be a serious hallucination. I know about psychologists who think everyone looking outward of a window wants to jump down. A schoolmate and back then good friend of mine had been sent to a psychologist for no reason at all (well, he had very, very strange parents) and was considered to be mentally ill, because he didn't know what he should talk about with the psychologist. I know about tons of these cases, like people who are mentally ill, because they washed their stuff when it was dirty.

I think this is a big problem. Suicidal people always think that people who could help suck, because some psychologists see psychotic people everywhere. Well, maybe it is like that. As I wrote everyone I ever knew (of course I am talking about people I knew pretty well) were suicidal at some point. Still I think a lot of mental illnesses should be considered character traits. For example there was a time when everything but straight sexuality was considered a mental illness, even sex toys and various other things. Also a lot of artists and philosopher can possibly be considered to be insane.

My personal opinion is that people who are suicidal usually have a problem to accept who they. In some situations it is more like accepting the circumstances. Even if they suck right now or are hurtful this doesn't mean that it will remain like that. It can take years until one feels better again, but it usually is worth waiting and accepting that can make you feel way better. Just don't take everything too serious and think positive. Mind > Matter ;)

I'm thankful someone wrote this. I've been seeing a lot of people talking about how depressed and/or suicidal and inadequate they feel quite frequently around here lately. Hell, even I've done some of that talking as I've been there recently too.

The part at the end where he says they will listen is huge. Never underestimate how much someone simply listening can really help. Also, talking to a sympathetic stranger is often more helpful or even easier than talking to someone you know.

I always wondered why so many people around here get to feeling this way and I've narrowed it down to a few things. First, startups are hard, they're often lonely, and burnout can creep up on you without you noticing. Burnout can really make you feel worthless. Then there are those who feel inadequate because they're reading all these stories about successful and smart people solving hard problems and making it big while they feel small, stupid, and inconsequential. There's a strong success bias in the submissions here and other places people like us peruse which can lead to strong feelings of worthlessness and self doubt.

I've been there and I understand so well all of these things. I often wish I had a clone that just repeated what I tell myself whenever my negative voice starts nagging: Baby steps, you can't know it all or be it all and you certainly can't conquer the world in a week. No matter what anyone else is saying or doing out there, in the end we're all human, we're all going through the same things and we all feel the same way at one point or another. It gets better.

Thanks for writing this and extra thanks for including those toll free lines.

I'm thankful someone wrote this. I've been seeing a lot of people talking about how depressed and/or suicidal and inadequate they feel quite frequently around here lately.

Suicide is a topic that people sometimes "take on" in a hamfisted attempt at some cheap feel-goodism, and the results are almost always counter-productive.

You can't rationalize away suicide via a blog post. More likely it will actually bring to mind something that might not have been front and center.

Forgotten that you're suicidal? Well raganwald is here to remind you.

I may come off as a giant ass downer saying this, but it's the cold hard truth. This does the opposite of good.

Debate about the benefits and hazards of posts like this is healthy. I'm choosing to leave it up, but I'm grateful that you are speaking up.

I think its true that you can't "rationalize away" suicidal thoughts but what you can do is provide an opportunity to recognize your or a loved one's extreme depression and start the process of getting help. That's how I read this post — as an attempt to provide an opportunity not a quick cure. For that IMO he ought to be commended.

Ive associated suicide as correlated with too much logic. It takes a litle bit of delusion deep in the core of your being to assign value, meaning and purpose to the process of moving molecules from a high energy state to lower energy states. Which is all we are doing. Convincing a logical person that delusion is needed is a tough sell. Ive had the experience of trying to talk some normality into a suicidal person. Its like two kids on a carnival ride and one is queasy and hates it and wants to get off. Every turn and moment is filled with a desire to get off. what does the kid having fun on the ride say to the one who wants off? It comes down to "stop feeling the way you do". the misrable one has to figure out the source of the pain and hijack a feedback loop happening in the subconscious mind.

If you're saying logical thinking causes depression, you have the causation backward: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=depressions...

For the record, logical, analytic, probabilistically correct thinking is only a way of reaching goals. The goals themselves cannot be established by means of logic, only deconflicted/clarified/etc. To think otherwise is illogical.

