Keeping the Balance Balanced

Yes, True is sometimes a touch raw. Usually it works out fine — it’s balanced well between tragedy (like a school committing a grievous Zero-Tolerance punishment on a truly innocent kid) and comedy. But now and then, after I’ve written an issue, something comes up that tilts the balance, and the result is awkwardly off-kilter.

Such is what happened last week: the lead story (below) happened to be about a guy who was caught after doing something incredibly stupid, and in response he committed suicide. That almost certainly would have been an OK lead story with most people, except that then the Virginia Tech carnage happened. Being on the road didn’t help; I was speaking at a conference, and was putting the issue together in the hospitality suite, begging my hosts for “a few more minutes” so I could quickly dash off an editorial on the subject to include in the issue before we headed to dinner.

Here’s the story, from the 15 April 2007 issue:

There He Goes, Shooting His Mouth Off Again

Joseph Kopera, 61, head of Maryland State Police’s firearms unit, was often called on to give expert testimony in court cases. To establish his credentials for the jury, he would rattle off the list of his college degrees. “He’s one of the most compelling experts I’ve seen in a courtroom,” said defense attorney Roland Walker, who has worked on at least 50 cases Kopera was involved in. There’s only one minor problem: Kopera’s college degrees were made up, according to investigators from The Innocence Project, which works to free people who are wrongly convicted of crimes. In fact, Kopera had no college degrees at all, and was only a high school graduate. Once confronted with this fact, Kopera immediately retired from his 37-year career and went home — where he killed himself with a gunshot to the head. (Baltimore Sun) …That’s one way to show he had some level of expertise.

Richard in Louisiana was one who wrote last week. He said:

God knows I’m never accused of hypersensitivity, and I can find something to laugh at in almost any set of circumstances. I nevertheless find it necessary to tell you that I wish you had not included the opening story about the suicide in [last] week’s edition. Do I think he was wrong to lie about his degrees? Of course. Do I think he should have shut down his career? Arguable, but probably. Do I think he over-reacted? Yes. But speaking as an individual with a lifelong history of clinical depression, I can understand his response. And, frankly, anyone who cared about him as a person (wife, child, parent, sibling or friend) would be rightly appalled to see him as the subject of a ‘This Is True’ story.

The Point is Still Valid

It’s probably impossible for Richard (let alone me) to say whether or not the story would have passed his muster during a normal week, but I would think about half the subjects of my articles (or their families) would be a bit appalled to see themselves the subject of a This is True story.

What’s the point of including that particular story? To get people to think.

But let me be more specific: I find it constructive to ridicule suicide since it is, in fact, a ridiculous way to escape what are often fairly petty problems, rather than facing up to them and helping to clean up the mess they’re in (or caused).

The subject of last week’s lead story is a good example: he created a huge legal and political mess, but he would have survived the scandal. Yet he took an “easy” way out and left the problem for others to deal with without his help. That’s not a reasonable solution — and I don’t think anyone would disagree, even if you can understand his impulse.

It Really Is a Scandal

Pter in New Zealand puts his finger on it even more specifically:

The worst thing is that he has now opened the way for every case he ever acted as an expert witness for to be trashed, possible compensation lawsuits, etc. Letting criminals out on technicalities, costing the country dollars and misery. Just because he thought his years of experience in the field wouldn’t weigh as well with a jury as a list of degrees. Idiot.

Exactly. People caught in such a situation often don’t think very clearly. Kopera, having been at hundreds of shootings, knew exactly what he was doing; he knew more than just about anyone what sort of scene he was leaving behind.

And he surely weighed a number of factors before making his decision. If he could have weighed in criticism for his actions, might he made a different choice? Yes — he might have. And frankly, I think it’s worth it to criticize him, even mockingly, so that others might think a bit more clearly when considering such a choice.

Saying “Awww, that’s really too bad. I can sure understand why he did it” may sound like a nice thing to say, but it validates and thus encourages suicide. And I just will not do that. I’d rather be on the side of depreciating such a choice, maybe prompting those in a pickle to take another look at their options, and maybe make a different decision.

Indeed hundreds of prior shooting cases are going to have to be reexamined and many court cases retried to clean it all up. An expert without expertise? Likely many are in prison unjustly based on his testimony.

Meanwhile, yes: I will always think about it when I write such a story, just as I did this time. I thought you’d find my thoughts behind including this particular story useful.

11 August 2014 Update

There was a “weird suicide” story in this week’s issue, and minutes after sending out the Premium edition with that story, plus an editorial that pointed to this page, there were news flashes that comedian Robin Williams had committed suicide at age 63.

The irony of timing was palpable, especially considering that this page exists because of an irony of timing.

– – –

Bad link? Broken image? Other problem on this page? Use the Help button lower right, and thanks.

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51 Comments on “Keeping the Balance Balanced

  1. Randy, I have to disagree with you when you say, about suicide, “it is, in fact, a ridiculous way to escape what are often fairly petty problems, rather than facing up to them and helping to clean up the mess they’re in (or caused).”

    Without knowing the person or having walked in their shoes, you can’t begin to know how petty their problems are. Maybe the one “petty” problem was the final straw in a long parade of “petty” problems and the pressure just became too much. I personally can’t imagine the amount of pain it would take for someone to want to end their life, but clearly suicide is a viable out for lots of people.

    I had a neighbor who committed suicide years ago. She had a disabling disease that was slowly killing her. Her kids were grown, her husband had left her, and in her opinion she had nothing left to live for. She carefully crafted her suicide so there was no chance of being revived, yet making it “easy” on the people who found her remains. It was the right solution for her. And her problem wasn’t “petty”.

    I have no problem with the story you ran, and think your editorial about it was nicely done. These are all issues that need to be discussed and aired. Despite the tragedy that happened last week in Virginia, this was an important story to publish. Thanks for having the courage of your convictions to keep it in your lineup.

    I appreciate your feedback. Yes, I could have opened another huge can of worms by saying that sometimes suicide is a reasonable option, and I definitely defend every individual’s right to choose that path. But that’s a different discussion for (probably) a different forum…. -rc

  2. I have been a premium subscriber for the past few years, and have always valued True as one of the few pubilcations I know I can believe. You have always made sense to me. Even when I did not agree with your point of view, I could see it and understand it from your words (a gift the lord has blessed you with, to be sure). Until tonight, always entertaining and thought provoking… but never potentially life saving.

    In the past year my life has seen more than a few problems. All of my own causing, I am sure, but painful nonetheless.

    In the past couple of weeks, ending my life by my own design started becoming a recurring thought process. I had never thought of it before, but after 50 some years it started to become an option that I found a strange peace in pondering. I was raised to believe it is “wrong”, and even when thinking about it I knew it was a copout… but the bottle of pain meds from surgery a year or so ago really started to look like a way out of the pain.

    The debate went on in my head daily for the past couple of weeks. Then I read:

    “I find it constructive to ridicule suicide since it is, in fact, a ridiculous way to escape what are often fairly petty problems, rather than facing up to them and helping to clean up the mess they’re in (or caused).”

    Thanks for that. You tipped the scales of reason and what is right in my head, and I read it at the exact moment I needed to read it. Reason is once again overtaking fear, and solutions to the problems seem to just appear as I look for them.

    I am glad to have been there for you at the right time. You sound intelligent and thoughtful, which is half the battle in getting past problems. You might see if you can find a good counselor to help you think things through, and do the other half of the battle to really get past things. I’ve been there, and understand it. Take care, and let me know how it goes. -rc

  3. I have severe Post Traumatic Stress Disordeer, to the point that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder). I am in therapy and it is very rough going at times. I have been having a lot or problems lately coming to terms with the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.

