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Suicide Is A Bad Idea, Especially Because It Might Not Work

The things that no one ever tells you about taking your own life. 

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9 min read
Suicide Is A Bad Idea, Especially Because It Might Not Work

(This story was first published in October 2016. It is being republished ahead of the World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September.)

It was early 2004. I was at a grocery shop buying regular things. One large bottle of fizz, a bag of crisps, a few chocolates etc. I had to make up my mind quickly about ‘the product’ I was going to buy from the shopkeeper next, without arousing any suspicion. I couldn’t just say, “give me anything poisonous” or “what’s the most effective poisonous substance you have?”. In my naivety, I had taken the first suggestion I found online of ‘consuming common poisonous items found around the house’ quite seriously, not going further in my research on their effectiveness, chances of survival, physical and mental repercussions and so on.

When the shopkeeper asked me if I wanted something else, I pretended to think hard about what else my mother had asked me to buy. He had known me ever since I was a child and didn’t really have any reason to doubt my shopping list. I decided against buying domestic cleaners, and went with rat poison. At the time, it just seemed like a more effective option.

You see, with suicide, as with everything else in life, no one respects a failure. We hear about the success stories every day in the news, but no one tells you about the thousands of (if not more) attempted suicides that take place every single day.

Before Death Comes Judgement

What follows a failed suicide attempt is guilt and shame. (Photo: iStock)

I remember, we had a couple in college who drank Baygon together. At first, everyone was shocked. They were admitted into a hospital and the class was advised to meet them, take flowers, tell them it was all going to be alright, the regular spiel. But after they were discharged and resumed life, the taunts and guilt trips began. Then followed the jokes. They couldn’t stand even being with each other anymore. Eventually, they broke up. This was a couple that was literally willing to die for each other. One usually labels these incidents as ‘teenage drama’. Fact is, that one of the important by-products of surviving a suicide attempt, is guilt and shame. Mostly imposed by others.

“Did you not think of your family?”

“How could you? You are the most selfish and cowardly person I have come across”

“God has given you this life, you have no right to do what you did. Only he can take it away”

An honest conversation about suicide rarely makes it to our dinner tables. In fact, we can barely make it through awkward conversations about birds and bees with our parents, let alone ones that involve mental health. But the fact is, and in my case too, a significant number of individuals will continue having these thoughts, many will continue to act upon them and most will fail. Not because they are not brave enough, but because their methods, which are mostly influenced by popular culture and movies, are biologically quite ineffective.

Every single one of them would have to bear the trauma of surviving a failed attempt. Their will to attempt it again, this time with better research, is likely to only increase. One cannot and should not dismiss what they are going through with a simple, “It’s a cry for help” or an “attempt to get attention”.

Make no mistake, people who try to kill themselves really do want to die. You may well see a simple way out, as far as their problems go, but they don’t. In the case of a chronic mental illness, it’s not about the ups and downs in life. How else would you explain the fact that the youngest suicide reported in the world is of a six year old, and that the youngest in India is just eight?

What No One Ever Tells You About Suicide

Taking your life isn’t as easy as our films make it seem. (Photo: iStock)

No one ever tells you about the real repercussions. No one ever tells you that simply slitting one’s wrists doesn’t work. The way it is shown in films is completely inaccurate, and that soon after, the body will begin healing itself.

No one ever tells you that if you decide to hang yourself, you will fail. Why? Because the nooses we see in popular ‘hanging’ depictions, were historically designed for maximum suffering at public hangings. Also, the most important question is - do you want to die from asphyxiation by constricting air supply and blood flow to the brain (a.k.a the short drop method)? Or achieve a dislocation of the upper neck vertebrae (a.k.a drop hanging)? Both are severely painful by the way, and failure can lead to paralysis, brain injury, brain death prior to actual death. The thing to remember is that the chances of failure are significant.

No one ever tells you that consuming poisonous substances won’t really kill you like you’ve seen it on TV. You will end up severely burning your internal organs, pathways, tongue and taste buds. And if you do manage to die, it could take days of continuous suffering. Your body’s survival instinct kicks in before you even realise it, and it tries to expel any foreign substance that could cause harm.

No one ever tells you that jumping from a building (even 12 stories high) or a bridge, may result in permanent disability or paralysis. Yes, falling on water from a significant height does feel like falling on hard concrete.

No one ever tells you that trying to suffocate yourself with a plastic bag may only lead to unconsciousness. Even if you’re determined to suffer the extreme discomfort of not breathing, your survival instinct could kick in and you may, even in an unconscious state, try to remove the bag, leaving you with the possibility of suffering severe brain damage.

Taking your own life is possibly the toughest thing you could do. (Photo: iStock)
The truth is, there is no sure shot way to kill yourself. Taking your own life is possibly the toughest thing you could do. Instead of talking about how shameful and cowardly the act is, and using all sorts of flaccid arguments to dissuade individuals, who in most cases have taken into account all social repercussions of their actions, we must have real discussions around living with a mental illness. What’s essential is for communities to come together, including the medical fraternity, to help individuals understand their own minds, without judgement.

