Features May 6, 2010 at 4:00 am

More people die of suicide in King County than from traffic accidents or murder, but no one likes to talk about it. A few words about the history, meaning, and practice of suicide, from third-century Christian death cults to the Aurora Bridge.

More than 230 people have leaped from it—over the past decade, an average of one person every three months. This spring, the state will install a mile of suicide fencing on either side. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the King County Crisis Clinic at 461-3222 or 866-4CRISIS. samuel bosma


The "the city hasn't calculated the cost of a human life" thing doesn't ring true to me. A few people jump of the I-5 overpass every year--no-one's proposing a suicide fence there because it would be way expensive and it'd only (maybe) save a few lives each year. All that "If it only saves ONE LIFE, it'll be worth it...." talk seems to dry up when there are no whiny houseboat owners involved.

If the concern was really in stopping people from dying on Aurora, they'd put up a ten foot fence on the divider from the tunnel up to just past Greenlake to keep dipshits from running across at night and, several times a year, getting killed in traffic. But again--no whiny houseboat owners involved.
Very interesting and informative article, thanks for the read!
@3 Oops. Fixed. Thanks!
hey brendan,

you should check out "The Bridge"

it's about ppl jumping off the San Fran Bridge. film crew filmed for a year to catch people in the act then they went and found their family members/friends and interviewed them to get a complete picture of what went wrong in their lives. pretty depressing flick.
Great article. I wish more writing in the Stranger had the depth of this.
Last night I saw an episode of the Family Guy in which (SPOILER) Brian explains as some length to Stewie why he keeps a bottle of Glenfiddich and a loaded revolver in his safety deposit box.

On Family Guy, fer crissakes. It's everywhere.

you can talk about whiny coworkers all you want, but there have been a large number of employees at Fremont businesses that have been scarred by the selfish jumpers. This may not fit your idea of cost-efficiency but it is worth it to everyone I've spoken with in Fremont, myself included. Also, this is more about depression than it is about stupidity- people running across a six lane highway at night are not likely able to be helped.
@8 As I suspected--it's not about the suicidally depressed, "selfish" jumpers, it's about the people who are shocked to find that living/working next to the 2nd most popular suicide bridge in America means you have a chance of seeing jumpers. OMFG!

I mean, Christ, who could have seen that coming? It's not like the suicides are a big secret or something. Oh WAIT--they are. The press has a gentleman's agreement to not mention them less a wave of contagion overwhelm Fremont.

And I say this as someone who has worked next to the bridge, at the Adobe building and next door for almost ten years, in addition to walking/biking underneath it every work day, and who has never seen a jumper or jumper residue. But, I accept that it is a possibility, and if that really bothered me, I'd move/find another job.
I knew a guy who jumped off the Aurora bridge about 15 years ago and survived. Now he's a quadriplegic 'tard and will be for the rest of his life.
I had a coworker whose husband worked for CSX rail lines. He told her that at the start of his job he was told by his employer that someday he would see someone jump on the tracks. Almost everyone that worked on the trains sees at least one suicide. My friend's husband eventually did see someone deliberately stand on the tracks. He told her that he shut his eyes just as soon as they were to make contact (after repeatedly warning her to get off the tracks).

Suicide is an inevitably of human life, but I do wish would-be suicidals would think of bystanders and employees who have to see them die.
keep the streets empty for me.
keep the streets empty for me.
You say there ain't no use in livin'
It's all a waste of time
'n you wanna throw your life away, well
People that's just fine
Go ahead on 'n get it over with then
Find you a bridge 'n take a jump
Just make sure you do it right the first time
'cause nothin's worse than a suicide chump

You say there ain't no light a-shinin'
Through the bushes up ahead
'n we're all gonna be so sorry
When we find out you are dead
Go head on and get it over with then
Find you a bridge 'n take a jump
Just make sure you do it right the first
'cause nothin's worse than a suicide chump

Now maybe you're scared of jumpin'
'n poison makes you sick
'n you want a little attention
'n you need it pretty quick
Don't wanna mess your face up
Or we won't know if it's you
Aw there's just so much to worry about
Now what you gonna do?

Go head on and get it over with then
Go head on and get it over with then
Go head on and get it over with then
Go head on and get it over with then
Go head on and get it over with then
Go head on and get it over with then
Go head on and get it over with then
Go head on and get it over with then

We miss you Frank. : /

(PS to anyone who might take umbrage - I quote this as a person who once hung off a 16 story balcony rail by three fingers and the toe of one shoe. So fuck you.)

