TRIGGER WARNING:  Some of the images and videos below are GRAPHIC, and of course the episode deals with suicide entirely.

Dr. Rob joins Kevin, Toren, and Joe to talk about the act of taking your own life: suicide. We’ll discuss the Werther effect, suicide statistics, methods and their consequences, Cato the Minor’s intestinal fortitude, seppuku, Budd Dwyer’s on-air suicide, Dr. Kevorkian’s “Thanatron”, the “Deliverance Machine”, plus news and pop culture.

Music: “Gloomy Sunday” by Billie Holiday

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This one (incomplete gun suicide) is pretty gory so we’re hiding the thumbnail. You’ve been warned.

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Showing 26 comments
  • Julia

    Abortion episode merits a trigger alert, but not this one?

    • Katya

      Pretty sure that the title is a handy trigger warning. Also they spend about 10 minutes warning about the content and providing suggestions for those who may be at risk of being triggered.

      • Derek Weber

        +1 There were buckets of warnings. I listened to the episode again, and, although the phrase “trigger warning” wasn’t mentioned, the warning lasted well past 10 minutes and even as long as 15, I think. If the title wasn’t a trigger warning in and of itself, I’m not sure what would be.

        Just my two cents.

  • mike kossey

    My all time ‘favourite’ bizarre suicide was probably this guy:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/21/man_builds_suicide_robot/

    Australian dude builds a robot armed with a gun to shoot himself with in his driveway.

    • David

      And now the robots have a taste for human blood.
      Soon the uprising will begin!

  • Slartibartfast

    This episode made me think of a lot of related things.

    It was mentioned that someone (and I’m going to use the standard term here) committed suicide on IRC. There have been a couple of other cases I can think of where someone committed suicide live online, but with video or images. There was a Swedish man:

    http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Swedish_man_uses_webcam_to_broadcast_suicide_live_on_internet

    And this teenager:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1088173/Teenager-commits-suicide-live-online-1-500-people-watch-video-stream.html

    In another story, a 60 yo man posted a website detailing why he had decided to commit suicide. The site is apparently down, but, thanks to Reddit, somebody took a screenshot of the main page, and someone else actually ripped the entire website into a zip file, and another person put it back online:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/1kgze9/a_60_year_old_committed_suicide_today_but_before/

    http://www.zeroshare.info/

    Light reading.

    There’s also the tragic story of one of the actors that appeared on Seinfeld. He was George Costanzas boss at the metal polishing company. Crippled with the effects of diabetes, including amputation, he attempted to shoot himself in the temple. He survived and called 911 and from the sounds of it (I can’t see), might have only succeeded in shooting through the front of his head, just making his situation worse. If you care to hear the heartbreaking 911 phone call, it’s here:

    http://www.tmz.com/2012/02/22/super-troopers-daniel-von-bargen-suicide-attempt-shot/

    According to my Mom, my uncle committed suicide by sealing off a room and running a BBQ (not sure if propane or charcoal) until it used up all the oxygen and he died. After seeing a video of an Air Force experiment on hypoxia, it sounds like a not unpleasant way to go…. assuming the attempt doesn’t fail:

    Anyways, I’m only about 40 minutes in, but that’s what came to mind.

  • agenttangent

    Not going to listen to this as my sister commited suicide a few years back and I fear it will to be painful to listen to. Can’t blame you guys for making a suicide episode, though, it is clearly a caustic topic.

    Keep up the good work, guys. I’ll be back to listening to you next week!

  • maitreyi1978

    Fantastic podcast, I love Dr. Rob! The Sarah Mclachlan cover of Gloomy Sunday is the best one I’ve ever heard, though. Much better than the Billie Holiday one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbsg_lqqKxk

  • Derek

    Bravo, fellas! Great show with plenty of warnings and support, IMHO. And +1 for The Heathers – it’s a brilliant movie.

    With regard to the Philip Nietschke story, the Northern Territory (which is not a state and therefore ultimately answers to the Australian Federal Government, even though it governs itself otherwise) legalised euthanasia in the late 90s (I think). The Federal Government overturned the law, not the NT govt, something that was a very big deal. It was a pretty big deal for the Feds to do that. Nietschke tends to be a bit less confrontational than Kevorkian, AFAICT. He runs little advice clinics (in Adelaide, at the moment) and tries to make sure he doesn’t break any laws.