    I mention this because I have a lifelong history of chronic and acute depression and have considered suicide many times and have made attempts a couple of times. Fortunately, they didn’t succeed.

    This past week was especially rough and on Wednesday I felt like I couldn’t go on. I can’t help but wonder if reading this particular story was in the back of my mind when I made myself sit down at my table and calm down and realize that I could go on, that killing myself wasn’t the answer. I did not want to go to the crisis unit because it’s awful there. I think GOOHF cards should be handed out at the door there because the place is so horrific. However, it is a safe place, I guess, just not where I want to be. The alternative isn’t any better, I don’t think.

    I don’t know why exactly I just made myself sit down and just sit and allow myself to calm down, but I did. I suspect that reading that story reminded me that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I was able to remind myself that I had gotten though things much worse and survived. I have several medical conditions, one of which is eventually fatal, though hopefully not for a long time. My life isn’t easy right now. But I have hope that it will get better so long as I don’t end it.

    Unfortunately, I can understand why people do resort to suicide. I think that deep down I know it’s not the answer for me. I feel that reading that story reminded me that it’s not, that this too shall pass. And it did. I’ve not had the best of weeks, but I’m getting through it. I’m a survivor. And quite frankly, I won’t let what my parents did to me allow me to give up. I won’t let them win.

    I am always deeply saddend when someone commits suicide. I can, however, understand the pain that can drive you to it. I am one of the lucky ones, for which I am extremely grateful. Please keep sending the message that suicide isn’t the way out.

    Thank you.

    Nothing is more powerful than hearing from someone who has lived it. I am truly glad to hear that the story helped you in the way that I hoped when I wrote it. And your story just drove it home for others, so thank you, Cathy. -rc

  4. Yes, Randy, suicide in general is a ridiculous solution to life’s problems. However, it doesn’t seem ridiculous to the person who is suicidal. Having experienced severe depression (and survived two nearly fatal suicide attempts) over 10 years ago, I can definitely say that suicide always makes sense to the suicidal person. It’s usually true that the problems being “escaped from” are petty, if in fact existent. Usually the person who is depressed enough to attempt suicide is simply too irrational to see beyond being able to escape their pain.

    One of the symptoms of severe depression is irrational thinking. Depression isn’t just “feeling blue” – it’s a serious disease that affects one’s thinking. I doubt the guy in the story just thought suicide was the easy way out – this action is a sign of a disturbed individual who needs help.

    Of COURSE, suicide should not be encouraged. Is it an easy way out? Definitely not. It is a very hard decision for a person who is not thinking correctly. I don’t think that saying “Awww, that’s really too bad. I can sure understand why he did it” is a reasonable response to suicide. Neither is making fun of it. If I were in your place, I would not have printed the story.

    I know that it doesn’t seem ridiculous to the person thinking it — that’s the whole point! I’m showing them that disinterested outsiders have a different opinion. As the two letters before yours show, printing the story made them realize that. Had I not printed the story, they may have made a different decision. The story shocked them into clearer thought. I certainly didn’t expect vindication that dramatic, or that quickly, but I think you’re wrong, and I’m glad those two people — and probably others who didn’t write — understood the concept so well. -rc

  5. I didn’t like what you had to say about suicide – until I remembered my own history. I truly wanted to believe that I could kill myself and that my death would slide under the radar, harming no one because no one cared.

    Then I went to my 10th high school reunion. Two classmates had died. One was killed riding his motorcycle. People talked about him, shared memories of him and drank a toast to him. The other blew his brains out with a shotgun. To this day, I cannot remember who he was – I just know that as soon as his named was mentioned – even people who had barely known him registered such shock and pain on their faces, the matter was quickly dropped. I remembered thinking that I was glad I wasn’t the cause of that pain and from that point on, I knew that no suicide happens in a vacuum.

    All of society is changed, and not for the better, when a person kills themselves.

  6. I know several people who have been directly affected by suicide. In every case, the families and loved ones of the person who committed suicide are deeply wounded. Both adults and children involved blame themselves for either causing, or at least not being able to stop, the suicide, and are often emotionally troubled for years.

    Also, in all the cases I’ve known, the financial situation of those left behind has been a mess. Suicide seems like a cowardly and selfish way to stop one’s troubles. Many years ago, I struggled with such thoughts myself, but am so thankful I never acted on impulse. Life can, and often does, take a turn for the better, if we have patience, perseverance and faith. A wonderful speaker on this very subject is Ron Heagy.

  7. There have been times through my life where circumstances have become unbearable and thoughts of suicide seemed to be the only way out. And worse, I’ve been in war zones many times both as military person and as a civilian. To this day I don’t understand the Powers that decided I should live while others have died for much less. Not the point, other than dying is something that hasn’t worried me for many years. My choice against suicide has nothing to do with fear.

    Here’s what I think when contemplating suicide: My problems will be gone and I won’t have to worry about them. Also, all the people around me will realize that I was facing hardships worse than they understood and they’ll feel bad that they didn’t help me more or be more understanding.

    Here’s what my co-workers and bosses would have thought: What an ass, good riddance to him. We all have problems, his were no more important.

    Here’s what my friends and neighbors would have thought: Really? What a shame. Sad to see him go. By the way, is everyone else still on for that party this weekend?

    Here’s what my wife, my kids, and my parents would have thought: What a coward! He thought so LITTLE of us that he went and left, forever. Seriously! What would be my reaction if my wife committed suicide? That she hated me so much that death was preferable to a divorce? What a scumbag I must be in her eyes!

    Oh, and those problems that I needed so badly to escape? They’re still there. But without me to target, they’ll now start going to find my family, instead, and give them grief, without me to protect them. And those who didn’t really know much about you, they’ll be more than happy to dig up whatever dirt to trash what little remnants of your dignity were left.

    For those who’ve taken counseling to overcome their problems, that is a positive step. I applaud you for your efforts. But for those who hold onto those problems as some kind of ‘badge’, you’re just using it as a crutch to justify your own pity party.

    There was a movie years ago, with Angie Dickinson, originally called The Suicide’s Wife. I think they changed the title. In any case, for those who think there is anything ‘honorable’ about suicide, please find and watch that movie.

    And it’s good that someone like Randy has the courage to ignore Political Correctness and ridicule the concept of suicide for the sniveling coward’s way out that it is.

    I didn’t find that movie on Amazon (it was a made-for-TV flick), but IMDB has an info page about it. Looks like the title didn’t change. -rc

  8. I know you’ve heard as much as you can stand about this and as an EMT, you’ve seen all the consequences of the idiotic choice of suicide. But let me add my $0.02 as one who has lost close friends to suicide and as a fellow First Responder with his county’s rescue squad.

    You characterized suicide as the easy way out and a ridiculous way to escape. Your critic questions your compassion because yes, profoundly depressed people kill themselves to end the torment of the crushing feelings of despair and worthlessness.

    Still, suicide is also a profoundly selfish act, done by people who cannot appreciate the void they will create for those who care for them. For those who can, it is often those who are angry over the way they have been treated and know precisely the hurt they will cause. Even in the case of those who kill themselves to escape shame and humiliation of their own making, suicide is the one last act of getting even with their perceived adversaries (Ahab: with my dying breath, I spit at thee.)

    Selfish, selfish, selfish.