Wow, more people die world wide from suicide than war. Some people just want to die. If we are to be a truely free people, should we let them?
Good article.

But I'm wondering about the old testament prohibition on shaving. I find a prohibition on shaving one's head in mourning for the dead, but other than that the only mention of shaving in Deuteronomy seems to be instructions for how to cleanse a POW woman you'd like to force to marry you: http://tinyurl.com/2ex8ted

Also, wow, Deuteronomy is effed up.
Thanks, Brendan. I agree that I wish the Stranger had more writing of this caliber. It made me think of those I've lost and those I know who suffer so.
to Slam1263, no we should not let people die. Perhaps some people truly want to die- but likely because they have serious depression that disables them from precieving the world around them they way they would if they didn't have depression.

I lost my brother to suicide almost a year ago, so of course I'm sensitive to the issue but I've also learned a lot about mood disorders and suicide. Don't give up on people who need help! Depression is a disease. There is NO reason for stigma.
Amazing article Brendan. There's so much depth and intensity in this subject and it seems like you managed to touch on all of it within the confines of one newspaper piece, thank you!

My eyes are watering making every other word hard to read. Your article was truly touching. I have a fresh look on treating others and myself. This must have been a tough story for you, dealing with your own sentimental thoughts and having to limit your self to words and great quotes. Suicide isn't only for select members, it involves everyone dead and alive. Think of the peoples lives you may have saved with your heartfelt article. We try to pin something(s) on someone(s) and forget about embracing love, love and my favorite, love. Some people like me get down on themselves and really just need a hug or someone to talk to or just a notice. Marilyn Manson who was "blamed" for Columbine shooting was asked a hypothetical question, what he would do if someone said "Marilyn, I'm going to kill my self because of your music". In response Manson said "I would not say anything I would listen to them, because that's what no one is doing". We tend to boast ourselves and belittle others, simply by not noticing them. Take action (that sounds like cheese), we need to be more understanding and accepting of others. I don't want to tell people what to do, but to simply open up and be [thinking of a powerful word] awesome.
Great article!
As a multiple-attempter myself (ask about how helpful fundie-christian anti-gay shit is), I will never agree that 'it's SO SELFISH'. It is the only solution to those who seriously attempt/succeed, and not selfish in their mind at all. They are actually helping those they love. Yes, screwed up, but rarely motivated by an 'I'll get even with YOU' mindset.
The 5 Million is a waste of $'s, and the whiny houseboat/Fremont folks should suck it up or move. People die every day folks- suicide is just another way to go.
He has learned that the sooner he interviews a bereaved family, the more accurate the information will be, because they haven't had time to consult a lawyer or an insurance agent.

Um, yeah. Frisino forgot to mention why that is... because life insurance won't pay shit for suicides, and the bereaved get stuck with the bill no matter how much was paid in premiums beforehand.

But hey- at least Frisino got a great story and the insurance company got a jackpot, right...?
The first graph (age vs number of suicides) wasn't a very good one. The size of the age brackets is not consistent and the number of people in each bracket can vary substantially. As a result, the shape of the graph tells us the likely age of the corpse rather than the likeliness of suicide for a living person. In other words, the graphs do not illustrate which age groups could be considered most at risk.
I wish that I could remember specifically where this story was, but I can't. However, it was the story of a man who jumped off a bridge in an attempted suicide. He survived. Later he wrote that the second his body left the bridge... he regretted his decision. The Coast Guard who plucked him from the water said that EVERY person he rescues from a suicide attempt has admitted they regretted their decision. I thought that was interesting.
This article didn't make me any more or less suicidal than I am already. I found it interesting and informative but so emotionally distant and matter of fact.

What is interesting about this article is it shows that women are less likely to commit suicide after a divorce than the average woman. If being gay was a choice a lot of scorned women would have gone that way a long time ago.
I don't have time to finish reading this article now, but Will in Seattle? I told you so.

A 2005 article in Psychiatric News says some jumpers aren't necessarily depressed or chronic suicide attempters—sometimes people are simply overwhelmed by a sudden desire to leap—and that thwarted jumpers .... Another study, of the Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington, D.C., showed that its suicide fence caused no increase in suicides at the Taft Bridge, which has no fence and is only one block away.
@ 26, that's called objective journalism. If you want some hippie-dippy la la shit, talk to a new age counselor.
wonderful article.
Great work, Kiley!

@21: "As a multiple-attempter myself (ask about how helpful fundie-christian anti-gay shit is)..."

