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December 8, 2011 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Are their any numbers on individuals who have failed to commit suicide, and are subsequently grateful that they did not succeed? I've always heard that suicidal ideation is often a temporary thing, and was curious if there were any numbers behind it. (note: not having any myself, just curious)
posted by leotrotsky to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
The documentary The Bridge interviews people who jumped from the Golden Gate bridge and didn't die (obviously). It also has ideas on how to prevent suicide, specifically putting phones at various points of the bridge and fences along the side facing the water. I don't know how much actual data the movie had.
posted by desjardins at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


The "It Gets Better" videos are full of such stories.
posted by alms at 12:12 PM on December 8, 2011


You might find this New Yorker article interesting - more about the golden gate bridge and suicide.
posted by lab.beetle at 12:14 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another data point that is interesting is the massive change in suicide rates in the UK when they changed from coal gas (toxic) to natural gas (much less so). Simply by removing a convenient suicide-machine from almost every home in the land they brought about a significant and lasting drop in suicide rates.

Those who say "if someone wants to kill themselves they'll find a way" are clearly, and demonstrably, mistaken.
posted by yoink at 12:16 PM on December 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


This article presents the interesting information that on average a failed suicide attempt correlates to a subsequent 20% rise in income.

Money doesn't indicate happiness, but one could imagine a person being more comfortable in their lives with a little more cash.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:16 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basically just an anecdote, but:

The fifth part of this episode of Radiolab is a story about a man who jumps off of a bridge and survives. They coastguard guy who rescues him from the water says: "26 people have made it onto the boat after 1,000 or so who have jumped - and nearly all of them say that in the middle of the fall when they're facing their death, something changes and they don't want to die."
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:20 PM on December 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


*out of
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:21 PM on December 8, 2011


Yes! The NY article. One man says that when he let go of the railing, he instantly realized that every problem he had could be solved... Except the problem of having just let go of the rail.

Great stuff.

Many many years ago I read a book with some stats that indicated that people who survived something that should have killed them (bridge jump, gun in mouth) were not only more likely but also very likely to be done with suicide after that. People who had less sure methods (drugs) continued to suffer. However, there was a caveat that men are more likely to use more lethal methods so possibly there's a sex or gender factor. My caveat would be that I don't recall how well sourced the book was. It was full of citations but I can't recall if they had good numbers and truly made a case.

The NY article is a great read. Start there.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


This episode of Freakonomics - The Suicide Paradox - was interesting and covered the topic well.
posted by valeries at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2011


You might be interested in this article on teens and attempted suicide and recovery.
posted by foxjacket at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2011


I read an article a while back (or heard it somewhere) about the time between deciding to commit suicide and attempting it being extremely short. Something like 50% within 5 minutes and 80% within an hour. If I can find it I'll link to it, but I hope maybe someone else knows what I'm talking about.

Since I can't at the moment remember where I read/heard it, I can't vouch for the accuracy of those numbers, but with it often being such an impulsive decision I can imagine that might factor in with how people who survive feel about their attempts.
posted by bjrn at 12:40 PM on December 8, 2011


I may very well have gotten it from the Freakonomics radio/podcast episode mentioned above.
posted by bjrn at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2011


I got it from the Freakonomics podcast episode valeries mentioned. From the transcript:
One academic study looked at attempted suicides in Houston among 15 to 34 year olds. It found that in 70 percent of the cases, the time between deciding to commit suicide and taking action was under an hour. Seventy-percent of the cases. For about one-quarter of the people involved, the time gap was five minutes or less.
posted by bjrn at 12:49 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This doesn't answer the question, but I'd be wary of taking any such data ("individuals who have failed to commit suicide, and are subsequently grateful that they did not succeed") and applying it to all people who commit suicide.

1) Killing oneself isn't hard. One could make a case that many (most?) of those who failed never really wanted to die all that badly to begin with, and many (most?) of those who really did want to die succeeded.

2) If they succeeded, there no way of knowing whether they had a change of heart or not. Extrapolating on the experiences of those who failed is a pretty obvious mistake (see above).

3) People will say things after the fact that aren't true. It's easy to say, "I really wanted to live!" after you've lived, particularly if you've received treatment for the causes of your suicidal depression -- assuming it was depression that made you want to commit suicide.

4) Too much is anecdotal, or even 2nd hand (like the Coast Guard thing above, which I've also heard).
posted by coolguymichael at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another thing - From the 1% that are taking 100% of the bullets in recent US wars, there is a large population of people with suicidal depression. These are people who have prior experience solving problems by killing someone. There's a sea of cruel irony in that situation but, still, I wonder if experience with violence is a factor in how people fare after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. 
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:11 PM on December 8, 2011


Only anecdotal, but there is one man in the film The Bridge who admitted to regretting his jump the second he did it. Obviously, he ended up in the bay, but living to tell the tale.
posted by Gilbert at 1:56 PM on December 8, 2011


Damned glad I screwed it up, FWIW.
posted by Samizdata at 2:08 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


In a way, what you're asking is "What is the recovery rate from severe mental illness like?" Because in my anecdotal experience, coolguymichael is right: people who have at least begun to recover tend to be glad they lived, and people who are still all the way down in the jaws of depression or PTSD or whatever are more likely to say things like "Shit, I wish that had worked. I still want to be dead, but I don't even have the energy to make another attempt."
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:04 PM on December 8, 2011


1) Killing oneself isn't hard. One could make a case that many (most?) of those who failed never really wanted to die all that badly to begin with, and many (most?) of those who really did want to die succeeded.

People who put guns in their mouth and pull the trigger and people who jump off of bridges usually do die. Those who, freakishly, did not seem like a useful set of people.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:40 PM on December 8, 2011


I've posted this link many times. One of the best things I've ever read; I've shared it many times. How Not to Commit Suicide. Searching for the article provides additional interesting links.
posted by theora55 at 5:59 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the piece that Theora linked to when it was first published in the Whole Earth Review, I think, around 1979 or 1980. Thirty years later I still remember the photographs, and the quotes from the suicide notes. I won't be clicking the link tonight.

But it's very appropriate coming after Lesser Shrew's comment, because it documents specifically the fact that sometimes people who put guns in their mouths and pull the trigger don't end up dying.
posted by alms at 6:21 PM on December 8, 2011


Seconding Samizdata
posted by BlueHorse at 11:35 PM on December 9, 2011


1) Killing oneself isn't hard.

Killing oneself in a way that doesn't risk disablement or disfigurement if it fails is harder than people think. Suicide forums are full of people with a very real longing for oblivion, but an equally real fear of ending up worse off.

The single biggest predictor of completed suicide is a previous suicide attempt. This implies that a significant percentage of people are not at all glad to find themselves back in the land of the living, or that any relief is temporary.
posted by beyondthepale at 4:21 PM on December 10, 2011


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