Suicide, stigma and social media

A US sports analyst chartered his decision to commit suicide.

He didn’t have any of the usual reasons people commit suicide: ill-health, losing autonomy, etc; it was made rationally (as rationally as is possible in such circumstances), on his 60th birthday, and done to prevent any chance of deterioration.

After reading about, I recognised how it touched on a number of themes relating to social media, the way we document our lives, the way some have documented their deaths and what this could mean for reducing suicide and its stigma.

I examined it more in the Guardian.

(Comments are closed on it, unfortunately.)




  1. kellyw. says

    Don’t care if people dogpile on me for this, but I gotta speak. This comes from a place of hurt.

    I read Martin Manley’s site and screamed at him, a dead man. I was really yelling at myself. I recognized the same BS rationalizations for wanting to kill myself in his writings. I don’t know if he had the beginnings of dementia and/or depression. I have depression. I could have written almost the same. That could be me. It scares me that most of the discussion on suicide in atheist/skeptic spaces is for the affirmative (I’m only talking about mental illness, not terminal other illness). When I open up to someone about my thoughts, the last thing I need is for the person I’m confiding in to give the stamp of approval to go ahead and kill myself. My life is valuable. Enough people want me dead anyways. Years of hearing about “people like me” (gay, fat, mental illness)….I refuse to agree with them that I have no worth. The radical thing for me to do is keep living.

    Life is hard. Depression is horrible. It’s makes everything more difficult to do. I’m backsliding again. I’m one of the “lucky” ones who is on medication and in talk therapy (when it works, it’s great. It’s back to not working AGAIN). There are millions who can’t afford it, there is social stigma to admitting a problem and getting help for it, PLUS most therapists are white, cis, straight, and come from a middle class background, and that is a huge barrier to getting help. I don’t know what the solutions are. I’m pissed that the mental health professionals community isn’t doing enough. I’m pissed that there is no where for me to talk about ME without getting dumped on from all sides. I wish the skeptical community would be half as outraged as I am for the lack of options for all people from all backgrounds in getting help for mental illness. I do not want suicide on the table as an option, damnit, I need real help. So do many others. How much longer do I wait? How much more can I take?

    • Tauriq Moosa says

      You’ll see my piece doesn’t advocate suicide as the default or first option; in fact, precisely the opposite. I don’t attempt to justify Manley’s arguments – it’s to undermine stigma so we can talk about suicide properly.

      • kellyw. says

        I don’t have any control over whether or not a person decides to live or not. The issue is lack of available and quality treatment for those with mental illness. Society can do better.

        • says

          Yes, society can (and damn well should) do better, I’ll not argue that point.

          But that doesn’t negate the fact that each individual person should absolutely have the right to determine when and (within reason*) how they end their lives. To deny even one person that right, even in the name of “treating mental illness”, is a bloody crime.

          This is not saying that the mentally ill should not be treated, just that we have the same right to bodily autonomy as everyone else.

          As for me, I fully plan on controlling my death, because the one thing I do not want is to be kept alive beyond my ability to enjoy life.

          I want to make my exit with some dignity and grace.

          And then leave my body to science.

          *Like, if someone’s death plan involves “taking others with me”, or unreasonably places others in danger of injury or death, that’s a no-go.

          • kellyw. says

            Again, I have no control over whether or not a person suicides. What I’m outraged about is the absolute apathy towards available and quality treatment. The skeptical community cares more about the discussion of bodily autonomy when the topic of suicide comes up AND doesn’t say “Woah, why are so many people killing themselves?” and that’s a problem. I already know I can kill myself at any time, at any place and in any fashion, but that does nothing at all to treat my illness. I have to wonder if the reason why the skeptical community isn’t more upset about the deaths has to do with status quo ableism, you know, the mentally ill being a burden on society and whatnot.

  2. says

    I feel like there are many orders of magnitude over which one might consider this issue.

    On the most basic, encapsulated level… this act violated all kinds of social norms and expectations.

    Looking at it through a larger lens, it was something intensely person to him, and clearly considered in depth.

    Zooming out, it was probably a bit inconsiderate to those who cared about him. Or… maybe it wasn’t. No one will have to take care of him in his old age.

    Zooming out further, it was a creative way to leave a legacy, educate folks on suicide stigma, and how to take control of our destinies.

    Zooming out even more… ultimately he, singularly him, holds the responsibility for whether he takes control of his fate or cedes it to society or the natural process of decay.

    I cannot criticize this decision. I cannot capitulate that this decision should be anyone but his. To do so would be to hand over that decision (where my own life is concerned) to others, and I won’t do that. And I think he was quite generous to detail the thought processes that led him to it. He didn’t have to do that. That was a gift from him to us.

  3. Joe G. says

    I’m with kellyw on this one. When I read the logic/reasoning regarding suicide by some skeptics, it comes across to me as naive, idealistic, and even blase (ya know, like choosing a pair of socks to wear in the morning).