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On using suicide as a rhetorical strategy

[Edited per Esteleth’s suggestion to put this para up top:

[notice]Please note that I am not talking here about people who are honestly worried about their own thoughts of self-destruction, and who want to ask someone close to them for help but end up doing so sidelong. None of us say or do things perfectly when we’re in crisis. There is a pretty significant gray area between people who really are in crisis and people who know that saying they’re in crisis will get them what they want. [/notice]

— CC]

I have been reluctant over the last couple years to write about Hugo Schwyzer, mainly because I’ve realized since the last iteration of the perennial shitstorm that he wears like a second hat that it was all the same to him, positive attention or abuse: any attention feeds his ego.

But there was this passage in the slowly-going-viral interview with Schwyzer at New York Magazine’s site, which NYMag dangled out to Schwyzer after he announced he’s stepping offline the way a desperate dealer would offer one last rock to a recently reformed crackhead, that roused me to sufficient anger that I have to say something.

Here it is:

One reason you became a punching bag is that there just are not many men writing feminist columns online. Why is that?
Look at me. I mean, who would want to be me? If you look at the men who are writing about feminism, they toe the line very carefully. It’s almost like they take their cues from the women around them. Men are afraid of women’s anger. It’s very hard for men to stand up to women’s anger. I did for a long time until finally my mental health had to be a priority. I just got out of the hospital. I’m not shy about that. I’m sober, but I checked myself into a psych ward for a week, when I became a danger to myself.

Others have ably dissected the line about men needing to stand up to women’s anger in order to write about feminism. Here’s one good example by Noah Berlatsky.  A couple others representative of the trend:

 

But it’s the last sentences of Schwyzer’s statement I want to pay attention to here. Again:

I did [stand up to women’s anger] for a long time until finally my mental health had to be a priority. I just got out of the hospital. I’m not shy about that. I’m sober, but I checked myself into a psych ward for a week, when I became a danger to myself.

Those nasty feminist women criticizing Schwyzer drove him to the brink of suicide, in other words.

I have a long history with Hugo, including a real-life meeting, and though I decided two years ago that he was too toxic a person to interact with I still hope he can get well. (Or maybe because I decided that he was too toxic a person to interact with.) I honestly think Hugo’s stepping away from the Internet is one of the smartest things he’s ever done, and I sincerely hope he finds some help so that he can stop hurting people. Including himself. And that’s the last I’ll say about him directly in this post.

But I want to talk about the use of the “they upset me so much I nearly killed myself” trope, because it seems to have slipped past many people’s notice by coming in the wake of the egregious “beleaguered feminist men” thing.

Far too often, people threaten harm to someone as a way of getting attention. They do so to coerce other people into doing things. As we’ve seen in the recent example of every woman who says something on the internet ever, people make threats of violence in attempts to shut people up. They make threats, sometimes, just to get people to listen.

We see these threats for what they are, most of the time: violent abuse. But when the person being threatened is the person doing the threatening, our vision gets clouded. Our sympathy gets played. None of us want to see people hurt themselves. We tone down our criticism. We shelve our disagreements. We put what we were doing on hold to stroke the avowedly self-destructive person’s hair and coo at them.

It works. It gives the threatener what he or she wants. That’s why one of the most common situations in which suicide threats are used is in the context of abusive relationships. That goes for direct statements, as well as passive-aggressive references to suicide like the one quoted above. Abusers use threats of self-harm to keep their victims in relationships, because it works.

And as a consequence, anyone who’s been subject to that kind of emotional abuse is likely to find new examples of rhetorical suicide threats like the one above supremely triggering, even if they’re made in, say, overly dramatic “I feel sorry for myself” blog posts or what have you.

Please note that I am not talking here about people who are honestly worried about their own thoughts of self-destruction, and who want to ask someone close to them for help but end up doing so sidelong. None of us say or do things perfectly when we’re in crisis. There is a pretty significant gray area between people who really are in crisis and people who know that saying they’re in crisis will get them what they want. A very long time ago, during a difficult discussion in a group of trusted friends, I referred to my own self-destructive thoughts and I’m still not sure which side of that gray area I was on.