On the latter point, that's a pretty major dispute in philosophy and mathematics. The axiomatic Hilbert-style approach probably has the upper hand in mathematics, but a Russell-style logicist approach that sees foundations themselves as subject to rational analysis is still a major position, and among philosophers, the idea that axioms are arbitrary and rationality only applies past that is probably the minority view (though existentialists hold a view somewhat like that). Not that that's necessarily practical advice.

I found that Albert Camus' philosophy of Absurdism provided less depressing insights on Man's "existential crisis" that other existential philosophies:


According to Camus, one's freedom – and the opportunity to give life meaning – lies in the recognition of absurdity. In acknowledging the absurdity of seeking any inherent meaning, but continuing this search regardless, one can be happy, gradually developing his or her own meaning from the search alone.

It's what keeps me going. I can't control what happens after I die but I can control what happens in this life. So I'm going to make my purpose in this life ---making an impact now. Even if it's ultimately meaningless in the universe's timeframe, so be it.

There are specific video materials prepared for psychiatric nurses on how to communicate with people who have delusional belief systems or other problems with thinking.


> Convincing a logical person that delusion is needed is a tough sell.

Hence the large number of densely written words needed by existentialist philosophy and its associates, to attempt to justify it...

Counterpoint: it takes a little bit of delusion to seek some kind of "ultimate justification" to the naturally pleasuable and fulfilling experience that is life.

My point is only: you can't break the symmetry with logic alone. Ultimately your priors/axioms/experiences come into play.

A random moment of anger/hilarity during a bad bout of depression a few years ago: I tried calling around to a few psychiatrists in the area to get an appointment for depression. After waiting several days without hearing anything, I called one again. "Hello?" "Uh, yeah, I called and left a message a few days ago about seeing someone about depression." "Oh. We aren't accepting new patients." "Um. Okay, can you recommend anyone who is?" She sounded shocked that anyone would ever ask such a question, "no."

So, it has been my experience that mental health care could care less about you unless they're already cashing your checks.

Anyway, on the subject of suicide, you only get one go around on this ride. If you're seriously contemplating suicide, go see your regular doctor about it. There are great drugs out there. Yes, they can have side effects, but let's be rational here: a lack of boners, for example, is well worth it to find value in life again. If you kill yourself, everyone in your family will be devastated, your friends will miss you more than you think, and, to be perfectly honest, you still owe society for educating you and putting up with the ridiculous stuff you did as a teenager. ;-)

Wonderful post. Thank you.

One thing I'd like to add. A realization I've made only a few days ago:

The is no shame in being poor. Don't feel embarrassed if you don't have good food to eat, or a nice place to live, or have to work long hours to make ends meet. You are as good as anyone else. Your life is beautiful too.

I was feeling disconnected from everyone else, and then it dawned on me: well, duh!

So, I closed HN and went to talk to ACTUAL physically present people.

But, I thought it was the "Most wonderful time of the year"!

Please note my comment was not meant to be blasé but rather my, admittedly, cynical view of the Christmas season.

Telling the clinically depressed (including self) that everything is wonderful and indicating they should feel the same is a bit like telling a man in a wheel chair he should go jogging. I get this a lot.

Suicide gets a bad rap.

With 7 billion plus people on a planet that can't support half that number why are we encouraging these sad sacks to stay alive?

Unique? Really, out of 7 billion plus people is anyone really all that special? If you're not enjoying the ride - get off now - and let people who are have a bit more space (and resources).

Suicide might be the only memorable thing you do in your sorry existence, so don't be so quick to discount it.

Who knows what's on the other side. If this life isn't satisfying you enough, take another spin on the wheel of life, who's to say what the next adventure will bring.

But what about the kids, spouse, family, friends you ask? Well obviously you don't care - or you wouldn't be contemplating suicide.

Humans are the only species that understands death, but doesn't understand how to deal with it. Who's to say when it's time to go? Who's to say it's wrong to plan that time instead of letting fate decide?

I was always told if you don't like the party, leave. Seems like good advice for life as well.

I hope compassionate participants here on HN will go directly to the link on the parent post above this comment


and FLAG IT.

I recall how pg felt when fallentimes, formerly an active participant here, died of suicide. If I remember correctly, that came about one week after a Hacker News thread in which several participants were dismissive of suicide.

