#WorldSuicidePreventionDay: Suicide’s Painless? THINK AGAIN!

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day, and given the alarming rates of suicide and attempted suicide, we’re doing what we can to raise awareness around this very important issue.

Are you aware of the fact that in the Eastern Cape alone as many as 16 school children per month are ending their lives? Children as young as seven hang themselves because they can no longer face a future with no prospects. In the rest of the country, the situation is equally dire. Last month in Krugersdorp a little girl of 11 was found hanging from a tree in her parents’ back garden. Her equally young friends had to cut her loose.

Elsewhere, a boy of 12 recently drank Jik to end his own life.Suicide among younger people has skyrocketed worldwide. In France, for instance, the finance minister, Christine Lagarde, has proposed serious steps by the management of France Telecom after 23 of their workers committed suicide over the last 18 months. According to Lagarde, the loss of 22 000 jobs at the company due to retrenchment ‘may be the reason’ for the suicides. The latest tragic case saw a 32-year-old woman jumping from her office window in Paris.The New Zealand magazine Craccum recently published an article about the medical implications of suicide and attempted suicide. This was done in the light of a worldwide study which shows that New Zealand has the second highest suicide rate among young people (aged 15-24). Finland tops this grim list.


No Easy Way Out

“Our prime reason for printing this article is to provide information,” states Craccum’s article. “If you think that you want to commit suicide, you need to know what you’re getting into. Very, very few forms of suicide are relatively painless. This guide is designed to explode the myth that suicide is a ‘painless, easy way out’. All we do know is that support helps and silence doesn’t.” (Reports which have, rather obviously, been obtained from people who have been resuscitated after clinical death.)

Suicide Shouldn’t Be A Secret
If we save just one person with this article, it is well worth it. Because suicide has always been a taboo topic, people and especially youths are uninformed about the medical implications it has. There is nothing romantic about suicide. And what if you survive? You will have to deal with the initial problem, plus you may be maimed, blinded or paralysed. Is it worth it? There are genuinely helpful support networks in the community and there are always trained people who are there to listen. Psychologists, rehabs, medication, as well as therapy groups, all there to help you heal. So if you feel life is not worth living anymore.

Your Body Goes Into Survival Mode
The human body has been programmed to survive, no matter what. So for example, when you burn alive, your body curls into a foetal position (this is one main way that policemen identify whether a person was alive before they were immolated). When you fall, your body also pulls into a foetal position to attempt to minimise the damage and blood clots try to prevent death by bleeding. The key point of suicide is overcoming the natural instincts of self preservation possessed by your body and mind. To illustrate this, some time ago, a medical student committed suicide in Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town, by gassing himself in his car. When found, he was already dead, but it was clear that he knew exactly what he was doing. To prevent survival, he had sawn off the buttons with which the doors could be opened from the inside.

Hanging Yourself

When hanging was a form of capital punishment in South Africa, hangmen were veritable scientists in their trade. It links body weight to rope length, and is used to calculate an ‘ideal’ hanging. If the rope is too short, your neck doesn’t snap at the right time, and you will die by strangulation. If the rope is too long, your body accelerates so much when you fall that you are more likely to decapitate yourself.Unfortunately, if you try this at home, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have such a perfect passing. It has been documented in several hanging cases that the victim has been found with burst eyeballs (pressure build-up in the head), snapped spine (from bucking and struggling in the noose) and burst sphincter.If you doubt that your body tries to avoid death, no matter what your mindset is, examine some autopsy evidence on the internet. Many people who hang themselves have claw marks on their necks from trying to get the noose off.


Suicide By Jumping From A Height

This is gruesome, and death is almost certain. People have survived the fall, but not many. You might survive if you hit the water feet first and come in at a slight angle. The impact is tremendous. The body goes from roughly 120km per hour to nearly zero in a nanosecond. With the physics of inertia being what they are, internal organs tend to keep going. The force of impact causes them to tear loose. Autopsy reports typically indicate that the jumpers have lacerated aortas, livers, spleens and hearts. Ribs are often broken, and the impact shoves them into the heart or lungs. Jumpers have broken sternums, clavicles, pelvises and necks. Skull fractures are common. Death by jumping happens in one of two ways, and sometimes a combination of the two. You will probably hit the water so hard that the impact kills you. Sometimes the jumper loses consciousness, but it also happens that the jumper survives for a short time, but dies due to internal bleeding. The second possibility is drowning. Your body hits the water at such a high speed that you are driven extremely deep into the water. Whether conscious or not, you will breathe in water and asphyxiate.