But if the statements are made where more than one or two people can see them, in a NYMag article or on Facebook or Tumblr or LiveJournal, the safe bet is on “abusive manipulation.”

Public suicide threats, whether direct or oblique, should be presumed at first glance to be forms of emotional abuse. If they’re direct threatening statements, the best helpful response, if you can use it safely, is “do you need a ride to the hospital?” If the person’s really suffering — and again, I have personal experience with both sides of this interaction — it may either get them the help they need or put things in perspective.

But if the person is using the threat as a rhetorical strategy, it serves as a reminder that there can be consequences for committing acts of emotional abuse on people you claim to care about.

It’s time for people to start calling rhetorical suicide references out as the abusive crap they are.

And if you’re thinking of killing yourself, trust me: whining about it on Facebook won’t help. This will. That link leads you to a list of suicide hotlines around the world. Call them. Get some help.

Comments

  1. unclefrogy says

    some where I read or at least learned that suicide is often outwardly directed. Its a big “FUCK YOU” to everyone else which goes very well with it being an abusive act.

    uncle frogy

  2. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I think that it is hugely important – and I think the OP does a good job of that – of distinguishing between suicidal ideation by someone who is depressed, and suicidal threats. One is a form of bullying and one emphatically is not. And seriously, accusing someone who is actually having suicidal ideation of just using it as a rhetorical strategy can be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

  3. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Actually, I take that back.

    Given that we live in a world where people who commit suicide are described as “cowards” or “weak” is not a world where making anything other than supremely nuanced arguments about threats of suicide is a supremely bad idea. Yes, it happens, and abusers do it as part of a way to keep their victims in line, but discussions of that phenomenon need to do a very good job (not just a good job) of distinguishing that crap to avoid adding to the cultural meme of “suicide is selfish.”

    Because seriously, the last thing someone who is actually suffering from depression, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal ideation needs is a message that the world holds them in contempt for having those feelings.

  4. alyosha says

    Sadly suicide as ideation is usually private and unknown to anyone. Suicide as threat, however, is only too common as a way to engage attention. Unfortunately for thinking and caring people it’s difficult to differentiate.
    However, the larger the audience, the likelier it is that it’s simply attention-seeking and manipulative.
    Unless his self-worth is so woven up in the reception of his positions that he feels the destruction of the latter compromises the former I have to call bullshit.
    Ugh, should I feel bad that I don’t feel bad?

  5. says

    Because seriously, the last thing someone who is actually suffering from depression, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal ideation needs is a message that the world holds them in contempt for having those feelings.

    So, “shut up or they might kill themselves” is what you’re saying. Awesome.

  6. says

    As a person who lives with clinical depression and has several times been very suicidal all I can say is fuck you Clarke. Your weasel words at the end don’t redeem the post.

    p.s. The one time I called a suicide hot line I got a recorded message telling me they were busy and to call back later. The black humor of the situation did break me out of my suicidal mood so in a way it worked

  7. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    So, “shut up or they might kill themselves” is what you’re saying. Awesome.

    FFS. No.

    What I’m saying is, “Consider, when you condemn the assholes who are making bullshit threats in order to control people, that someone who is in a very bad mental state might interpret your condemnation as being directed at them and word your condemnation accordingly.”

    This is not to say that you can’t condemn the abusers making bullshit threats. You can, and you should. I am just saying that it must be done carefully, due to the vulnerability of the non-abusers who are actually suicidal.

  8. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Abusers who make bullshit threats are not (see my use of “bullshit”) actually suicidal. They’re using the threat in order to get one over on their victim. Confronting their bullshit is not going to hurt them.

    But a too-broad condemnation runs a profound risk of telling someone who is already suffering from feelings of worthlessness that (in addition to whatever issues they’re struggling) that the world considers them to be scum.

  9. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    But if the statements are made where more than one or two people can see them, in a NYMag article or on Facebook or Tumblr or LiveJournal, the safe bet is on “abusive manipulation.”

    I guess frank talk about one’s suicidal thoughts in the Lounge is abusive manipulation too.
    Grand.