I felt a little less alone in the world after reading that. Seriously.
People who are dealing with suicide in anyway, need our sympathy. I have noticed a growing trend and that is that in order for people not to 'feel' or allow this tragedy to hurt them in anyway, they become opposed, or scornful and bitter to its effects.

In order to help, it is important to lay ridicule and objections aside. Everyone has valid points and perhaps is sick of hearing about suicide, I'm sick of cancer but that doesn't mean I am hardened.

We fear what we don't know, and its important for individuals to understand that suicide is a reaction to something painful. The one commonality between all suicides, believer's and non is a lack of hope.

Suicide cannot be eradicated with the healthy population taking a blind eye and becoming emotionally detatched. This only reinstates the personal view in a suicidal that no one understands and no one cares.

Good work. Very thoughtful and informative.
I've been reading the Stranger since the first issue and this is the finest piece of journalism the paper has ever published.
Great read, though I doubt the aurora bridge "suicide fence" will actually deter people from jumping. 5 Million dollars to add an extra 5 feet to the jump...
Probably the best article I've read in The Stranger in at least 10 years. Maybe ever. Awesome job, Brendan. I hope your writing talents can get you out of that 3rd-rate job in a 2nd-rate city sometime soon.
@ 35, you're a stupid tool. Please never post a comment here again. See my comment at 28, and try reading for comprehension next time.
Beautiful article. :)
Thanks for this thoughtful and objective article. I honestly would like to know from those who've tried and failed - how is subjecting innocent bystanders to the possibility of seeing your battered body splattered across a parking lot NOT selfish?
It may be wrong of me but I really love the illustration for this article.
Thank you for this article, and particularly for your description of the crisis hotline. As a past volunteer at a similar hotline, this depiction of volunteers' role at such centers rings very true. With such a stigma surrounding even having a conversation about suicide, I am glad to see such a thoughtful, informed article on the subject. Again, thank you for writing it.
Just a couple of things I'd like to add or emphasize; substance abuse and dependence are huge contributors to suicide and the majority of people who survive a serious suicide attempt say they really don't want to die -- they just want help.
I enjoyed reading your article, Brendan. I've already received several comments about being the "soft-spoken" Australian...a rare combination, it has been pointed out to me, so thank you for the compliment!

While I could comfortably overlook you subscribing the Golden Girls comment to me and not Michael (we had a laugh about this when reading your article yesterday) I need to correct you, though, for something you wrote in your article. In reference to the thought process someone goes through when contemplating suicide, you quoted me as saying "For most people, it's a momentary impulse...". I did not say this and, moreover, my experience working at the Crisis Clinic suggests otherwise.

I am aware some people subscribe to the theory that suicidal behavior is a momentary impulse and perhaps you came across this opinion in the course of your researching this article. I do not subscribe to this theory, however, and so I was very surprised to see you quoting me as though I had said something that supported that opinion.

Despite this, your article had some good information in it and it will hopefully result in more people being aware of the important work the Crisis Clinic does in our community.

Brendan Kiley has touched on a surprising number of issues, including a very personal one, within the limited space of his article, and I applaud him. This may be the best short treatment I've ever read. Having done a fair amount of research myself, I know there are questions and disagreements and differences over time and place on practically everything where suicide is concerned. People who want to know more will find a daunting number of books and articles on the subject; among those I've found helpful are A. Alvarez's book "The Savage God" (a cultural and literary study that also has a personal perspective on Sylvia Plath's suicide), Georges Minois' book "History of Suicide" (which covers centuries of Western attitudes), and Kay Jamison's book "Night Falls Fast."

More importantly, anyone who's considering suicide should, as this article says more than once, call a crisis help line. I'm not prepared to say, in principle, that suicide is either wrong or right, but I'm sure that no one has to feel alone in wrestling with the question.
For the price of that ear-sore fence, they could employ therapists round the clock at either end of the bridge for 15 years and actually help people.
@46 Because I'm bored, I decided to crunch the numbers and see if you're full of shit.

So, let's assume we're hiring 2 therapists (one for each end of the bridge) at a rate of $50 an hour. (This figure is rather low, and doesn't take into account cost of living increases, but whatever.)

So we're employing two therapists for $50 per hour, everyday, for 15 years. Thus,

2 (people) x 50 (dollars) x 24 (hours) x 365 (days) x 15 (years) = $13,140,000

That's over three times the fence's estimated cost of $4,600,000.