    The reason I put “easy” in quotes in my original essay (the guy in the story “took an ‘easy’ way out”) was to acknowledge that I know there are often a lot of factors involved. Perhaps it was too subtle for my “critic”, but no matter how complex the situation is, or even how “justified” it is, it all boils down to one thing: the person is dead, and usually left a lot of people behind.

    Indeed I’ve seen some ugly scenes, including a guy who (like in the story) shot himself in the head to get out of what he perceived as trouble (I was the medic on the scene). Why? Because he was getting a divorce, and that was apparently the best way he came up with to get back at his wife. He couldn’t deal with divorce? Well, she has to — that, and his death. It didn’t matter to me whose “fault” the divorce was, all I could think was, “What a loser.” In other words, it instantly became his fault, no matter what the actual facts were, didn’t it?! -rc

  9. Point of clarification: my objection to the story was not based on its having been published, and I shouldn’t have made that statement. The problem was that This is True is perceived as a vehicle of satire and irony and I still find nothing humorous about the story. Suicide is, as many posters have said, ultimately a selfish act; I would go farther and say that it is a prime example of hubris.

    There is no doubt that suicide should be decried, and Mr. Kopera’s story (and the responses on this blog) do an excellent job of that. It’s the association with humor that I find disturbing, and I should have made that distinction in my initial response.

    True’s web site has made it clear from the start that not all stories are meant to be humorous: “Each story ends with commentary by Randy — a tagline which is humorous, ironic or opinionated.” With luck, I get a combination of the three, but that’s definitely not the goal with every story. My work’s purpose is to entertain and provoke thought. While I suppose some people found the story amusing at some level, I’m sure most readers realized its true purpose was to provoke thought. -rc

  10. My father committed suicide when I was 4 and my brothers 2 and 9 months. There have been times when I thought I could just take the easy way out as he did. But then I think about what a coward he was and realize that I can’t do to my family what he did to his.

    Humorous no. Ironic? Indeed.

  11. I don’t object to your original story. Your black humor is part of True, and part of getting people to think about difficult issues. I’m very glad that your comments helped the two people who wrote in to say they had stepped back from the suicide choice. It shows the difference that sometimes comes from the things we say.

    Since words can have an impact, I’d like to suggest deeper consideration of the choices we make in discussing suicide. While different people will react differently, I’m ready to bet that expressing sympathy, compassion and understanding will help a lot more often than it hurts. In contrast, I believe that labeling people as idiots, scumbags, selfish, sniveling, and cowards is quite likely to increase suicide risk. A person contemplating suicide already feels bad. They usually feel rejected and criticized by those around them. Odds are that insulting them, and making them feel worse, will make suicide more likely.

    The terms “selfish” and “coward” come up often in these discussions, frequently with quite a lot of vehemence. My guess is that using these terms serves some emotional need for the people posting. Perhaps it helps those doing the criticizing to feel better. Insults are likely to have a negative effect on many of the irrational, tormented, alienated and depressed individuals who hear such words.

    We can never know what effect the words we speak or write will have on the various individuals who may hear or read them. In the face of this uncertainty, expressing caring, empathy and understanding is a good default approach.

    I agree with your premise — that we should think about the words we use. But at the same time, I really don’t want to second-guess the man who had to grow up without his father, who killed himself rather than see (and help) his children grow up. I have no idea what his reasons may have been. His son chooses to label him “coward”; he’s in a better position to judge than I am. -rc

  12. Pter misses at least a little bit of the point when he says “letting criminals out on technicalities”: It’s entirely possible that a “firearms expert” who was willing to lie on the stand about his education also lied about the results of tests, or created his opinions from whole cloth. Therefore it’s possible some of the “criminals” in prison as a result of Kopera’s testimony may actually be innocent. That’s why the Innocence Project got involved, and it wouldn’t be the first time innocent people were sent to jail on the basis of “expert” testimony from individuals who lacked either the proper qualifications or objectivity (Google “Texas crime lab” for more).

    Suicide is a terrible cop-out, I agree, but if I knew that there was a possibility I’d spent part of my career helping to put innocent people in jail, I’m not sure I could live with myself, either.

    They are here: Innocence Project . -rc

  13. I have to agree with you on the suicide issue. It does seem to be a ridiculous way to cope with problems that would actually been solvable without being the end of the rule. There are exceptions to that – I had a friend commit suicide a year ago who had battled extreme depression all her life and had suicidal ideation for the past 20 years. Therapy and meds were not working for her and she was tired of it all. But it devastated everyone who knew her, especially her partner of 20 (!) years.

    One of my favorite quotes and I can’t remember who said it, is “suicide is only a change of scenery – you can’t get away from yourself.” I personally believe if there is an afterlife that suicides are probably sentenced to hang around here and witness every bit of the pain and devastation they caused their loved ones.

    That being said, the other thing I find ridiculous is the number of people who “attempt” suicide yet make good and sure they are found in time (in my line of work I probably transcribe these types of reports at least once or twice a day). I realize this is a cry for help but how about just picking up the phone and literally calling for help? I think if I were a nurse I would be tempted to hold a workshop called “Suicide – doing it right.” Just kidding (but only a little).

  14. Suicide is selfish.

    I have suffered from major depressive disorder since I was 12. I’ve been on the brink of suicide myself, and would be dead now were it not for the intervention of someone who loved me enough to ask what was wrong, and then help me through it (thanks, Mom–you were there when I needed you most). I’ve wished myself dead more times than I can count. And I say that suicide is selfish.

    I’m not blind, or a fool, or uncaring. I love my daughter, my fiancee, and the rest of my family. I know precisely how devastated they would be by my death.

    How, then, could I consider suicide? How could I plan to kill myself, knowing the misery that would be left behind?

    It’s easy to say, “depression is painful,” or, “depression is a horrible disease.” And it’s easy to say, “suicide is selfish.” But it’s hard to understand that depression can be so utterly, unbearably painful that even the knowledge of how selfish suicide is is not enough.

    Suicide is selfish. Suicide is cowardly. But suicidal people are not always weak and cowardly, or selfish and vindictive. Some of them have fought and struggled and suffered and endured and drained every last resource of strength and will they possess, and just don’t have enough left in themselves to go on.

    By all means, preach the news that suicide is selfish. By all means, remind suicidal people of the destruction they will leave behind, of the pain that will be felt not only by their loved ones, but by their neighbors and their friends and their acquaintances. Please, spread the news that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

    And please, please, also tell people that there are alternatives. Tell potential suicides that they can get help (1-800-SUICIDE is a great place to start). Tell those who don’t suffer from depression how painful it is–that it can drive a loving, intelligent man with strong family ties to the point where he sees no choice but hurting those he loves in such a terrible and permanent way.

    And tell them that they can help.

    Tell them that a kind word, a “Hey, what’s going on? You look kind of down…” followed by a long and listening silence, can save a life. Tell them that they can be the difference between someone going home from work and hanging himself, and that same person going to a therapist and getting better. Tell them that suicide has warning signs, and if they learn them, they can stand between a desperate and agonized person and their death.

  15. I have to agree with Derek … insults and accusations of selfishness and cowardice are a mighty poor way to deal with suicidal depression. I know, because guilt at the effect on the family was the tactic my mother used when I first ineptly attempted suicide at age 10. No concern for what might have driven a child to consider suicide. As a result, I was well into my 30’s before I first sought counselling.

    A comment on the son who is so angry at his father’s cowardice. He’s still not dealing with his own feelings. That anger will eat away at his happiness.

    Depression for me is like a nullity. It’s a mental disorder in the truest sense. My brain is out of order. How can anyone whose brain is not functioning properly be expected to make rational judgements?