  10. alyosha says

    unclefrogy @2
    The idea that people who commit suicide are generally giving the finger to the world they’re departing is simplistic at best. I remember a phone call my mum took when I was younger talking about a kid of high school age who’d killed himself clucking over how ‘selfish’ the act was.
    I can’t think of a time when I was more disenchanted with adults and their morals than at that moment. I’ve just found that suicidal persons are decidedly discreet about their feelings at the time and those ‘suicidal’ braggarts little more than sociopaths. Hence the need for hotlines.

  11. alyosha says

    But it is worth considering that perhaps this person is so wrapped up in an idea of reality that its dissolution would require his self-annihilation. On second thoughts I shouldn’t judge.

  12. great1american1satan says

    You’re wrong, Chris. You’re going to get comments trying to gently educate you about why, and some comments scourging you without a chance for reprieve, but don’t be a Krahulik and let the gentle education represent the opposing viewpoint in your feelings.

    On principle, you could have been right, but in practice, sensitivity to people in a bad way has to take primacy over other considerations. I think even after his suicidal thoughts were expressed, you could disagree with his position publicly without going at that angle, and should.

  13. A Surprise to Many says

    Frank talk about suicidal ideation is fine. Statements like “MaryBob has to stop talking about their experiences of [insert bad thing here] in the Lounge because I feel like hurting myself” is manipulative bullshit and works very very very well to get everyone to jump and tell MaryBob to STFU because Someone Is Triggered. Trigger warnings and the availability of killfile do not short-circuit the silencing mechanism.

    Also, the entire dynamic of using suicidal ideation to control conversation works incredibly well to privilege those willing to make such threats on a regular basis over those who might want to harm themselves but have learned not to make such threats. Often, the latter have had extensive experience of self-injurious ideation and actions and/or experiences of such ideation or behavior from family and close friends.

    Shorter: it’s the directing of suicidal or self-injury threats or discussion of ideation AT a particular participant in a conversation or relationship that makes it abusive and manipulative.

  14. unclefrogy says

    He She They You will be sorry when I’m dead!
    spoken out loud or not.

    uncle frogy

  15. says

    #2 unclefrogy,

    Your overwhelming lack of sympathy for those of us who are suicidal at times convinces me you are a clueless git

    A few twitter reactions to Clarke

    Jennifer McCreight ‏@jennifurret This Pharyngula post on suicide just perpetuates the stereotype of depressed people being attention whores, grrr

    Jennifer McCreight ‏@jennifurret Policing the behavior of depressed people, trolls or not, makes it harder for us to be open about our illness lest we be labeled as fakers

  16. w00dview says

    Given that we live in a world where people who commit suicide are described as “cowards” or “weak”

    I am ashamed to say this used to be my opinion on those who committed suicide. I would be angry that they would leave their loved ones in such emotional turmoil because of what they did and should realise that people do care for them. It was through a better understanding of depression and the suicide of a friend of mine that caused me to acknowledge that my feelings on this matter were naive, victim blaming and ignorant. He was the last person who you would expect to hold such thoughts. He was beloved by everybody in the community and was witty and friendly with everyone. People who use suicide as a form of manipulation are despicable.

  17. great1american1satan says

    don’t be a Krahulik and

    That doesn’t communicate what I meant quite right – can be read opposite. Take two, smaller sentences:
    A Krahulik was wrong.
    Some people tried to help him understand.
    Some people said hot-headed, rude things.
    Krahulik chose to let hotheads represent the opposing view in his feelings.
    Krahulik got to stay wrong, issue a notpology for his company, and look like a shit forever.

    Not that the situations are directly comparable, but hopefully informative.

  18. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    A Surprise to Many,

    Frank talk about suicidal ideation is fine.

    Thanks so much, whoeverthefuck you are! Now, if only Chris had actually written that, instead of implying that either talking to a couple of close friends or calling a helpline is genuine, and showing those nasty suicidal thoughts where more people could see them is just nasty and obviously manipulative.

    Because suicidal folks should obviously keep their shame to themselves if they don’t want to be accused of being manipulative. Right?

  19. A Surprise to Many says

    I did not read this post as Chris saying that discussion of suicidal ideation is a bad thing. What is a bad thing is “shut up or I’ll hurt myself,” and this happens all the time in both meatspace and online conversations.