    Interestingly enough, another doctor has recently admitted an assisted suicide nearly ten years ago, which was highly publicised at the time, because he wants the issue brought out into the open, risking conviction. Police are looking at it all again in light of his new comments. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-09/syme-make-a-decision-am-i-a-criminal-or-a-good-doctor/5440056

    The issue of euthanasia crops up in Australia every now and then, primarily at state level, gets bogloads (~70%) of public support, and then the pollies fail to pass private members bills relating to it, without ever really debating them. It’s still too much of a hot potato here.

    On pop culture, I watched 13 Assassins recently (because of your recommendations on the Ninja shows akshully) and that opens with an excellent enactment of Hari Kiri. Great flick.

    Oh, and Monty Python did the trailing letters business in MP & the Holy Grail, when they were exploring the cave of Caerbannog looking for the Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh.

    Again, well done.

    • Derek Weber

      I meant to add that the Feds overturned the NT euthanasia law pretty quickly, maybe in only a few months, I think. It certainly didn’t last very long.

  • SincerelyAncientHistorian

    In your most recent podcast under the history section, you reference two ‘gladiators’ who allegedly committed suicide. These two examples appear in the writings of Seneca (who provides too many examples of violent death to capture here and has an entire section devoted to his thoughts on suicide). However your examples of the two suicides (which appear in “On Anger.”[i]) do not involve the suicide of gladiators at all – likely from a poorly translated source.

    In his remarks on suicide, Seneca observes that “there was lately in a training-school for wild-beast hunters, a German, who was making ready for the morning exhibition; he withdrew in order to relieve himself, – the only thing which he was allowed to do in secret and without the presence of a guard. While so engaged, he seized the stick of wood, tipped with a sponge, which was devoted to the vilest uses, and stuffed it, just as it was, down his throat; thus he blocked up his windpipe, and choked the breath from his body.That was truly to insult death!”

    This man was a venator (beast hunter). And clearly this passage was a missed opportunity for toilet humor, as Seneca makes clear to his audience that this man used the stick made for wiping after going to the bathroom – sponge and all.

    A second man Seneca lauds met a similarly grim end: “Lately a man, who had been sent forth to the morning exhibition, was being conveyed in a cart along with the other prisoners, nodding as if he were heavy with sleep, he let his head fall over so far that it was caught in the spokes; then he kept his body in position long enough to break his neck by the revolution of the wheel. So he made his escape by means of the very wagon which was carrying him to his punishment.”

    This man was not a gladiator at all – he was a condemned criminal (or perhaps a prisoner of war) sentenced to capital punishment (a mid-morning/midday staple of a Roman spectacle – as gladiators only fought in the afternoon as evenly matched pairs – much like boxers today).
    Furthermore, gladiators only fought other gladiators – you would never have a gladiator vs. an animal or criminal – execution style butchery.).

    Cato the Younger (Cato Minor) section – ‘minor/major’ aspect indicate age (not status in terms of better/cooler) – the elder is the one born first so technically Cato the Junior would work. Cato the Younger was the great-grandson of Cato the Elder (Cato Major).

  • Karlin

    My own Opthamologist commited suicide. It was pretty sad and hard to believe.

  • Keeffer

    This is a pretty interesting case of assisted suicide. This group helps people who are dying or suffering from painful diseases kill themselves. However, they didn’t check to see of the person was lying and just took her word that she was terminal.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/jaimejoyce/kill-me-now-the-troubled-life-and-complicated-death-of-jana

  • Baby Ruth

    What?!?!? No Wristcutters: A Love Story?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477139/

    • Kay Singer

      I was shocked too! I love that movie.

    • iamjusterin

      I just finished this episode today and the fact that this was left out shocked me. I was about to write an angry email – but glad someone else commented on it.

      I love this movie – its funny and touching and the music is great. For Shame Caustic – for Shame. 🙂

      • E.J

        Come on, it’s not such a good movie!

  • Jon Paynter

    Another great podcast guys. I work with suicidal people frequently and I thought you did an excellent job. Dr. Rob is amazing and I wish he was our consulting psych! I have a couple of points to add to your podcast:

    The Luminous Veil over what I have always called the Bloor Viaduct in Toronto had the intended effect of stopping people from jumping off the bridge. Unfortunately, it did not lower the actual suicide rate in Toronto because people began jumping elsewhere, much like how gun control just encourages people to find other methods of suicide. Although the veil did reduce the risk to motorists, so probably has saved the lives of lots of non-suicidal and innocent people. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/suicide-barrier-on-bloor-viaduct-worked-but-jumpers-went-elsewhere-study/article1386704/

    Subway/train jumping is a popular method, but very traumatic to those who witness it, including drivers of the trains. I have worked with some of those witnesses and they are messed up for life by those experiences. The jumps aren’t reported in the news, however, to discourage others from copying. Emphasizing the negative impact of suicide is great (as you did in your podcast) and those considering suicide often don’t think of the impact on witnesses to suicide or the people that find the dead. Horrible, life altering stuff.

