So I've just finished watching The Bridge, which is a film I've been wanting to watch for years. Well it's actually a documentary, but still. For those not bothering to follow the link, it's about the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and the fact that it's the most popular suicide spot in the world. The production team filmed the bridge constantly for a year, and caught 23 out of 24 suicidies on tape. Naturally, this is the sort of thing that interests me on a Saturday night...
I love the Golden Gate Bridge, always have done, ever since I was a child, I'm a big civil engineering bridge geek, and could spend a week strolling up and down the pedestrian walkway of the GG. It's beautiful and amazing, in itself and in its location. What's astounding about it, especially as a Brit, is the fact that the jump from it is so dangerous (mostly guaranteed death due to impact of fall as well as strong undertow currents in the Bay are), they happen so often (approx 1 every 2 weeks during the filimg of the documentary), and yet there is no suicide barrier on the bridge. The barrier is just a normal 4ft high railing, that even a child can climb over. And whilst there are cameras, bridge patrols, suicide hotline phones all over the bridge, realistically they have little chance of getting to someone determined to do it in time.
A lot of people consider suicide selfishness or cowardice, and I do understand their arguments, but the comments made by friends and family of the suicides in The Bridge raise some fair points. A lot of suicides take the time to get their affairs in order, to say goodbye to people in their own way, they tell people they love them, they make the effort to see people the haven't in ages, they leave notes, they do the washing up and take the trash out one last time. Believe it or not, their suicide isn't all about you. Bigger things are at work than whether you were a good parent, or you could have been a better friend, or that they don't have a job or someone to love. This is one of those cases where the total sum causing that state of mind, is much greater than its constituent parts, and there's probably a hell of a lot of things you don't know about. To see a suicide through takes a lot of forethought, and I don't think anyone commiting suicide is actively setting out to hurt the other people in their life, most of the time they do what little things they can to make life that little bit easier for everyone else before they go. Sure, the effect of their suicide may trump the effect of taking the trash out for once, but its one of those little but all important gestures, that shows they do truly care about you.
Another point was made by the sister of one of the suicides; that she had always considered herself the stronger person, but that when she stood at the spot where her sister had jumped, and saw what it would require to take that final step, it showed her just how strong your resolve and will has to be in the situation to do it. There's certainly a lot more attempted and considered suicides than successful ones. Suicide is caused by despair, long term suffering, and an abandoment of all hope yes. But there's a hell of a lot of rationality to the process. It needs planning; you need to stock up on suitable meds, or buy rope and find a stuitably strong anchor point to affix it to, or decide the most comfortable way to cut open your wrists, or buy your bus ticket out to somewhere like the Golden Gate. And whilst doing all this you're writing notes, or ringing people and telling them you love them, and taking the trash out. Suicide is a desperate act, but it's not a sudden, irrational, or impulsive action. It requires an immense amount of forethought and strength of will to carry through.
When people die, there's a period of grieving, of anger, of sorrow, and eventually it all ends up with some happy clappy memories of them. With suicides, I've noticed that the friends and family left behind seem to extol the suicide's virtues even more vigorously than with a normal death. They were so strong, so special, so unique, with such a capacity for love, a great friend, a spirit unlike any other... Perhaps this lends some romantic sense of fame to the suicide, and certainly the romantic sense of in memoriam that certain types of suicides can lend is a factor for a lot of people. When you've felt insignificant for so long, the sense that your death will be so noticed has a strong appeal. In suicides as well, everyone afterwards comes to be so understanding of the victim, they learn things they never knew about them, they reanalyse past times with them, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly, but everyone seems to have so much sympathy for them, regardless of how selfish or cowardly they think it is, regardless of how they might not personally relate to the mindset, everyone is sympathetic and hopes they're happy now.
For the record, and in case you don't know/haven't worked it out yet, I've come pretty damned close to suicide several times. I've seriously considered it and planned it out and everything twice, I've attempted it once, and I've written countless suicide notes as a theraputic exercise but not done anything else. Clearly my attempt was a failed one. Some days I'm happy for this and some days not so much. Joel has said if I ever tried again he would forcibly go in and drag me back from the afterlife, and if the afterlife doesn't exist, he'd make one to pull me back from. And he's not kidding either. During one of my crisis moments, a friend asked me why I hadn't already gone through with it, and I replied cause there was still a miniscule bearly audible voice telling me it wasn't a good idea. She told me when that voice completely disappeared I could go through with it and she wouldn't stop me. Now granted she was probably just saying what worked at the time, but I still live by that rule and it's seen me through 7 years since my last serious consideration of suicide so far. But some days I'm still tempted to steer my car into the oncoming juggernaut, and everytime I walk across the Golden Gate I have to hold onto the railing very tightly in order to stop myself from vaulting over it.
At least one of my friends will almost certainly commit suicide at some point in their life. I have no problems with this, sure I'll be sad to have lost them, but I know their reasons, their mentality and their mindset, and again, it's a very rational decision for them. I've just told them they have to call me and say goodbye before they do so. And I hope they're successful. Because no-one wants to come back from a failed suicide. This is one of the few things that still scares me about suicide, that I might fail. That I might regret it just as I jump or as the blood flows out of my wrists, and by then there's only so much you can do, especially in the jumping scenario. If you're gonna do it, make sure it's as swift and certain as possible. This is almost certainly why a lot of people elect to jump from the Golden Gate - if you hit the water head first, travelling approx 120mph, you usually die instantaneously. If you survive, there's the pain, the regret, the wishing you hadn't done it, the wanting to do it again and get it right this time, the facing counselling and psychologists and sectioning (I still haven't written that anti -psych post have I), and I certainly don't want to go through all that. Perhaps I am a coward on some level for it, but like I say, just make sure you do it damned properly the first time round.