    I have my own spiffy suicidal ideation, now almost 40 years old. I do not react well to self-harm threats in conversation and am far more of the “shall I drive you to the hospital” school than the coddling and stopping the conversation school. The former is how I learned to manage my impulses to harm myself. The latter kept me stuck for years.

  20. says

    Natasha, I saw Jen’s tweets. She and you both seem to have missed my inclusion at several points of the fact in the OP that I’ve been struggling with exactly this kind of debilitating, life-threatening depression for half a fucking century. But feel free to continue to cast me as the privileged neurotypical.

    great!american!satan, I am in fact listening. Thanks for the reminder. Despite my hotheaded and unfair reaction to Esteleth, I am thinking about what s/he said.

    And I concur with A Surprise to Many.

    Unclefrogy, you’re wrong. Sometimes it’s just wanting to have the pain end, after trying lots of other strategies that seem not to work.

  21. Muse says

    I guess, for me, the consequences of assuming that someone is just being manipulative, when they are in fact suicidal is a lot worse than the other way around. I would rather allow myself to be manipulated than not actually effectively deal with someone in crisis. And I dispute the choice that telling more than one person is manipulative and wrong. People talk about it in the Lounge. Yes, in someways it’s manipulative, but I’d rather they say something than keep silent.

    Yes, it’s an abuse tactic, but when used as an abuse tactic there is generally an implied or explicit demand. In poor Hugo’s case the demand is “be nice to me or I’ll hurt myself” in abuse cases it’s frequently “I’ll kill myself if you leave me.” In the cases of genuinely hurting people, I’ve never heard the implied or explicit demand, and that makes all the difference in the world.

  22. Matt Penfold says

    As someone who has suffered a number of episodes of severe depression, and who has not only had suicidal thoughts at times but has also attempted suicide, I have no problem with what Chris has said. I would like those of you telling Chris he is wrong to keep that in mind.

  23. Minnie The Finn, Fluffy Pink Bearer of Loose Morals says

    As a depressive with a history of suicidal ideation I can vouch that the ‘selfishness’ guilt piling is extremely irritating and offensive. Which is good for me (personally – I cannot speak for anyone else), in a really twisted way, because it makes me angry and as emotions go, anger is much more constructive than hopelessness.

    Mind, I have never publicly announced that I’m going to top myself off. When I do feel the urge, I pretty much cut off all communication with the outside world until I’m over it. I may talk about the issue after the fact, once I’ve moved to a better place. It is part of who I am and I do feel a need to tell my friends and close ones of this aspect of my mental makeup.

    I’m pretty much in total agreement with Chris on suicide threats as rhetorical strategy being despicable bullshit and emotional blackmail.

    Schwytzer’s decision to remove himself from public fora was a wise one. If he really does feel the need for self-harm, he most definitely needs to put some distance between him and what triggers him. On the other hand, if he’s engaging in emotional manipulation, then I guess everyone’s better off if he unplugs his Internet for the time being.

  24. A Surprise to Many says

    Everyone here had better stop arguing with me or I’ll hurt myself.

    Seriously, getting into arguments like this do actually make me want to hurt myself. I manage it. I step out of the conversation if it gets too bad. I talk with people. But I do not think I have the right to scream and shout that everyone has to be quiet and not challenge me because I’ll off myself if they don’t. I am not ashamed of my depression or suicidal ideation, but I am ashamed of the times when I used those to get my own way.

    Also, I would never say that people who killed themselves were cowardly or weak. I would say they had a disease that was unmanageable and made the decision that seemed best for them at the time, and that I had no right to judge their character because I did not know what they were experiencing at the moment of that extreme decision.

  25. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I think I would be a lot happier with this if your paragraph starting “Please note that I am not talking here about people who are honestly worried about their own thoughts of self-destruction…” had been your first paragraph, or a header.