Death By Carbon Monoxide

A Craccum reporter related this story about one of the supposedly least painful ways to kill yourself: “When an acquaintance of mine killed himself using exhaust fumes, he became so disfigured the police wouldn’t allow his family in to see the body. All of the veins in his face burst, his eyeballs popped and his tongue was so badly swollen that it protruded from his mouth and held his jaw in a totally unnatural position.” This is in stark contrast to the widely held belief that one just falls peacefully asleep. Carbon monoxide works in the following way: haemoglobin, the body’s way of carrying oxygen around the body, mistakes the monoxide for oxygen and ‘absorbs’ it. The difference between oxygen and monoxide is that monoxide ‘sticks’ to the haemoglobin, and isn’t removed. This means, in short, that actual, life-giving oxygen is no longer distributed throughout your body.


Death By Firearm

“There is a reason why so many attempted gunshot suicides leave the victim alive, but ultimately comatose or retarded. The brain is a lot more resilient than many of us give it credit for, and the bone structures of the human body are a lot stronger. Even if the gun is on your temple or in your mouth before you pull the trigger, recoil almost guarantees that it won’t be in the right place when the bullet is ejected from the gun. You can easily remove part of your frontal lobe and still be alive, but blind. Marianne Kruger, a spokesperson for the Association of the Blind in Worcester, says it’s quite possible to sever your eye muscles if your aim is only slightly off. She says a 16-year-old girl from Upington in the Northern Cape was depressed due to her cirumstances at home. She shot herself. She survived, but is now completely blind. Bob Stone of Emerging Ministeries also recounts the tale of a teenager, who couldn’t cope with his father’s death, took a friend’s rifle and shot himself while lying on his father’s grave. At 04h00, he was lying in a pool of his own blood, unable to move a muscle. He could hardly see or hear and couldn’t yell for help. But he could feel pain. He also knew that he didn’t want to die anymore. After hours of lying there, he somehow found the strength to pull himself to his car and managed to drive himself to the hospital. The surgeons worked for 17 hours in emergency reconstructive surgery, he went into a coma, but after a few weeks woke up. And when he looked in the mirror, he cried when he saw his scarred face. Today, he speaks at school assemblies telling teens suicide isn’t the answer.


Although painful, this does not always cause death. Your body will utilise its survival instinct and try to evacuate the poisons. In other words, you are likely to vomit your lights out. You don’t have to remove all of the toxins from your system in order to survive, and you may well wake up in a few hours’ time physically damaged and very ill. Poison causes respiratory arrest and is extremely painful, because thick slime forms in the lungs, explains Leon Rossouw, lecturer at S.A. Paramedic Services. Remember too that many of the most common pills and chemicals around the house (Aspirin/Panado, bleach, insecticides etc.) will make you endure the most agonising death possible. In particular, bleach and insect repellent such as ant poison work by eating through your stomach and spreading through your other internal organs, while you’re  suffocating. Leon says most adolescents take whatever is available to them in the household. However, what they don’t realise is that it can take up to three day after taking the pills before you die, because the cause of death is cirrhosis of the liver.


Motor Vehicles (Driving A Car Into Anything)

Remember what we said about your body’s survival instinct? No matter how much you are sure you want to kill yourself, your body will almost invariably press the brake pedal at the last moment. This reaction is almost involuntary, and your psychological demeanour will do little to avoid it. Also you will curl up and shield your face to try and reduce damage.Be aware that because of this protective instinct, you might survive the initial crash. Much like the road safety advertisements on television, your secondary concern is whether or not you’ll survive the car igniting or bleeding as a result of your injuries. If you’ve changed your mind in the interim, there’s not that much you can do about it.


Slashing Your Wrists

What the majority of people don’t realise is how remarkably hard it is to drain enough blood from your system without the wound clotting, no matter how deep it is. The artery that you have to cut is located between the tendons in your wrist, so you have to cut very precisely, or you’ll miss it, says Leon Rossouw.Even if you do manage to hit the vein, your body goes into survival mode by making your muscles spasm in order to help the blood to clot. Your chances of bleeding to death are very slim.