    I also wanted to point out some great possibilities for future topics that arose from this podcast – personality disorders. Dr. Rob touched on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but the others are great topics too – Borderline PD (often associated with repeated suicide attempts) and Antisocial PD (a popular pre-cursor and close cousin to Psychopathy) would each warrant their own show. Murder-suicide is also a possible topic, although it is much glorified in our society so I’m not sure you will want to go there.

    • Jon Paynter

      I re-listened to this podcast and recalled another great topic – internet trolls. I would love to expose the worst of those f’ing bastards and focus, like you did on this episode, on the incredible harm that they can do to people. I think that exposing them and getting the public more aware of the kinds of things they do would be a public service.

      • Joe

        I’ve had exactly the same thought, and “Trolls” are on my list, and something I talk about regularly online as both harmful and not at all entertaining.

  • Arlen Woods

    Here in Seattle we have the Aurora Bridge which is a popular means of committing suicide. My nephew was working for a company with offices below the bridge. One day a jumper landed in the parking lot and I know it has happened at that location more than once. I’m sure it is very traumatic for everyone there. I’m sick enough to find the idea of a body landing outside my workplace amusing; I guess that’s why I’m a soda jerk!

  • Ossicone

    This episode reminded me of the various urban legends regarding suicides at the Bobst library. The most common being that the floor was tiled to give the appearance of sharp points and would deter any jumpers. (There were several actual suicides but plenty more ridiculous stories spread around.)

    The architecture is very imposing and the plexiglass guards they had up always reminded me of the suicides. But it seems they’ve renovated to new screens that don’t obviously look like safety measures.

    http://inhabitat.com/nyc/nyu-decks-out-bobst-library-with-beautiful-suicide-prevention-screen/nyu-bobst-library-screen-digitally-inspired-joel-sanders-architects_1/

    Anyway, I was worried about this episode but you guys did a good job addressing the topic. Dr. Rob is always a great guest too.

  • E.J

    Interesting episode!

    Dr. Rob did a great job as a guestspert, as always! Good with all the info about how to prevent, what consequenses there might be and debunking some of the popular myths about suicide.

    I have myself suffered from depression and such for a period of my life and did try to commit suicide. I am healthy now and am incredibly thankful for modern medicine and psychology! It has helped me a lot, and I’m very happy that there are people working as psychiatrists, nurses, attendants etc.Their work is so important!

    On another note, you were talking about the schools where kids were copying suicides because of the memory service etc. What would a responsible way to deal with this be? From the school management? Because to just silence it would also be devestating, especially for other students feeling sad/confused and needing someone to talk to and adult guidance.

    Thank you guys for making my favourite podcast!

    • Voclo

      EJ,

      When we had a suicide over the holidays at one of our district’s high schools, I immediately remembered Dr. Rob’s suggestion and headed to the W.H.O.website for resources. I’m not sure where you are located, but in the US, educators and others who work with kids/adolescents count on the SPRC for guidance on a really, really tough subject. They have a fantastic, insightful, multi-disciplinary toolkit that may be of interest to you:

      http://www.sprc.org/sites/sprc.org/files/library/AfteraSuicideToolkitforSchools.pdf?sid=45085

      I’ve also struggled with depression/bipolar for years, and skated awfully close to the brink at my lowest. I’m doing much better, and keep in the back of my mind that I was about 30 minutes from taking my own life, so I’d better use this bonus time for the betterment of myself and society. There are still struggles, but that black, black curtain of abject pain and hopelessness has moved on, for which I am grateful.

      Take care, and I hope this helps a bit in the future.

      V

  • Derek Weber

    Congrats to Quebec (IMHO), who have just legalised euthanasia.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-06/quebec-passes-law-allowing-assisted-suicide/5505390

  • Karen

    I’ve avoided listening to this to date, but finally did. Great episode, gents, my respect for Dr Rob just continues to grow and y’all did a good job of presenting it in a thoughtful as respectful way.

    And hey, you even made me laugh out loud a couple of times!