    Here’s why:
    (1) An abuser who uses suicidal threats, or someone who doesn’t see that as an issue, can read the preceding 973 words and not feel anything at all.
    (2) A person who has lost someone to suicide can be offended/hurt by those preceding 973 words and then have to be (maybe?) soothed by that paragraph when they realize that you weren’t talking about the person they lost.
    (3) A person who has been suicidal can be triggered by the preceding 973 words (if they make it that far) receive that paragraph as potentially condescending, soothing, or whatever – but they were still triggered.
    (4) A person who is suicidal can read the preceding 973 words and say, “Well, I guess I am scum then, and the world would be better off without me,” and never get to that paragraph.

  26. says

    Esteleth:

    I think I would be a lot happier with this if your paragraph starting “Please note that I am not talking here about people who are honestly worried about their own thoughts of self-destruction…” had been your first paragraph, or a header.

    That is completely reasonable, and I’ve made an edit.

  27. Jacob Schmidt says

    But if the statements are made where more than one or two people can see them, in a NYMag article or on Facebook or Tumblr or LiveJournal, the safe bet is on “abusive manipulation.”

    So anyone who has said they feel suicidal in the Lounge is guilty of abuse? Is Jen McCreight guilty? I’ve talked about my own thoughts to a group of Five (Five! that’s three more than the max of two!) friends, and to a fair few other people. One time I used my own experience with depression to combat some stupid myths running around on Facebook. That’s like, public and everything. I must be guilty.

    Seriously, what the fuck? I’m willing to consider this just poor writing, but Jesus Christ on a stick.

    unclefroggy

    He She They You will be sorry when I’m dead!
    spoken out loud or not.

    [TW for suicide method]

    Heh. One of the things that kept me from suicide was the thought of someone being traumatized: either a parent, a friend, maybe rail road worker who would’ve found my headless body on the tracks, or maybe the maintenance worker to one of the local high rise appartment buildings.

    Perspective; you has none.

  28. alyosha says

    It’s a bit easier discerning motive in person, and suicidal persons can (sigh, like myself) have an educated preconceived notion of which threat is genuine and which contrived.
    There are a lot of emotional wheedlers out there amongst the MRA crowd (Im a guy myself) who’ve confided using the suicide ideation formula in order to win ladies over. It’s put me in a position where my first instinct is to mistrust their claims.
    Still, I’m going to disavow my earlier glib remark. I can’t make myself feel bad because it does feel like a contrivance but it’s best to err on the side of caution. At least for now.

  29. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Esteleth, you’re very right there. There are assholes who use bullshit “threats” (quotes because of the bullshitness of them) to hurt and manipulate others. And the way we talk to them can unfortunately also hurt people who are actually just for-real suicidal but are also pretty self-loathing because, you know, suicidality does that. And it is something that has to be taken into account. I’ve been abused via bullshit threats and also suicidal myself, and it’s unfortunately a messy as shit situation. It is interesting how often really terrible, toxic people who claim to be progressive will turn to the language of triggers and threats of suicide the way Hugo did when they’re called on their shit. Because appropriating the language of social justice is another tool for them, as it always has been for Hugo.

    unclefrogy: You’re being a complete and utter asshole to people who have been/are suicidal. Cut it out maybe?

    asurprise @ #15: YEP. All of this.

  30. Matt Penfold says

    So anyone who has said they feel suicidal in the Lounge is guilty of abuse?

    No. But since that is not what Chris said, why ask ?

    Since the rest of your comment was based upon your in ability to understand what Chris said, it does not need addressing.

  31. A. R says

    I’ve seen abusive threats of self harm used to end arguments in the abuser’s favour more times than I can count, and as someone who is badly triggered by suicide, these kinds of false threats hurt, even if I know they are false. In my experience (and I do have several years of experience in acute care and crisis care psychiatry), people with genuine suicidal ideation DO NOT spew it all over Facebook or a forum during an argument. Most of them either do not express it, or will express it to close friends. They will not however, in my experience, frequently say things like “this argument/the things you are saying in this argument are making me want to self harm.” Am I saying that any threat should be ignored? NO. I must emphasize the importance of ensuring that the individual in question is not actually going to self harm, because there are exceptions to every rule, and publicly calling someone out is not worth a life.

  32. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Matt,
    Both Jacob and I quoted Chris.

  33. alyosha says

    Oh, uncle frogy! For whom might a creature like yourself feel pity?
    No one asks for yours.

