The top three most inconsiderate ways to kill yourself
Yesterday I tweeted this picture from the front page of the Daily Mirror newspaper.
I, like a great number of people, was saddened to hear that Stephen Fry had attempted suicide in 2012. I was touched by his courage in being able to ‘go public’ about the attempt – especially as somebody who is very high profile and likely to be party to all sorts of repercussions. Stephen Fry is, and has been for a long time, somebody who has been very open about his bipolar disorder and his constant struggles with his own mental health. It only acts to promote my own desire to get people talking and make mental health an issue that people no longer skirt around.
Back to the picture. I tweeted the picture not because it was on the front page (I’m not sure a celebrity attempted suicide is front page news, no matter how well it inadvertently raises awareness of such a taboo subject, but that’s a debate for another day), but because the headline attempted to sensationalise the story by mentioning the mode of his attempted suicide. Like that was newsworthy – like it matters how somebody decides to do. In my own mind, the story is that somebody decided to try to kill themselves when they shouldn’t/needn’t have. The way in which he decided to take his own life is journalistically insignificant and perhaps more importantly adds absolutely no value to the story at all. In most other cases where somebody dies, headlines do not make specific differentiations that do not affect the process of the story. You do not see the following headlines, for example:
Man dies in car crash whilst driving Audi A3
Child chokes to death on yellow medium sized sticklebrick
Brian Harvey from East 17 runs over own head whilst trying to retrieve baked potato (oh, wait!)
Anyway, My blog doesn’t focus on that. In fact, it focuses on the response(s) to the tweet. A few people responded by saying they agreed, that it troubled them and that they weren’t sure why it was so important it had to go in the headline. One person, though, had a different response. Here’s a transcript of the tweets:
@52marathonman (me): “Why is the mode of attempted suicide headline news? Should it matter? Is one way worse than the others? Pic.twitter.com/IVbvcnidu7”
Respondent (name omitted): Jumping in front of a train is very inconsiderate towards commuters. Pills much more considerate”
@52marathonman: “Just to be sure – that was tongue in cheek, right?”
Respondent: No. I hate it when my train is held up because someone committed suicide on the track (or tried to).”
@52marathonman: seriously? That’s what you think? There’s no sarcasm in there? Wow.”
Respondent: It’s not what I ‘think’. It’s a fact that I and other commuters are inconvenienced when someone jumps in front of a train.”
@52marathonman: Inconvenience being the imperative term there. Do you think the jumper is in the frame of mind to consider your train times?
@52marathon man: How you can classify an overdose in any terms as ‘more convenient’ is fucked up. I hope you never know anyone with MH (mental health) issues”
@respondent: Probably not. That doesn’t make it less inconsiderate, nor does it lessen the inconvenience for hundreds of people”
@52marathonman: “And so would you therefore say if they were going to kill themselves, they should ‘choose pills’? Of sound mind, of course!”
There was no response after that. The person did get burned by a number of other people on Twitter. I can’t say that he went quiet because he realised he may have been wrong, or because he had touched a nerve with a few people, but I hope so.
As I’ve documented a number of times, my dad took his own life. It will be ten years ago in October and because of what I do and because of how I use that situation, it never becomes more distant – it never feels easier. Maybe I should have put in all of my other blog headlines – my dad took himself off to his favourite beauty spot, where he felt most at peace and I’m guessing where he had good memories, . He then took the pipe from a vacuum cleaner (I daren’t use the ‘H’ word for fear of repercussions from the brand!), industrial taped it to his exhaust pipe (Jeeze, it appears everything he used has a brand name which is used for a general purpose) and fed it through the driver’s side window and turned on his engine. Is that enough detail, or should I go into the hours and hours I have spent considering his mood, his final thoughts and what I think was happening at that exact time as he slipped out of consciousness and out of our hands for good? Should I go into how it has troubled me most to consider that he was alone at that time and he was at the end of his life and he was the only person who knew it. That I was probably off somewhere drinking beer and laughing, that the rest of my family were probably eating lunch together and that the world kept spinning whilst for him, everything stopped. Or should this entire paragraph simply have stopped at ‘my dad took his own life’. What is the infatuation with how they took their own life.
I’ve been unfortunate enough to be on a few trains when somebody has jumped in front of the train. Not once have I ever thought ‘fuck, I’m going to be late’. I’ve heard the tuts and mutterings of others and I’ve tutted back at them. I once challenged a man who wondered out loud whether the train was stuck because they couldn’t find all of the body parts. I’m sorry to be unsavoury there. Actually, no I’m not. ! I’m not trying to make crude comparisons, but I do wonder if you were in a traffic jam caused by a procession of funeral cars where you did not know the mode of death, would you beep your horn and get angry and being held up? Or would you turn off your radio, bow your head and silently wish as bearable grieving period as possible for those left behind?
I have very frequently wondered about the person who found my dad. I have felt terrible that somebody had to find him and I truly hope it never had adversely affected that person as a result. I have never, though, wished my dad had killed himself in another way to be more considerate to others. Knowing what I do and having faith in the majority of humanity, I hope the person who found him sought help if it were needed, talked to somebody about it and then over time thought about my dad less and less until it was no longer a significant factor in their life.
I know I’m opening myself up to a barrage of abuse and negative comments from people who agree with the chap who tweeted me back. I’m ready for that and I do understand that a) people are allowed opinions and b) people are sometimes late for very important appointments(!) as a result of somebody taking their own life. I’m prepared for all of that and I’ll take it on my chin because I know that for every one of those people, there are one hundred who do not believe that, who think about the person who has died and they think about the absolute turmoil that person must have been going through in order to believe that the only way they can stop feeling that way is by taking their own life.
Next time you’re on a train and something or somebody is blocking the line, take a minute to consider the fact that there will be more trains, there will be other opportunities and there will be times when you are on time. Take a minute to consider how you would react if the person laying on those tracks were your brother, your mother, your nephew or your best friend’s daughter. Would you then sit, tut and wonder if they have found their left leg? Have some perspective, go to the buffet cart and buy an unideally warm can of lager to help take the edge off your anger.
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