Friday, 1 May 2015


Melanie Shaw is bravely speaking out about her suicide attempt. Source:
It's so fantastic and encouraging for people like Melanie Shaw to be speaking out about their experiences and then get published on mainstream news websites! Borat-style high fives all round!!!

I'll try and shock you with some numbers. Something like twice as many people are victims of suicide than currently die on the roads in Australia. And if my source (and memory) is correct, roughly 7 people are suicide victims every day on average in Australia. Every day you consume the news, there could be a story about another tragedy of someone taking their own life. And there could be many more uplifting stories like Melanie's too where they have come through the other side. The survival stories fit perfectly into the triumph-over-adversity narrative template that we are all completely addicted to (think Rocky rather than Million Dollar Baby as an example). I realise that the footage for many of these stories would not be anywhere near as good tragedy-porn as a fire or a multi-car pile up or a story about Gina Reinhart, but even Nick Xenophon manages to make himself news worthy.

We need to talk about it way more. I know it's so incredibly painful that our natural reaction is denial (it would never happen to someone like me) or good old victim-blaming (if they were so desperate to end their life, then... I won't even say it because this kind of thinking is so abhorrent). My understanding is that it can happen to anyone (yes, even you!) and many suicides are impulse decisions; contrary to popular belief. And victim blaming doesn't help with domestic violence so why should suicide be any different? The vast majority of suicide victims don't really 'choose' to end their lives in the same way as you choose which shade of Oompa Loompa orange you want your spray-tan to be.

Are we still concerned that talking about it more will encourage those that are fixated on suicide ideation to take the next possibly fatal step? Considering how isolating suicide typically is, how could talking about it more be worse than keeping it a secret? I really wish that we were at a point now that if any of my family and friends were feeling this way, they would get professional help, but we've got a way to go. I'm feeling queasy just writing this so I can understand why for many, it's the last thing that they want to think about; until it happens to them and they are desperate to get help.
If you want to experience how it might feel to have choice and free will taken away from you, first do any crappy IQ test online and don't feel bad if you score 70. (My favourite comedian, Karl Pilkington, got about the same score and he is now so rich that he can afford as much grouting and adhesive and as many pikelets and congress tarts that a person could need for 100 lifetimes.) Then get drunk enough that you'll end up with the worst hangover you've ever had. Then get your mates to wake you up at sunrise, then it's time to take the test again, except this time your mates will all yell the questions at you. Will you be able to get the same score as before? If not, why not? Surely you can 'choose' to buck yourself up and score even better than before! No? Actually, thinking about it some more, you could do this experiment with extreme sleep deprivation rather than binge drinking if you want to be responsible.

The latest science on free will suggests that it can take up to 7 seconds between your brain unconsciously making a decision and you becoming consciously aware. While I'm still skeptical and am pretty sure that there will be lots of new revelations in this field, if I were to speculate, then if the final step in your method of choice to take your life takes less than 7 seconds, then your conscious mind hasn't even had a chance to show up to their son's Corey Worthington-style party and kick every spoilt dipsh*t out. If someone says that for the brief time that it took, they felt they had no control over their actions, there is some science to back this up.

It may be that some recommendations may come out by mental health professionals with practical tips for greatly reducing the chance of the worst happening to you or your loved ones. I'd be guessing that this could include recommendations like not walking over high bridges, not driving by yourself, and not having guns in the house. But don't take anything I say as professional advice because I don't know shit. Go and see someone who knows what they're actually talking about!
To end on a brighter note with a conclusion that has little to do with the rest of the article, ISIS are a terrible doomsday cult, sure, but how many Australians have been killed by ISIS this year? And Jaws is a great movie and all, but sharks only kill somewhere between 1 and 4 people a year in Australia, so should we really be so afraid that the media feels the need to report on every shark attack, even where there have been no injuries! I'm not saying that we can only care about one issue at a time, but can we possibly be a bit more balanced and actually dish out news with at least a hint of proportionality to risk and relevance to the public?
What about an IS laser shark?
It seems to be the done thing to put numbers at the end of these kinds of musings, so I'll copy from the linked article. Should we also do the same for lots of other stories where it might encourage victims, and perhaps even perpetrators, to get help? "If you would like to speak to someone about depression or mental health call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit the Headspace website."

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