  34. sheelzebub says

    Wow, a lot of people here are missing the fucking point.

    I’ve been clinically depressed. I’ve been suicidal. I was also dealing with an emotionally abusive asshole who threatened self-harm, which, by the way, made my own mental state worse. There is a huge difference between someone who is suicidal and someone who is being a manipulative shitstain, and FTR, if you’re talking about how a marginalized group’s negative reaction to you made you want to harm yourself–or how a loved one’s hurt at your actions made you want to harm yourself–you ARE being manipulative. Holy fucking shit I cannot even.

    I am oh-so-glad some folks here are speaking up for the mentally ill. Kindly remember that among that number are people like me, who HAVE dealt with manipulative threats of self-harm, who HAVE been shamed for calling it that after the fact, who ARE triggered by it, and who are sick to fucking death of being erased in these conversations.

  35. Jacob Schmidt says

    No. But since that is not what Chris said, why ask?

    Because that’s how it comes across. Chris said it’s a safe bet to assume that someone discussing their own current suicidal thoughts in a public forum is merely manipulating. That’s a shitty fucking assumption.

    It says that they are a poor victim and implies that they are not capable of getting through what is happening to bring on these feelings when they are in fact capable with help get through it.

    There’s no overlap between manipulation and genuine ideation?

  36. The Mellow Monkey says

    A bit of background before I start rambling about my thoughts here:

    1) My father killed himself with a gunshot to the head when I was a young teen.
    2) I have suffered from depression and experienced suicidal ideation frequently, having actually attempted suicide once (a failed hanging).
    3) I cut off contact with a friend of mine whose favorite way to control me was via threats of self-harm and accusing me of being emotionally abusive by not being available to her or having romantic relationships.

    I did worry about how Chris worded some things here, because they made me feel terrible about ways I’ve tried to reach out and seek help during my darkest times. I needed those outlets. Yes, I wrote on Facebook about just how bad I was suffering recently, in a filtered post to trusted friends. I believe I’ve written about my suicidal ideation in the Lounge, too. My father didn’t tell anyone before he killed himself and I wish, desperately, that he had. Maybe it would have made a difference. Maybe if he’d lived in a time with Facebook, being able to fire off a quick “I’m scared I’m going to hurt myself; could someone come over?” would have saved his life.

    Finding the line between crying out for help versus, say, calling up your friend in the middle of the night and forcing xir to stay on the line with you because you claim to have taken a bunch of pills and refuse to say where you are so someone can come help you, is not all that gray. There are ways that threats of suicide can be used as abuse and manipulation. They are absolutely horrible. I feel justified in never speaking to that person again because of the absolute fucking agony she put me through.

    So, I think that outlets need to be available to people. I need to be able to reach out to someone even when I’m physically isolated and I don’t know who to call and maybe the Internet is the best thing I’ve got. I also think that people who manipulate and abuse and terrorize others with threats of self-harm are assholes and are not only causing direct pain to those around them, but are making things far worse for others who may self-harm.

    The problem is that sometimes the people who are manipulating and abusing really are suicidal. They really are in pain. My friend really did take those pills. Just because someone is actually suffering doesn’t mean they have a right to harm others. It’s not the public declaration of suicidal ideation that’s the problem. There’s no need to suss out who’s really suicidal and who isn’t. The focus should simply and always be on harm. If someone is harming you–silencing you, threatening you into staying in a relationship, trying to isolate you from others, keeping you emotionally subservient, etc–you have a responsibility to yourself to walk away from the situation. Direct them to outside help, to other people to talk to. Be sympathetic, sure, but if staying in the situation is causing you harm, leave.

    And had I realized that as a teenager, I could have saved myself fourteen years of emotional abuse.

  37. says

    Chris said it’s a safe bet to assume that someone discussing their own current suicidal thoughts in a public forum is merely manipulating. That’s a shitty fucking assumption.

    Actually, there was a bit of imprecise language I used that I think is causing some of these different readings.

    Here’s what I wrote:

    But if the statements are made where more than one or two people can see them

    Here’s what I should have written to reflect my intent more closely:

    But if threats of self-harm are made where more than one or two people can see them

    That may or may not answer anyone’s concerns, but it is what I actually meant.

