Thursday, 13 February 2014

Suicidal Ideation

"Suicidal Ideation" is, unsurprisingly, a term for thinking about suicide.  More specifically thinking about the possibility of yourself committing suicide, I suppose.  That's different than wanting to kill yourself or making a plan to kill yourself.

If you were to know that a person of my age and gender was going to die this year and were required to place a bet on how it would happen, it turns out that the best guess is either suicide or accident.  That depends on whether you lump every kind of accident that a person can have together into one giant category or not.  If you do then that's about 33% more likely than suicide, but if you break it down in some way - for instance if you divide accidents into vehicular accidents and non-vehicular accidents - then suicide goes over the top.  Of course one could argue that you could also break down suicide in some way as well, or you could lump all disease together as one thing too.  But the reality is that the way we actually keep statistics these days puts suicide at one or two, since vehicular and non-vehicular is a very typical breakdown.

Most of us recognize that a car accident is possible.  Even if we regard ourselves highly as drivers some drunk person could still plow right into us.  Most of us recognize we could be hit by lightning or murdered by a stranger for no reason or get a rare aggressive cancer.

Very few people think to themselves, "Maybe one day I'll just up and kill myself."  I mean, plenty of people think that.  Those are the people with suicidal ideation.  But for people who don't think about killing themselves as a possible solution to their problems, they don't usually put killing themselves in with having a piano fall on their head as things that could happen to them.  After all, they imagine that were they in a situation where killing themself was a possibility, they could simply not do it.

I have to imagine that people with a history of suicidal ideation are far more likely to kill themselves than people who don't, so it may be reasonable for people who don't have that history to think of that as unlikely.  Still, it seems far fetched to me that it is eaten-by-a-shark unlikely.

The idea that we actually decide what we do, that we can meaningfully say today that we will not do something a month from now, even something that feels antithetical to our ideas of ourselves, is a silly idea.  There are lots of adults with no history of depression who suddenly have a major depressive episode lasting several months out there  There are plenty of people who don't realize they have a gambling problem until they lose their life savings and their house and their family.  There are plenty of people who don't realize that their spouses are about to leave them or they are about to lose their jobs.

Of course another thing about my demographic is that I'm very likely to survive the year.  Threat of suicide, accident, sinkhole and zombie attack don't combine to a huge number.  But I know that we don't know ourselves or our circumstances, and death by our own hands is another thing that can happen to us.

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