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Gender: Male
Hometown: California
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 26,394

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Inveniet quod quisque velit; non omnibus unum est, quod placet; hic spinas colligit, ille rosas.

Journal Archives

Matthew Kressel: "The History Within Us"

On a wrist-mounted computer, Betsy Haadama watched a six thousand-year-old silent film. It was grayscale, overexposed, two-dimensional, and chronologically jumbled. On the film: a mustachioed man doting over his young son at a crowded zoo. A woman vigorously combing the boy's white hair beside a large piano. A family eating a large meal, candles burning on a table, men wearing yarmulkes, bodies shivering in prayer. A river, people swimming, women in white bathing caps and full-body suits. Men on rocks by the shore, pipes in mouths, smoke drifting lazily upward. A park, the boy looking down at a dead pigeon. Staring. Staring. Father picking him up, kissing him. In the sky, a bright sun.

A young sun.

"Pardon my intrusion in this time of ends," a Twirlover said, startling her. The Twirlover's six separate, hovering pink objects — like human knuckles — danced a looping, synchronized pattern in the air. "If it pleases you, will you share with me why you watch that flickering device so incessantly?"

In some parts of the galaxy one could be killed for being human. Betsy wasn't sure if this Eluder Ship was such a place. But death was coming for all soon enough. So why fear it now?

--- Snip ---


Some links regarding suicide and firearms:

There is a great big noisy thread in LBN regarding firearms and suicide, and there are a few links I thought belonged in here:

This NY Times Magazine article from 2008 was very interesting to me, and I thought worth the read.

Also, there's a lot of material at this Harvard (HSPS) Means Matter page, which DanTex posted in that thread. I was particularly interested in the Gun Shop Project, since I do think that gun store and range operators may be a viable point of intervention in some cases.

My take away is that it's important to understand how impulsive many suicide attempts can be, and how a delay or interruption (or survival) of a first attempt will often be life-saving. Intervention and removal of means is particularly important when the means is particularly effective (as firearms are).

I do not support policies that are intended to reduce, interfere with, or make more difficult gun ownership in general - even if the purpose is the laudable goal of suicide prevention. However, it seems that there are some strategies that are acceptable:
  • a brief waiting period (at least for a first gun purchase),
  • universal background checks (with efforts made to get everyone adjudicated to be a/in danger into the system),
  • suicide-prevention education and training materials for/at gun shops and ranges,
  • systems to remove firearms (temporarily, and with judicial protection) from those at risk,
  • help for families and caregivers in recognizing danger and reducing means,
  • obviously a much better health care system, and
  • most most most importantly careful thought about storage and access by individual gun owners...

I find it surprising (and sad, and a bit scary) how impulsive suicide can be,

and how short the interval between first ideation and attempt often is. That impulsive aspect is of particular concern when highly effective means like firearms are available to an individual.

It's also interesting how inaccurate the assumption of "they'll just try again / they'll just find another way" seems to be. Some - even many - people are acting so impulsively and are so fixated on a specific method that if you throw up some barriers, or interrupt the process, they may never try again.

This NYT Magazine article from a few years back was particularly interesting, I thought:

--- Snip ---

Beyond sheer lethality, however, what makes gun suicide attempts so resistant to traditional psychological suicide-prevention protocols is the high degree of impulsivity that often accompanies them. In a 1985 study of 30 people who had survived self-inflicted gunshot wounds, more than half reported having had suicidal thoughts for less than 24 hours, and none of the 30 had written suicide notes. This tendency toward impulsivity is especially common among young people — and not only with gun suicides. In a 2001 University of Houston study of 153 survivors of nearly lethal attempts between the ages of 13 and 34, only 13 percent reported having contemplated their act for eight hours or longer. To the contrary, 70 percent set the interval between deciding to kill themselves and acting at less than an hour, including an astonishing 24 percent who pegged the interval at less than five minutes.

The element of impulsivity in firearm suicide means that it is a method in which mechanical intervention — or “means restriction” — might work to great effect. As to how, Dr. Matthew Miller, the associate director of the Injury Control Research Center, outlined for me a number of very basic steps. Storing a gun in a lockbox, for example, slows down the decision-making process and puts that gun off-limits to everyone but the possessor of the key. Similarly, studies have shown that merely keeping a gun unloaded and storing its ammunition in a different room significantly reduces the odds of that gun being used in a suicide.

“The goal is to put more time between the person and his ability to act,” Miller said. “If he has to go down to the basement to get his ammunition or rummage around in his dresser for the key to the gun safe, you’re injecting time and effort into the equation — maybe just a couple of minutes, but in a lot of cases that may be enough.”

It reminded me of what Richard Seiden said about people thwarted from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. When I mentioned this to Miller, he smiled. “It’s very much the same,” he said. “The more obstacles you can throw up, the more you move it away from being an impulsive act. And once you’ve done that, you take a lot of people out of the game. If you look at how people get into trouble, it’s usually because they’re acting impulsively, they haven’t thought things through. And that’s just as true with suicides as it is with traffic accidents.”

--- Snip ---

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