  38. Johnny Oizys says

    That suicide is selfish/weak meme pisses me off to no end too. People who subscribe to that idea have no fucking idea how intensely unbearable psychological pain can be.

    I have only experienced it for short periods of time myself, but certainly long enough to understand why some people self-harm or attempt suicide to try to escape the feeling. Worst thing I’ve ever felt, no physical injury comes close.

  39. says

    Mellow Monkey:

    It’s not the public declaration of suicidal ideation that’s the problem. There’s no need to suss out who’s really suicidal and who isn’t. The focus should simply and always be on harm. If someone is harming you–silencing you, threatening you into staying in a relationship, trying to isolate you from others, keeping you emotionally subservient, etc–you have a responsibility to yourself to walk away from the situation. Direct them to outside help, to other people to talk to. Be sympathetic, sure, but if staying in the situation is causing you harm, leave.

    And that’s what I wish I’d written. Thank you.

  40. Matt Penfold says

    Matt,
    Both Jacob and I quoted Chris.

    And Jacob clearly did not understand what he was quoting. I cannot see anything from you pointing that out, which is odd I think. Don’t you, in hindsight, think you would have been better pointing out to Jacob his misunderstanding ?

  41. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I’m going to disagree that there is a quantifiable difference between saying in a phone call/email/PM/face-to-face to a small number of people, “I’m afraid I will hurt myself, please help” and posting the same in the Lounge.

    In fact, I’d argue that (if your goal is to prevent someone from suiciding) the latter is preferable. Would you rather check your voice mail after a long time of being without signal to receive such a message and then frantically call back, hoping against hope, or load the Lounge, see the message, and know that several hundred people have seen it, and see a string of comments confirming that?

    A demand that the audience be kept limited quickly turns into a demand that the person who is seeking help not make a fuss because fusses are messy and distracting. Which, okay, they are – but that isn’t the damn point.

  42. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Matt,

    I read it the same way Jacob did. Chris wrote that sentence following a paragraph talking about “genuine” suicidal talk. It was implying that all that kind of talk, and not just threats were manipulative.

  43. says

    It’s time for people to start calling rhetorical suicide references out as the abusive crap they are.

    And if you come up with a magical 100%-effective way to tell the one from the other, I’ll agree. Until then I’d rather err on the side of assuming they’re genuine.

  44. Matt Penfold says

    I read it the same way Jacob did. Chris wrote that sentence following a paragraph talking about “genuine” suicidal talk. It was implying that all that kind of talk, and not just threats were manipulative.

    Fine. My comprehension is clearly different from your. However, Jacob has not offered a retraction has he ? Despite Chris having clarified what he meant.

  45. doubtthat says

    @37 sheelzebub

    I doubt for a moment that a subset of people expressing suicidal thoughts are doing so to manipulate those around them. The problem is determining which are legitimate and which are manipulative, especially from a distance. Engaging in that activity seems destined for unfortunate outcomes.

    Muse @23 pointed out that the consequences on erring on the side of assuming suicidal statements are legitimate are less than the reverse. I would say that’s 100% true for those of use diagnosing the problem by reading an interview, but living with a person engaging in that sort of manipulation, especially for children, can be deeply destructive.

    It’s also really difficult to prove as it’s a form of gaslighting–the abused party subject to that manipulation can become convinced that the abuser is the one who is actually suffering and experience deep guilt. I’ve come across several such abusers in child in need of care cases, and that sort of abuse is much more difficult to expose, in large part because there is a natural instinct to assist those who appear to be suffering, and manipulative abusers are experts at playing on that reaction.

    So, I’m not certain the “err on the side of caution” argument works, though it may be a good approach for mass media, macro level discussions.

    This is a troubling case, to be sure. I think it may be best to just deal with the arguments Schwyzer made and stay away from the suicide issue, but that has its own problems.

  46. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Matt,

    What he meant means shit, since he didn’t actually write what he meant.

    ——
    Thanks to Mellow Monkey.