  16. Re: Derek in New Mexico, who objected to words like “coward”. I deliberately used the words “sniveling coward” and for a deliberate reason. If those words do drive someone to complete a suicide attempt, then they are waste of oxygen on this planet. We’re now getting back to the extortion aspect of suicide. Feel sorry for me or you’ll be real sorry, so help me!

    Please, if you’re determined to go, do it quietly, out of the way, and don’t bother with notes. There are way too many successful ways of peacefully dying, just going to sleep and never waking up again. But do it out at sea or up in the Arctic, someplace where no one has to clean up after your worthlessness. (That’s not ME making that judgement, but YOU in deciding to end your life.) And, as I said, don’t bother with notes in an attempt to put the burden on loved ones. They’re better off wondering forever what became of you than to know you thought so little of them.

    Here’s life in a nutshell: You’re born, you die. In between, it’s what YOU make of it, not what others make it for you. They’ve got enough work trying to make their lives count for something, and if yours doesn’t count, then they don’t care.

    Am I selfish and judgemental? No, I’m always willing to help someone through a misfortune. Those disappointments help a person to grow stronger, and be able to help others when such events happen. But to hold a self-pity party and DEMAND sympathy to continue your pity is an entitlement mentality that no one has ever earned. I was actually being charitable in the words I used.

  17. I have two observations to add to the conversation.

    The brain is the main organ of perception. When the chemistry is out of balance, bad judgments get made and we all live with the consequences.
    We are rational beings and can thus rationalize almost anything that we choose to do.

    Put these two ideas together and one has an accurate description of what happened to that former expert witness.

  18. Regrettably, shame is frequently a primary factor in reducing a suicidal person’s courage to go on. This is almost certainly the case with the man in your story. Further ridicule aimed at living suicidal individuals only deepens the hole they are in. Many people hold a common misconception that ridicule will somehow induce courage. It doesn’t.

    I don’t think that particular take on that event was well advised. Having said that, I generally applaud the stands you take. It is impossible to consistently take risks and be right every time. Were that not so, then you wouldn’t actually be risking anything. Keep up the good work.

    Do I think my approach will help everyone? Certainly not. Did I think it would help some? Yes. And did it? Yes. As you imply, it’s impossible that one approach could help everyone, and I do appreciate your very valid point about risk-taking. -rc

  19. The way I see this case, Kopera’s actions would contributed to the following consequences:

    1. Innocents being incorrectly found guilty
    2. Innocents being correctly found innocent
    3. Guilty people being correctly found guilty
    4. Guilty people being incorrectly found guilty.

    If we presume a properly qualified person would have increased chances of outcomes 2 and 3 (correct verdicts), then Kopera’s actions had to cause more harm than good. I think we can safely presume that his actions would have caused that harm because his entire life was based on and devoted to maintaining a lie (that he was qualified to do the difficult work he was being asked to do). I believe anyone who lives a lie is anathema to the truth, in this case with dire consequences.

    Now what will happen to the people listed above?

    1. Innocents incorrectly found guilty have already suffered, but may now have a chance of having some minor restitution
    2. People who know Kopera’s testimony contributed to an innocent being found innocent may start to question whether the verdict was accurate
    3. Guilty people correctly found guilty may get out on technicalities and uncertainties
    4. Guilty people incorrectly found innocent are still unpunished or restrained from reoffence.

    Kopera’s suicide is a footnote to the story of the suffering he has caused. It should also be noted that Kopera caused his own suffering, while the injustice he caused in the system increased suffering for innocent people.

    PS. I think Randy’s comments are fair.

  20. I find your treatment and attitude towards suicide incredibly insensitive. I lost my Mom to it when I was 23 and it took many years to understand that it was the end result of an illness. In this case a mental illness.

    Would you fault a cancer patient for having died of their illness?

    There are many things that I would wish had happened to prevent her death, but if I were to blame her for being sick I would be the one who had no concept of the problem.

    I’m sorry you lost your mother that way. You seem to think I have no direct experience with suicide. You are not correct, and I suspect you are too emotionally involved with what happened to you at a relatively early age to be objective about the discussion. I urge you to actually read the other comments here — including those from others who have lost close family members — and see if you can’t see the bigger picture. -rc

  21. I lost my only child to suicide over Thanksgiving weekend in 2004, and managed to read all of the above posts with an open mind and heart: including the comments posted by Mike from Dallas. I really take exception to the “waste of oxygen” comment. How dare he assume and lump all people into categories? My daughter was beautiful, personable, funny and a hard worker, hardly a waste of oxygen. Do I personally think what she did was selfish? Yes, I do, it’s never okay to take a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Do I remember just her suicide? No, I remember the beautiful, loving person she was, the 30 years she was on this earth and how generous she always was with her family, friends and her time. Mike in Dallas should be ashamed of himself for that comment!

    I’m glad you remember your daughter’s life, and not just its terrible ending. You have your reaction, Mike in Dallas has his — and his anger is as valid a reaction as your sorrow. -rc

  22. One of the threads that seems to be running through the comments is that derision and shaming will stop people from killing themselves. Posts two and three seem to support that notion nicely.

    The only problem is that if anyone found the ridicule to support their sense that they were worthless and just hurting everyone they cared about, they won’t be writing any posts. They’re dead.

    As I’ve said, no one approach will work for all. Walking on eggshells so as to never offend people will also result in suicides. -rc

  23. Sadly, it seems my point was never made clear. I don’t care if I prevent someone from committing suicide. If someone came to me with problems and wanted to talk it out, I’d talk all night with him. But if all he wanted to do was convince me how suicide was the only solution for him, he’d lose my interest.

    If you want to kill yourself, have a ball. I’m not going to tell you that you have every right to kill yourself, nor will I tell you that you have too much too live for. It’s your life; do what you will.

    But what I AM telling you is this: After you’re gone, I WILL tell others exactly what I thought of your decision to kill yourself. And you’ll find that most others also will do the same. In other words, we really don’t care, except for the mess you leave us to clean up. So if you want sympathy by using emotional blackmail, you’re playing the wrong game.

    In fact, the subject of the original story didn’t threaten emotional extortion but simply eliminated himself. Too bad he still left a mess for everyone else to clean up, both of himself and the cases he was involved with.

  24. I just want to say, thank you for your bravery. I have a friend who was struggling with suicide for many years and I never gave him fake sympathy and in fact was always quite blunt and even harsh with him regarding my opinion on suicide. I find it to be cowardly and selfish. It is not easy to take this stance, especially in the face of somebody going through this kind of difficulty, but I wholeheartedly believe that it is best to be brutaly honest against this type of behavior, to let the person know that you understand their pain, but that suicide is not an acceptable solution.

  25. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is never an acceptable choice and only causes problems for those left behind.

    Consider the suicide of my granddaughter’s biological father who hung himself in his own garage, leaving a note that included “I hope you’re all happy now.” My granddaughter’s half sister, aged 15, found her father. The scars to her psyche and emotions will probably never heal. And I am almost certain the angry reaction from the rest of his family and friends was not what he would have expected. I suspect he hoped for guilt and sympathy, but their anger and hurt over his actions clouded any symapathy they might have had.

  26. Calling depression a “pity party” shows a lack of understanding and belies a personal selfishness that prefers to blame–a form of self-entitlement of being wronged. Compassion and empathy are difficult reactions to one who thinks this way? Yes, those left behind are hurt, often angry. While that is understandable, does it preclude any attempt to validate the why?