In conclusion: You sir, are full of shit.
Beautiful, thoughtful piece. Thank you Brendan.
Brendan, I write because there is a chance you'll see this.

Why all this from Aquinas and Augustine, but not Durkheim or Camus? Your mother is Christian - and evidently pretty awesome about her faith. But would she turn a blind eye to those of other faith traditions, including a person from Japan? (I should note that it was a fine piece and nice to read about the Donatists, etc; I am just curious about the slant - neigh - "leaning forward.")

It is also surprising to me that you did not follow Werther fever further - is your answer that it simply depends upon the romanticism of the coverage, or eulogy? Again, the slant - whether or not you are leaving it to implied (Christian) salvation or not, if only by reputation - makes me wonder.
For instance, on the latter, I wonder if there are any studies of whether there is a Werther effect in prisons/jails?

(What's the right term, "suicide contagion," or something?)
"The direct cost of an attempted suicide—hospital fees, autopsy and investigation costs—is $5,310. The direct cost of a completed suicide is $2,098."

This must be a mistake
Really nice article.

I, for one, take a lot of comfort from knowing that suicide is an option. Life is difficult and absurdly painful, and if I didn't feel like living it was my choice, I'd go fucking crazy. I usually have a favorite-method-of-the-moment. Right now, I think injecting a bunch of heparin (anti-coagulent), placing an IV catheter, and floating myself out into a body of water to bleed to death sounds rather pleasant.

Fucked up? Maybe.

I have no intention of killing myself, mind you. I won't do it to the people who love me. It's just nice to think about it. :)
Thanks for writing such a great article on such a "taboo" subject. Maybe if suicides were reported like murders, people would realize the sad state of our mental health care in this country.
Very informative and almost enlightening, really. Subjects which are most taboo are typically ones that should be addressed more often, in my opinion.
Well it looks like it's started already. I hope you're happy, Stranger.

(really, I appreciate the article. well written, and dealt with a taboo subject head-on with a personal touch. if a few corrupt Chicago politicians have to die because of this, such is life)
"Self-slaughter" - that makes it sound kind of stupid, doesn't it? And pointless. Not a pleasant thing to volunteer for. A useful phrase to remember. Thanks.
@ 44. Sorry about that, Gavin. My notes have you saying "momentary impulse" but perhaps I misunderstood. Send me an email (brendan@thestranger.com) so we can get your quote right.
This article contained a lot of interesting facts about suicide but it lacks a clear intention. Does the author want to discourage people from committing suicide? If so, why include the letter to Mom about how acceptable assisted-suicide is? Why include the number to the Crisis hotline? If someone is in pain (mental or physical) then they should feel that it is fine to kill themselves, right? What exactly is the author's opinion about suicide? Should we support suicide in some instances but try to prevent it in other instances? Why? The author seems to be arguing for both helping people to commit suicide and helping to prevent suicide at the same time. The author doesn't make any sense. The truth is suicide is a way that people lie to themselves and try to convince themselves that they are in control when in fact they are not. The only way to get through life without going insane and trying to kill yourself is to accept that you are not in control and that a higher power who is good is in control and will take care of you no matter how things may seem. Courtney Love was right to curse Cobain for his stupid pathetic and selfish decision. People who are in favor of assisted suicide are stupid pathetic control-freaks who live in fear of reality and hatred of life and God.
In the good old days, people used to commit suicide in South Lake Union and at Seattle Center.

But if we prevent them from jumping off the Aurora Bridge, they'll go back to blowing their heads off with a gun in Seattle Center again.

Stop hating on our #2 spot - we need to be #1 and beat out San Fran for our Bridge Jumpers!
Not a jumper story but this happened last week on the eastside:

"Two Chattaroy men were found dead Tuesday, April 6, on Highway 20, near mile marker 393. After investigation, the Pend Oreille County sheriff’s office ruled the deaths a double suicide.

Initially, a homicide investigation started because the bodies were found with handguns, but deputies ruled the deaths suicides after investigating."

Something particularly sad about 2 older siblings committing suicide together next to a gravel pit.

"Reports from the University of California show that many people travel across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, though the two structures are approximately the same height. There is no record of anyone doing it the other way around."

this sounds acutely ironic, a great artifact of the absurdity of life, like getting a haircut before blowing your head off. but there is no pedestrian walkway across the bay bridge. you'd have to park in highway-speed traffic (with no shoulder) to jump off.
I don't mean to sound inflammatory, but I'm curious why you decided to publish this piece if so many experts encouraged you not to. What makes you think you know better than them?
For purposes of government cost-benefit analyses, a human life is considered to be worth $3 million or so. Therefore, the barrier on the Aurora Bridge will pay for itself in about 5 months.