This remark is consistent with an atheistic view of reality. Although atheists can be compassionate to someone hurting enough to want to kill themselves, ultimately what does it matter?

On the other hand, if there is more to human life than a collection of atoms that happens to be organized in an interesting way and human life is sacred, as Christianity teaches, then suicide is a tragedy of the highest degree. No human is a waste of space, and every life should be protected to the extent possible through our finite means. I commend raganwald for making this post. I just wanted to point out that vonskimppy's comment illustrates implications of certain worldviews

I am a heathen, and not an atheist (I am not the GP poster either).

I don't see suicide as a tragedy nor do I see life in itself to be sacred in the way Christianity teaches it is sacred. For this reason I am pro choice but don't even try to differentiate between abortion and infanticide--- personhood is a social concept and where we draw lines is arbitrary. Just because we draw the line before birth somewhere and the Vikings drew it a few days after birth doesn't make one more right than the other.

I don't particularly frown on suicide (note, I am not untouched by this, having lost two friends to suicide both which were suffering from mental illness). However, I think that if one is competent to decide, that's the key thing. It;s tragic when we sent people off to war and then don't give them the treatment they need when they come back so they kill themselves. It is tragic when people find themselves rejected by long-time friends in their hours of need and slit their wrists in hotel rooms. I am not saying these are good choices.

But having known people who made these choices badly does not give me a right to discount it in other circumstances.

You have been downvoted because you are encouraging suicide.

If you feel this way yourself and want someone to talk to, you can email me at aantny@gmail.com. I would be happy to chat about life, philosophy, or whatever topic you choose.

No I'm encouraging free will. Who better then each individual to make their own choice to live or die. How can anyone say "just wait, things will get better". Are the people making that hollow promise willing to back that up with healthcare, money, love, success, whatever it takes to make that reality come true? If it's wrong for someone to decide to take their own life, isn't it equally wrong for someone to tell them they shouldn't? Since no one knows what's on the other side of death, making people stay alive when they don't want to be seems totally unwarranted.

people saying " you shouldn't do it" makes them feel good.Or maybe it's compassion in a lot of cases. But,a lot of times, it's selfish. It's like the people that give to panhandlers so they whether look good in the eyes of others or think that their soul is going to be saved.

Certainly while undying fame is hard to win, I believe it can be done, and those who commit suicide tend to fade from memory just as fast as those who don't. There are good and there are bad reasons to commit suicide. Doing so solely so one can be remembered, unless it is in a particularly memorable way (like the Buddhist monks in Vietnam protesting the Diem regime by setting themselves on fire in public) is about as stupid a reason as one can get.

Someone please ban this asshole.

Nice to see HN promotes freely discussing ALL opinions with an open mind.

Oh wait, I see they don't. Apparently if you express opinions that others disagree with, the close minded fops want you banned.

Meh - if I get banned for disagreeing with the standard "poor baby" suicide line, so be it. I'll stick with discussions where EVERYONE is welcome to express their opinions.

You failed to notice your comment was as dumb as someone saying, "He's gay, he deserves to die of AIDS."

Mental illness is very real and can be just as devastating (if not more) than cancer or heart disease. Where a cancer victim's loved one will likely draw for support a man clinically depressed is more likely to be or feel alone. Depression can cost people their jobs, families and yes, their lives. Depression can last for years and even decades. Shame at themselves for feeling this way leads many men (less so women) to never seek proper treatment. After all they are just being "sad sacks".

Attitudes like yours lead sick people to needless deaths for a treatable, or at least manageable, condition.

I just wanted to reply and show my support. Whether I agree or not with what you said there is some definite closed-mindedness going on here.

Why downvote someone based on an opinion?

I actually think this is a completely valid viewpoint, and the people downvoting you and criticizing you are more signaling their supposed moral superiority---suicide and depression is a topic people love to brag about how supportive and real they supposedly are but the person who actually lifts a finger to help, probably 1 in a million of these people.

Thank you for keeping it real and saying words that are hard to hear but quite accurately describe the situation: suicidal people are rejects of the socio-economic system, and it's fucking hilarious that so many of us get indignant about suicide while, operating in this system, being active or passive agents in contributing to the suicide of others around them.

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