    So you wouldn’t “help” someone determined to kill themselves–believe me, if they were determined, they wouldn’t be seeking your counsel. Often suicidal thoughts are accompanied by thoughts that those left behind won’t care much, if at all, or that it will be a relief to not have to deal with the troublesome… who senses they don’t fit in.

    Given that depression is accompanied by a sense of worthlessness, denigrating that emotion shows an abject lack of understanding of the physiological motivation.

    Depression and suicide are misunderstood. There are millions with depression who hide it because of the stigma, often going for long periods without seeking help–sometimes never receiving appropriate treatment. It took me a long time to start admitting my depression to anyone. Any wonder why when the reactions were: anger at my “weakness” (especially since most knew me as strong, independent and self-actualized); being told I should be able to control it with the right attitudes (pull yourself up by your own bootstraps); or being informed I had no right to feel that way since so many others had it so much worse.

    The human tendency to “react” without understanding perpetuates the broken system we now have. Few are immune to the easier reaction of placing “blame”. Yet a more productive way is to seek positive, proactive measures that can help fix it.

    One means to help is to de-stigmatize the labels given to people who entertain thoughts of suicide; to understand its sources and symptoms. Encouragement to seek out help should be the standard. Let’s work to mitigate the negative judgment so those with it have options that lift up rather than put down.

  27. The human tendency to “react” without understanding perpetuates the broken system we now have. Few are immune to the easier reaction of placing “blame”.

    Yet you easily place the “blame” on a “broken system” for your failure to take responsibility for your own problems. Sounds like a pity party. I would guess that Randy encountered many problems when he started his newsletter. A lot of work, no pay for it, and a couple years of it looking like it would never work out, surely would have given him legitimate reason to say, “Why am I knocking myself out for this? It’s easier to just give up and quit.” And he could have done just that.

    Who here would have said, “You know, years ago there was this brilliant guy who could have made his mark on the Internet but failed. I sure wish we’d have helped him more.”

    No, you’d never have known what might have been but wasn’t. I’m sure he did talk to his closer friends about the problems he encountered, using their support to overcome those problems. But if all he did was to complain about all the unfair, insurmountable problems involved with the Internet, they would have eventually found other things to do.

    Okay, let’s trot out all the exuses, “But, but, the Internet isn’t life or death.” No, but excuses ARE excuses. You’re either interested in overcoming the problem or just complaining about it in a pity party.

  28. Placing blame on someone with a “disease” is different than pointing out how stigmitizing is the same as a system that doesn’t help, but hurts… Would you deny medical assistance to someone with multiple personality disorder?

    You don’t “get it”. There’s no such thing in depression as owning/or not owning one’s problems. Do you really think I want to be this way? I hide away so that people like you don’t get an opportunity to judge me and try to hurt me. I was quite functional for over 45 years, despite problems most people wouldn’t experience in two lifetimes. It took me a long time to ask for help, and attitudes precisely like yours are a major reason a lot of people with depression don’t seek help early enough to manage, if not “cure” the problem. Trying to control deprssion is like trying to make the arm work that became “asleep” because you put pressure on it the wrong way for too long. It just flops around, nothing like if you were able to control it.

    You have a lot of negativity towards people with depression, as if it is no more than feeling sorry for oneself. Why are you so angry? Why are you refusing to accept depression as physiological, when medical science has?

    The example of Randy’s column is inappropriate as it supposes people with depression are looking only to complain. I’ve haven’t wanted to say this, but you seem to have very little empathy. (Notice that’s not asking for your sympathy.) Do you treat the people you love with so much conditioned on their being what you think they should be?

    Were it not so sad that your heart is so closed, I could let myself be angry at your meanspirited interpretations. However, I feel sorry for someone whose feelings are such as yours. I may have a “disease” called depression, but I know how to care when someone is suffering. And, you have it worse than I ever will, as you cannot know how good it feels to care with few restrictions and conditions… love flows freely when you let it. If you want help with your problem, reach out.

    You are not in a position to judge someone’s anger.

    This story is not about depression or any associated illness. It’s about someone who lived a lie — and then killed himself rather than help clean up the mess he created with that lie. There is no evidence that the man had any illness, including depression. To lump him in with people who are ill is fallacious. -rc

  29. If I wasn’t clear, my comments weren’t directed at the story itself, but rather the comments about depression. I had no problem with its publication, but agreed with the ensuing comment by a reader. We don’t know if the man committed suicide because of depression or not.

    I don’t understand your comment about ‘not being in a position to judge someone’s anger’. Please clarify.

    The posts demeaning people with depression were very angry-sounding, largely equating it with very negative traits. It felt like some of the posts were people trying to describe a forest from having only seen one tree. In other words, “walk a mile” in the shoes of someone who has struggled with depression.

    I’ve overcome my desire to kill myself (experienced often over 40 years), but it wasn’t easy. It meant not letting others tell me how I am supposed to be in order to please them, or earn their acceptance. (Example: Others telling me I had no right to feel sad or hurt, which would morph into self-loathing, self esteem issues.) Comming to understand how bitterness, intense pain, self-loathing (pretty much a self-image imposed by others since birth of being unworthy of love), etc. affect a person’s perceptions of human interaction.

    For the most part, I overcame those learned responses on my own. It took a lot of delving into the motivations of those who perpetrated their “nastiness” on me (as well as my siblings in one form or another). Seeing the history of familial dysfunction (which in several cases was resulted in lives of lies/facades), helped me find a form of forgivenss. It’s not perfect, but everyday, I read Tao and Zen teachings to strive to live with wisdom. Not that I don’t give in to my reactionary feelings at times. Being imperfect is not bad.

    My thinking is along the lines of “hate the sin, but love the sinner”.

    Maybe what was unclear was who it was you were directing your original comments to. Everyone has their names attached to comments here — anonymous comments are junked unless there’s a very good reason for them to be anonymous — so maybe in the future direct your comments accordingly. -rc

  30. No, my point WAS clear. I never called Depression a ‘pity party’. I already said that those who seek help are to be lauded, and I would extend my own help if asked.

    But for those who PRETEND to want help, while ‘hiding from the world’, being afraid of ‘judgement’, or just using Depression as a label, a crutch, to continue their self-pity, then THAT is a pity party. When one has a disease, one seeks medical help to cure, or at least control, the disease. To use that assistance only to prolong the disease is covered under a couple of terms; either hypochondria or Munchausen Syndrome.

    For those who choose suicide, whether due to Depression or simple fear of facing failure, the results are the same: A physical mess that someone ELSE has to clean up, no resolution of the problem which led to the suicide, and a resentment among the survivors that a COWARD left it to others to deal with both.

    For a final remark, when someone commits suicide, it is that person who has declared himself, by his action, a waste of oxygen on this earth. I simply concur with him.

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

  31. I would just like to opine here regarding some aspects of clinical depression that were discussed in earlier posts.

    Like any group of people, clinically depressed people are not all the same. They do not all want to extort pity from others or wish that everyone else would suffer because of their pain. Just as some people with disabilities choose to treat others with respect while others take out their problems on the world.

    Also, they do not delay or avoid treatment simply to encourage or prolong their own self-pity. Many of these people would still prefer that others do not know, and there are various reasons why. For one, many of those depressed would make themselves feel a lot worse knowing that their admission of depression would cause their loved ones to feel awkward around them. Generally, the depressed have a hard enough time interacting and being accepted by others, and admitting they have a disease which is viewed negatively by others (whether this view is genuine or simply a perception of the individual with depression) would only make things harder.