  47. A. R says

    Jacob needs to apologize right fucking now. his little “Trigger Warning” was anything but. Only two lines between the warning and are serious fucking trigger? Absolute motherfucking bullshit.

  48. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Natasha,
    I live with depression. I know what it is to live with suicidal ideation. I also completely understand what is being said in the post and do not find it remotely unsympathetic to people with chronic depression. Threats of suicide are commonly used by abusers to control the target of their abuse. The person being discussed is a slime and nothing about his past behavior makes him credible.

  49. says

    Chris my deepest sympathy on having to deal with that level of depression, it sucks. Mellow Monkey’s way of saying it is much better, if you had framed it that way I wouldn’t have seen red. One person’s claim of abuse by suicide threat can be another person’s very real suicidal depression. You OP came off as dismissing any public discussion of being suicidal as mere attention grabbing or some form of abuse. Not your best piece of writing I’m afraid.

  50. Danielle Paradis says

    I really can’t believe you wrote this. Talk about kicking a man while he is down. Do you have any training in writing about suicide or mental illness? Because maybe if you did you would take time to realise what you are doing.

    Firstly, he did not threaten to commit suicide in the NY article he was pretty clear he had just gotten out of the hospital where he had been on suicide watch. He did not say I am going to commit suicide because of X. This is a horribly sloppy way of writing about someone’s pain and suffering.

    Yeah that article is a fucking mess and he should not have done it.

    Do you have a magical way of distinguishing a threat from a serious attempt? People also self-harm as a cry for help. You do not know the details of his situation. Considering the high suicide rate of men in the same age group AND mental illness exacerbating this I think you need to stop spreading vitriol that makes it harder for men to get help (because oh look now we can call them bullshit abusers). It’s not that different from questioning if a girl was “really” raped.

  51. says

    Jackie, I completely agree the person being discussed is a complete waste of protoplasm. See my last post for why I got so mad.

  52. Matt Penfold says

    What he meant means shit, since he didn’t actually write what he meant.

    Chris has clarified what he meant, for those who were unable to understand what he meant originally. It is not actually true that he did not write what he meant, since I understood him with no problem. You might want to stop and consider whether your comprehension is the problem. Jacob as well.

  53. unclefrogy says

    I am reluctant to talk about my own personal experiences on-line in open forums. There are other places that are better suited for such talk besides the fact that I am often misunderstood on-line and in person that being said I will offer more even though no one seems to have understood what so far.

    If anyone has changed their mind about self-destruction because of the thoughts of how that would effect others they have thoughts the thoughts first. Which is what I said. I have been their and I did not make grandstand statements but the frustration and resentment and anger was overwhelming me. The last thing I wanted was pity I had enough myself to last a life time. I needed to understand that I was some body, that I could get through this, that I am worth it, regardless of how things are going now. I needed to accept myself and the limitations that implied I needed the acceptance of others that I could get through it. I needed the courage to live just one day at a time. I had to reach out for help and not some worthless pity.
    Self pity was destroying me already.
    uncle frogy

  54. says

    Matt,

    What he meant means shit, since he didn’t actually write what he meant.

    This was the comment that did it. For that, Beatrice, I thank you. There’s lots of talk here about needing to remove yourself from toxic situations, and it’s been a long time dawning on me that writing here qualifies for me.

    Let’s be careful about what we say that might adversely affect severely depressed people, unless that severely depressed person happens to have written a post. Because he’s not a real person. He’s some fucking television show you can all fucking yell at.

    I’m out.

  55. Matt Penfold says

    Jacob needs to apologize right fucking now. his little “Trigger Warning” was anything but. Only two lines between the warning and are serious fucking trigger? Absolute motherfucking bullshit.

    I noticed that as well. Glad you spoke up AR, And yeah, it was a bullshit warning.

  56. says

    Chris my deepest sympathy on having to deal with that level of depression, it sucks. Mellow Monkey’s way of saying it is much better, if you had framed it that way I wouldn’t have seen red. One person’s claim of abuse by suicide threat can be another person’s very real suicidal depression. You OP came off as dismissing any public discussion of being suicidal as mere attention grabbing or some form of abuse. Not your best piece of writing I’m afraid.

    Thank you sincerely for this, Natasha.