Until then, as it happens to be in my case, severely disturbed and hapless human beings will continue to wake up in hospitals, in what I would call a special kind of hell, with tubes down their noses and catheters in their privates, having their stomachs pumped and no direct intake of water for days on end.

Every second on a hospital bed is more unbearable than the one that passed. With their cotton mouths and drying throats, they will die a little more in order to eventually survive.

(Rohan Sabharwal is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and social entrepreneur who has been fighting stigma and misconceptions around mental illness ever since he came out with his illness. This article was first published on 10 October 2016.)

Join The Quint on WhatsApp. Type “JOIN” and send to 9910181818.

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Before Death Comes Judgement

What follows a failed suicide attempt is guilt and shame. (Photo: iStock)

I remember, we had a couple in college who drank Baygon together. At first, everyone was shocked. They were admitted into a hospital and the class was advised to meet them, take flowers, tell them it was all going to be alright, the regular spiel. But after they were discharged and resumed life, the taunts and guilt trips began. Then followed the jokes. They couldn’t stand even being with each other anymore. Eventually, they broke up. This was a couple that was literally willing to die for each other. One usually labels these incidents as ‘teenage drama’. Fact is, that one of the important by-products of surviving a suicide attempt, is guilt and shame. Mostly imposed by others.

“Did you not think of your family?”

“How could you? You are the most selfish and cowardly person I have come across”

“God has given you this life, you have no right to do what you did. Only he can take it away”

An honest conversation about suicide rarely makes it to our dinner tables. In fact, we can barely make it through awkward conversations about birds and bees with our parents, let alone ones that involve mental health. But the fact is, and in my case too, a significant number of individuals will continue having these thoughts, many will continue to act upon them and most will fail. Not because they are not brave enough, but because their methods, which are mostly influenced by popular culture and movies, are biologically quite ineffective.

Every single one of them would have to bear the trauma of surviving a failed attempt. Their will to attempt it again, this time with better research, is likely to only increase. One cannot and should not dismiss what they are going through with a simple, “It’s a cry for help” or an “attempt to get attention”.

Make no mistake, people who try to kill themselves really do want to die. You may well see a simple way out, as far as their problems go, but they don’t. In the case of a chronic mental illness, it’s not about the ups and downs in life. How else would you explain the fact that the youngest suicide reported in the world is of a six year old, and that the youngest in India is just eight?

What No One Ever Tells You About Suicide

Taking your life isn’t as easy as our films make it seem. (Photo: iStock)

No one ever tells you about the real repercussions. No one ever tells you that simply slitting one’s wrists doesn’t work. The way it is shown in films is completely inaccurate, and that soon after, the body will begin healing itself.

No one ever tells you that if you decide to hang yourself, you will fail. Why? Because the nooses we see in popular ‘hanging’ depictions, were historically designed for maximum suffering at public hangings. Also, the most important question is - do you want to die from asphyxiation by constricting air supply and blood flow to the brain (a.k.a the short drop method)? Or achieve a dislocation of the upper neck vertebrae (a.k.a drop hanging)? Both are severely painful by the way, and failure can lead to paralysis, brain injury, brain death prior to actual death. The thing to remember is that the chances of failure are significant.

No one ever tells you that consuming poisonous substances won’t really kill you like you’ve seen it on TV. You will end up severely burning your internal organs, pathways, tongue and taste buds. And if you do manage to die, it could take days of continuous suffering. Your body’s survival instinct kicks in before you even realise it, and it tries to expel any foreign substance that could cause harm.

No one ever tells you that jumping from a building (even 12 stories high) or a bridge, may result in permanent disability or paralysis. Yes, falling on water from a significant height does feel like falling on hard concrete.

No one ever tells you that trying to suffocate yourself with a plastic bag may only lead to unconsciousness. Even if you’re determined to suffer the extreme discomfort of not breathing, your survival instinct could kick in and you may, even in an unconscious state, try to remove the bag, leaving you with the possibility of suffering severe brain damage.

Taking your own life is possibly the toughest thing you could do. (Photo: iStock)
The truth is, there is no sure shot way to kill yourself. Taking your own life is possibly the toughest thing you could do. Instead of talking about how shameful and cowardly the act is, and using all sorts of flaccid arguments to dissuade individuals, who in most cases have taken into account all social repercussions of their actions, we must have real discussions around living with a mental illness. What’s essential is for communities to come together, including the medical fraternity, to help individuals understand their own minds, without judgement.

Until then, as it happens to be in my case, severely disturbed and hapless human beings will continue to wake up in hospitals, in what I would call a special kind of hell, with tubes down their noses and catheters in their privates, having their stomachs pumped and no direct intake of water for days on end.

Every second on a hospital bed is more unbearable than the one that passed. With their cotton mouths and drying throats, they will die a little more in order to eventually survive.

(Rohan Sabharwal is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and social entrepreneur who has been fighting stigma and misconceptions around mental illness ever since he came out with his illness. This article was first published on 10 October 2016.)

Join The Quint on WhatsApp. Type “JOIN” and send to 9910181818.

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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