    In addition, admitting one has depression causes problems in a very practical sense. If one has the time to review research done on opinions of depression, one would see that a significant portion of the population has misgivings about being friends with a depressed person, letting a person with depression date a family member, renting to a depressed person, etc.

    Thirdly, depressives, although their emotions can many times feel dulled and inactive due to differences in brain chemistry, still feel empathy for others and many of them would prefer not to burden their loved ones with worries or concerns about their welfare. Depressives on the higher end of the empathy scale would generally resist suicide knowing full well the pain it would cause but are still not always completely able to resist, especially after hiding their problems for extended periods of time.

    Finally, the perceptual errors in judgment and the self-blaming that occurs in depression cause many people to assume that what is actually a physiological disorder is simply a personal weakness that could be overcome by sheer force of will. To say that a defect in the brain could be overcome by will is like saying a defect in the heart could be overcome the same way, which as any cardiologist will tell you, is quite often not the case. The brain is an organ like any other which can produce defects, irregularities, and serious long-term problems which require the use of medical help.

    One last point I must make…. the word perception seems misunderstood to some extent, at least in the terms of psychological disorders. I feel that explaining that would clear up exactly why I do not feel that suicidal depressives should be disdained. Feeling and seeing things are not the same as perceiving them. If a person’s perceptions are influenced by a mental disorder, the effect is far more pronounced than simply “feeling sad” or “feeling inadequate” wherein the person could experience positive events or do well in something and allow themselves to change that inaccurate judgment. In the case of severe anorexia, patients will become so thin that they are unable to walk and on the brink of death and yet will still perceive themselves as fat, despite obviously contradictory evidence from peoples’ reactions to them, scales, their physical health, mirrors etc. Without treatment, they simply continue to “know” they are fat until they die of malnutrition or starvation. In the case of paranoid schizophrenia, patients are under the perception that they are being persecuted or stalked and no amount of evidence will dissuade them because they “know” that it is true. In the case of severe depression, the perception is that of worthlessness, hopelessness, hatred and contempt from family, friends, and loved ones. As with any other chronic perceptual errors that stem from psychological disorders, without treatment these cannot be altered, and the person will continue to believe them despite any evidence to the contrary. This naturally leads towards suicide. Why would anyone feel truly motivated to keep living if, insomuch as they were able know anything, they “knew” they were worthless? As for being cowards, generally fear does not even factor into the equation except for the fear of death that keeps them hanging on as long as they do. The feelings felt at the time are more along the lines of resignation. Suicide is simply, to the defective, perceptually altered brain of a depressive, the rational thing to do.

    What I have said here applies to those suffering from chronic clinical depression. There are many who do commit suicide due to cowardice, feelings of hatred towards others, want for pity, etc and it is very sad to see, because I believe it hurts those who have a very serious, very unforgiving disorder.

  32. Kudos to Aaron! What a brilliant, well-crafted summary!

    “Maybe what was unclear was who it was you were directing your original comments to.”

    >There were plenty of “hostile” remarks in the responses. It thought it polite to avoid placing blame for that sort of attitude on any one post, rather to address the negativity as a whole.

    “But for those who PRETEND to want help, while ‘hiding from the world’, being afraid of ‘judgement’, or just using Depression as a label, a crutch, to continue their self-pity, then THAT is a pity party.”

    >Do you have extensive experience to make that assessment? Is your opinion based on personal feelings or factual evaluation, evidence of pretense?
    “When one has a disease, one seeks medical help to cure, or at least control, the disease.”

    >Not necessarily so… please see Aaron’s fabulously cogent explanation.

    “To use that assistance only to prolong the disease …”

    >You’d have to be crazy to want to “suffer” with depression.

    “A physical mess that someone ELSE has to clean up, no resolution of the problem…”

    >Doesn’t necessarily have to be messy. Suicides aren’t the only deaths that are messy. As for being resolved, it’s resolved for the person who’s dead. Do the living inherit the problem in every instance, or aren’t there situations where the people left behind feel relieved they no longer are in a situation of having to endure that person?

    “…no resolution of the problem which led to the suicide, and a resentment among the survivors that a COWARD left it to others to deal with both.”

    >Resentment. That’s an interesting choice of words. Does that lead to bitterness? Does it subside at some point? Is the only perspective to be one of how if affects you? Is there nothing left of any positive emotions, like love?

    “For a final remark, when someone commits suicide, it is that person who has declared himself, by his action, a waste of oxygen on this earth. I simply concur with him.”

    >Do Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, & Socrates fall into that category? Whether your concurrence with their decision is pragmatic or simply lacking in empathy, is for you to decide. If the posting by Aaron doesn’t enlighten you enough to consider some minor revisions to your opinion, then I would be wasting my efforts explaining my viewpoint as you would never validate them, especially give your last statement…

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

    >While I admire Ms. Roosevelt immensely, I beg to differ. If you agree with it, then you also believe there is no such thing as mental abuse (such as brainwashing), child abuse trauma, spousal abuse; that much of what modern psychiatry is based on is without merit.

    For my final remark, I urge you to read the post by Aaron who so eloquently and succinctly explained it so very well. I wish you a healthy mind, a loving heart, and a kind world.

  33. Awww… That sounds so good on paper. Come on, group hug, now…

    I enjoyed much of Hemingway’s work that was done BEFORE he declared himself a waste of oxygen. Call me obtuse, but I just don’t seem to get much from the works he created afterward. And while, technically, Socrates’ death would be considered suicide since it was by his own hands, it was not due to some self-pitying ‘depression’. With your logic, police & firefighters who die while CHOOSING to rescue someone have committed ‘suicide’.

    As I said privately, I’ve experienced Depression several times over my years, but I will be DAMNED if I allow myself to just wallow in it rather than overcome it, by myself or with help, for the following reasons:

    1. Even if I don’t put a bullet through my head, if I simply use OTC sleep aids and alcohol, or sit in my closed garage with the engine running (both very painless and pleasant), it STILL leaves a mess to clean up. There is the person who finds my body, the police and coroner to pick up my body. Probably the STINK of a rotting corpse before I’m found (ever smell a body that’s been lying for 2 -3 days? I promise it’s not a smell you’ll ever forget for the rest of your life.)

    2. Whether I’m married, have kids, or just leave my parents, SOMEONE does care and my choice of suicide is a slap in their face. It says that I just don’t give a damn about their feelings. (Even homeless people seem to persevere, and they have NObody.)

    3. There have been good moments in my life. Happy moments. Nobody, I mean NOBODY, can convince me that they’ve never experienced one happy moment in their entire lives. If it’s happened before, it can happen again. The waiting is the hard part. The working for it is even harder. So, suicide is not only self-pitying, but also LAZY.

    I’ve never been sentenced to prison, but I have been in one as part of a news assignment and I can tell you THAT is one depressing experience. If I felt that way as an outsider, I really doubt that convicts consider it to be one big happy party in there. But if what you say is true about Depression, then every convict in prison has good reason to commit suicide. But they still have Hope, for whatever reason. Even those with life sentences. It’s gloomy but they still live.

    Please spare me the rationale that you can understand, and even commiserate with, those who knock themselves off. A man may rob liquor stores at gunpoint to get money to feed his family, but I’ll still convict him and not feel one moment of pity for his ‘dilemma’. To do otherwise would be a slap in the face of the store owner who works to feed HIS family, only to have it stolen from him.

  34. Mike, it’s doubtful we’ll ever agree.

    Make no mistake, although depression is a struggle, there is still a lot of love and happiness in my life. Perhaps like others in this situation, there are strategies that help one cope. Mine, as my doctor remarked once, are highly creative. It helps that I have a gift of a great sense of humor. Anyone who’s met me can tell you that.

