ORIGINAL ARTICLE — Among the plethora of follow-up articles in the wake of the webcast suicide of a Florida 19-year-old last week, one that stands out as worth reading is the New York Times‘ “Web Suicide Viewed Live and Reaction Spur a Debate.”
The article includes some useful information about the nature of suicide and its prevention, beginning with an instruction from Joshua Perper, the chief medical examiner for Broward County, where Alexander Biggs died:
“If somebody threatens suicide or attempts suicide, it’s never a joke … It always requires attention. It’s basically a cry for help.”
His comment is elaborated on by M. David Rudd, a suicidologist and chairman of the psychology department at Texas Tech University:
“What he was really doing was expressing his ambivalence about dying and, in an awkward manner, asking for help.”
From the perspective of preventing suicide, one of the most helpful aspects of a suicidal person’s thinking is this ambivalence, about which Dr. Edwin Shneidman writes, in his seminal work on the subject, The Suicidal Mind–names as one of the “ten commonalities of suicide“:
The common cognitive state of suicide is ambivalence … I believe that people who are actually committing suicide are ambivalent about life and death at the very moment they are committing it. They wish to die and they simultaneously wish to be rescued.