    One of the things I’ve learned is to find joy in things most people don’t even notice. I have some very wonderful friends who give me virtually unconditional love. I practice the Random Acts of Kindness philosophy along with an attitude that no one is better than me (with the exception of people like Mother Theresa) and I am not better than anyone else, including you.

    I jokingly say that life doesn’t hand me lemons, but rather turnips and I’m getting damned close to being able to make lemonade out them. I refuse to be what I call, *a dust mote under the beds of the gods*. Not everyday is it easy to call up this strength, but I persevere reaching for boot straps that disintegrated long ago.

    I wish you well. If your life works for you the way it is, then far be it for me to tell you differently.

    I will check back to see if you reply, but without a specific request for me to answer, it’s best we both move on. One last quote… [don’t know who said it]: Forgiveness is the scent of the violet on the heel that crushed it.

    I only have one comment myself: no one is better than you …period. -rc

  35. I said that Depression should not be used as an EXCUSE for a pity party and some interpreted it that I consider ALL Depression nothing more than a pity party. You’re right; if we can’t agree upon what to disagree, then we’ll always be in disagreement.

  36. Three comments regarding the Kopera suicide:

    1.) Would a sane / mentally healthy person commit suicide? Probably not. Joe Kopera was most likely very clinically depressed.

    2.) If one goes on to read the several newspaper articles in Baltimore papers following Kopera’s death, they’ll notice that many in the Maryland police and legal community were puzzled by his need to lie about his credentials. The fact is, at the time of his hiring by the MSP, he was more than qualified by his 20 years experience in ballistics in the Baltimore City Police (virtually a murder a day back in the 80s and 90s), and didn’t need his faked college degrees for his job. That Kopera felt the need to justify his experience with faulty credentials is odd. Perhaps his suicide and his need to lie about credentials he didn’t need are related (besides the possibility that his original lie about credentials may have been related to obtaining a reasonable salary when he was hired by the MSP).

    3.) The post about shame was very poignent, and probably had quite a part to play in the Kopera suicide. As a suicide survivor (my own attempts and the successful attempt of a close family member), I can tell you that shame is a powerful force, especially combined with clinical depression. One can and does consider the mess one would leave behind, and it just becomes more justification for offing oneself. Those of you who have posted about your own depression “get it”. Those of you who don’t, well, don’t, and I hope you never get to the point where you do.

    Great original article, great editorial and great, and very educational, discussion. To read the original newspaper articles on the Kopera story, and to assume that the main cause of his suicide was the discovery of his deception, is a very naive view of both issues.

    All that said, Yeah, suicide is a pretty dumb solution to a problem. The cruddy thing is that the person committing suicide is often so ill as to not be capable of seeing that.

  37. I generally enjoy your wit and humor of people’s stupid acts, but I don’t agree with your attitude regarding the ridicule of a suicide. Your expression without any sympathy or understanding only hurts others who might contemplate suicide. You add to the sorrow and devaluing of life. And I didn’t find it funny at all.

    Why in the world would you think a story about suicide is meant to be funny? How many times do I need to say that not all stories are meant to be funny?

    You can disagree all you want: as shown in the comments, which you apparently didn’t read (and was the entire point of my “tweet” today), the story and this page in fact saved lives. What’s important isn’t how the victims of suicide feel about how their memory is treated, what is important is for the living to not choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If you truly disagree with that, then fine: we disagree completely! -rc

  38. After a friend’s suicide when I was a teen, I came to the conclusion that suicide is THE MOST SELFISH THING anyone can do. For all the reasons already mentioned by your readers.

    But saying it’s the most selfish thing is only half the thought, suicide — and even moreso attempted suicide — needs to be viewed as selfish but also enormously sad that that person thought it their only way. I have always spoken openly with my three kids about suicide being selfish but also misguided & sad. Fortunately when my children were teens they passed this on to their friends and we’ve been told of at least 8 of their friends who’ve stopped themselves from taking that last irreversable step because of the comments my kids had made — “Suicide is selfish and devastating, don’t do it.”

    It is nice for me to read that so many others’ views are in line with mine. Thank you for “keeping the balance balanced”!

    And thanks for showing again that speaking about it out loud — including your feelings about it — really does help save lives. -rc

  39. Well, I have never had anyone “go away on me” in exactly that method. There have been a couple of very suspicious deaths: Some schoolmates when I was young… I do not even recall their names.

    Then, there was a good friend, Len, a few years ago, who was found hanging from a tree, a small distance from the side of the road. Some said suicide, others thought he might have been robbed and killed. There was evidence for both sides.

    The cops went with the suicide thing — less paperwork for them, I guess. What hurt was his death, his NOT being there. However he went, mattered less to me, perhaps because things were not proven without a doubt. But the pain of his not being around, still hurts today. He was a good buddy, and his sons and I still miss him to this day.

    You know, I feel no animosity, if he did himself in. Oddly, if someone did him in, I would want revenge. Maybe I am wrong. But either way, we know the mystery will never be solved. I have managed to get over that, I think.

    Despite this, and despite having lost way too many people along the way in my little existence… I have often, over the years (since I was about 18), considered bowing out on my own. I have been to shrinks, and I have taken all kinds of horrid mood altering drugs — over 20 of them. Most drugs made things worse than they already are. The few that I could tolerate that helped, were outrageously expensive, hard to get, and dreadfully addictive. Addictive in the sense that 1/4 pill each 3 days today, becomes in a month or 2 a pill a day, and then… worse.

    Some may ask, why do you want out of this world? I wish I knew how to answer that succinctly, but I do not. It is not a constant craving, but it is never far from my mind. It comes and goes, with varying levels of intensity. I suffer from various illnesses, so the pain, and the inconvenience certainly are a factor. I have seen, and felt, and experienced a lot of horrible things, so that is one definite reason, too.

    No, unless you have stood on the chasm, and had to decide to stay or go, I do not think you can understand, no matter what one of us who has been there, might say to you. No matter how many learned tomes you have studied.

    I have had several failed attempts, one resulted in a nasty hospital stay. Yet, some good things came out of that stay. I ended up with a life partner with the same problems. My being there, cured her. I ended up with a pet cat. I ended up, while in the hospital, helping about 10 people in small and useful ways. The shrinks called my help “significant and useful”… They are very good at talking like that. How much truth there is in it, is to be debated. I think they were just saying “the right things”.

    As for your viewpoint, Randy, well you are a pretty smart guy. You are entitled to your views. AND: I will defend your right to say it. But from my side of the desk, I cannot agree with your viewpoint entirely. You do make some good points though. That would take a long time to discuss.

    Part of my “viewpoint” is (from above): “Do I think my approach will help everyone? Certainly not. Did I think it would help some? Yes. And did it? Yes.” — and “it’s impossible that one approach could help everyone.” -rc

  40. Those who complain about being left behind to “clean up the mess he made” are just as self-absorbed as they accuse him of being. They want him to continue suffering so that they will not be inconvenienced.

    Society at large, beyond those who actually have to deal with the aftermath of a suicide, frowns upon suicide for the same reason; it’s inconvenient for society.

    When a poker game isn’t going your way it’s perfectly reasonable to get up and leave the table. If that means other players get your bad cards or don’t get your money, tough for them. I don’t see why the game of life should be any different.

  41. First, I know you did not mean to hurt anyone by that story. It was just bad coincidence. Happens. NOT your fault! Not anything you planned to do that was bad.

    Second, I know of some of your experiences.

    But, I have met that daemon several times and survived. I may be wrong, but to call it stupid, ridiculous, foolish, whatever, those are not the right words.

    The poor person in that state sees no other options, and has lost all hope.

    Is it wrong? Probably… But being human, we all make mistakes. And we can all reach the “end of our rope” sooner and more suddenly, than we think. Been there, seen that. Tried to do that. Failed. (This may be a good fail!)

    We should not denigrate the poor person who lost it. We should fell sorrow, and pity. And, well, there are bound to be survivors, so as would be the case with ant such loss, let us do what we can to help them.

    In the meantime, take care. And if your rope is ever frayed, reach out… Try!

    I’ll just point out that there’s a difference between denigrating the person, and denigrating the choice that they made. -rc

  42. A member of my extended family just killed himself. He had marital, career, and financial troubles and took the “easy” way out — leaving behind three very young children.

    I wish he heard someone mocking the self-pitying aspect of suicide. His final act proved that he was a self-centered fool. If only he understood that while multiple troubles hitting at once seem overwhelming, the reality is that once past the troubles you can look at life and be glad.

    I wish his children could grow up with him around.

    Thank you, Randy, for your efforts to stop your readers from considering suicide as a viable option.

    I’m sorry your family is having to go through that, David. -rc

  43. Many people have responded to Mike in Dallas (who is certainly long gone from this conversation), but I wanted to respond to his comment about not leaving a note. I hope and pray I never make this decision, but when I’ve thought about it I wanted to leave a note so that no innocent person would be sentenced to jail because of my death. I guess I’m not sure why other people leave notes, but that seems the most obvious reason to me.

  44. Like the majority I cast my vote FOR your ridicule treatment of the suicide headlines. It is one thing to pull the trigger on yourself while thinking that everyone will miss you and feel sorry about your passing. It is another thing to realize that half of them read True and will be pointing out that you were always an idiot. That could well make the difference.

  45. I know what I say here duplicates what others have said. Feel free not to publish it. I suffer from several painful chronic illnesses and also battle severe depression. I have thought about suicide a lot when the pain gets bad. According to my medical professionals, I am taking the maximum of pain killers possible, but my life is still greatly restricted by pain and loss of mobility. Now I am getting older and am in danger of losing my sight. My husband died several years ago. I have no family. I have few friends that care enough about me to even keep in touch. I have no “problems” that bother anyone but me. Would taking my own life because it has been too painful to live be all that horrible? Yes, a few people would feel sad for a brief amount of time, but my financial worth is going to charity. I cannot say that suicide is ALWAYS the wrong answer. I haven’t done it yet and I find enough reasons every day not to, but I still consider it a viable option if I’ve exhausted other avenues (like further therapy for depression) and believe no one will miss me. To the “friends” I might leave behind, I would say “Where were you when I desperately needed company?” To anybody who knows somebody in my condition, reach out before it’s too late. If you are always too busy now, you may not get another chance. To those who say suicide is never the answer to an individual’s situation, I ask what is the answer to the situation I’m in? More mental health therapy? To make me enjoy my situation more? I’ve lived a full life, and I’d like to leave on my own terms.

    No, I don’t think suicide is always the wrong answer. Sometimes it is, in fact, rational. I certainly can’t say if your situation is one that is rational based on a brief online post, but I certainly can’t say it isn’t, either. I do definitely think it should be an option for those who need it, as is available in some parts of the world. -rc

  46. It is important to remember that people attempt suicide for different reasons. Sometimes it is just an attempt to garner attention — in these cases the attempt is made in such a way that rescue is very likely.

    Sometimes it is a deep biological problem, like what used to be called endogenous depression — it is not a personality quirk, it is a deep-seated biological imbalance in the brain. No amount of mocking will work in the latter, in the former it could be helpful to get really pissed off with the person.

    Also, as often happens in teenage suicides, there is a deep-rooted subconscious conviction that the person is dead. The subconscious is extremely powerful, and will often succeed in driving the teenager to suicide.

    And overall, my father once said we all have a fear of dying. Somebody that commits suicide has become so fearful of life, of what is natural, that the fear of being alive exceeds the fear of being dead.

  47. Opinions about suicide, facts about suicide, etc., aside, suicide is extremely frustrating for those left behind because it always feels like there should have been something someone could have done, if they only knew what. I think some of the confusion may be when loved ones try to make sense of something they cannot understand and feel completely helpless and may even blame themselves. It can be difficult to understand what is going on in someone else’s head but when they are gone, it leaves only speculation, misery and doubt.

  48. Suicide is a difficult subject to deal with in any situation. Having dealt closely with both a suicide attempt and someone contemplating it I have to agree with most of the comments you’ve made here, and that most cases the person is acting in a manner that should never be repeated or shown respect.

    In one case a person I know failed in their suicide attempt and when I visited them in hospital they basically asked why I wasn’t there to help them last night if I was their friend, and my reply stunned them: “A real friend would call me, at any time of night, before trying to kill themselves. Why didn’t you call me?” It made them stop and look at their own action on the night.

    In the second case a person I know casually on-line posted a blog entry about going to commit suicide. I contacted them by email and then spent about 18 hours sitting over the computer to immediately respond to their emails while we exchanged many messages about their situation. In the end they sought advice from other family members and doctors. That was three and a half years ago. Since then they’ve gone through a divorce, moved house twice – now in a different state, and are well on their way to putting their life together again; but in a different way. During this period they had a number of other serious issues, including a long time in hospital after being in a serious car crash caused by a fleeing car thief. The point is, situations and life can change, you just have to be prepared to let it and tough it out.

    I do know of someone who was going to commit suicide over something until they got very angry at their brother who said they’d be a stupid fool to kill themselves over that issue. The anger and fight was what carried them out wanting to end it all. Which is what I think the brother was after at the time.

    In the past I’ve been in situation where I was diagnosed as clinically depressed, but kept an attitude of ‘screw them’ and it helped deal with some situations and I got through the trials and tribulations involved.

  49. Wow. Just… Wow.

    I had to stop reading these comments, because holy carp, I have never seen such vilification of people suffering from suicidal depression. To the people who were helped by being called selfish cowards: Good on you. For me, I am very, very glad I didn’t read this page when I was down in the deepest, darkest places of my psyche, because I honestly don’t know what my pain being mocked so much would have done with me.

    Ooo! Here’s an idea: Maybe you should seek employment at psychiatric clinics? Just telling people that they’re selfish cowards and that their problems are petty is surely a much better way to help people struggling with clinical depressions than validating their problems by treating them with therapy or medicine.

    It is good to have your perspective. Another perspective is that people who didn’t choose suicide are left to clean up the problems left over. That is a hard task, and I don’t just mean cleaning up the body left behind. In the case of the story on top of this page, there was years of legal work involved, and someone had to pay for it (hint: not the deceased or his family). Might they grumble about him being a selfish coward? Sure. Are they right, from their point of view? Sure. Is that cold? Sure. It’s all about the perspective you have. -rc

  50. I agree with you as someone who panicked my way out of suicide several times in middle school, better that you push someone to think, and to find help, or even just talk to someone, than sympathize and poor-baby it all away.

  51. You said up front, “I find it constructive to ridicule suicide.” It’s interesting to see, in the comments, how many think you are ridiculing the people who do it or, worse, their pain, real or imagined. There’s a huge difference between ridiculing a person and their extreme actions. Please don’t let their silly misunderstanding borne from their own conclusion-jumping change your powerful message. When faced with a temporary problem, even a big one, the “permanent solution” isn’t the one that will help the most.


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