Also, that bit about hanging? Massively unethical and irresponsible journalism that will lead directly to people's deaths. That is something that we are all safer not knowing!
Your article missed two important points. The first is about those ads you see on TV about anti-depressants causing suicidal thoughts in teenagers. Interesting fact: they are not kidding. The pharmaceutical industry has the same ethics as the Columbian drug cartel. Parents: take note. I know from sad experience. My child was affected. No psychiatrist will cop to this. Second: survivors of suicide attempts and their families are subjected to the worst kinds of cruelty and "good intentions". I had a woman I thought of as a friend call me after my daughter attempted suicdie and say that my daughter was a manipulative liar including when she said to me "I love you". Etc. About a child! Etc. You know who are. The aftermath is really where the story lies. Choose life....
Man, this was hard to read. But so fascinating, well written, and important. The problem I have with suicide being illegal is this: it's society's job to regulate behavioral norms (through mores, folkways, and taboos), not government's.
But the problem with taboo is, breaking it is compelling and addictive, and tends to run in waves. So rather than make the subject of suicide taboo, we have to go the other way and *talk* about it. Not glamorize it--Courtney Love was right on--but talk about it and its effects.

A character from Nick Hornby's 'A Long Way Down' says something along the lines of, "As soon as I jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, I realized the only problem in my life I couldn't solve was that I'd just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge."
Adding to what @64 said, about prescription anti-depressants having suicide as a side effect -- those aren't the only prescription drugs that might cause someone to (temporarily) want to kill themselves. A few years ago I had to be on a drug called prednisone; long story short, it fucked with my brain and I briefly considered driving my car into a tree. I had no idea why I felt like I was going crazy and didn't figure it out till I snapped out of it after changing to a lower dose. Morals of the story: 1) you can't really generalize about why people attempt suicide and assume they're inconsiderate jerks, 2) the medical profession needs to up their game to destigmatize mental illness and increase supervision of patients on dangerous meds.
I've been reading the Stranger a long time and I think this has got to be one of the best (if not the best) piece I've ever read. I know I'm echoing what a lot of others are saying, but tough shit.
(Randy... of course this made me think of you. I still miss you.)
@ 49 Most Japanese are Shintoists and Buddhists simultaneously. Buddhism prohibits suicide too.

I'm tempted to let this go and just accept that there are ignorant assholes in the world, but come on, dude. Don't blame Brendan for your inability to read. If it seems like he's suggesting that suicide is acceptable, even preferable, in some cases and lamentable and misguided in others, it's because he is. I think he makes an excellent case for that position, too.

As for your claim that people who commit suicide are definitionally insane, well I guess that depends on your definition of sanity. In the words of Emily Dickinson, "Much madness is divinest sense/ to a discerning eye;/much sense the starkest madness." To some people, under some circumstances, I bet it seems far crazier to keep going on with the shitstorm that is life that it is to end it all.

And one more point of rebuttal: shame on you for saying that people who kill themselves hate God. It seems rather petty for God to take offense to people wanting to rid themselves of the pain that He visited upon them in His divine wisdom. Maybe next time He'll do a better job making life not suck so much. Or maybe killing yourself today is just as effective as dying of old age thirty years from now at getting you to God. In either case, I defer to Matthew 7:1 "Judge not lest ye be judged."

@Brendan, excellent article. Well written, well researched. Thank you.
Well said #69!
#58's comment pissed me off too. This article is probably the best thing I've ever read in the Stranger. Good job Brendan Kiley!
My father committed suicide in 2005 when he was 52 years old (I was 22). My family is Roman Catholic on both sides, and in the aftermath of the suicide it hurt me greatly how nobody at the funeral was very open about exactly how he died. Among my aunts, uncles, and cousins (basically his immediate family and their children) we all know what had happened, but people didn't talk about his disease the way you might after the death of someone with a physical illness like breast cancer or the victim of an accidental death.

My dad was bipolar, and had been treated for it since his 30s. When he died, my grandma had a lot of sadness because her deep faith in Catholicism, since as the article points out, suicide is still considered a mortal sin in the church. Her faith, which is supposed to offer comfort to people, also made her think that her son was in hell for killing himself. Thankfully, she seems to have come to terms with his death (at least as much as any mother can), but I still blame archaic religious thinking for a couple of years of extra-rich misery she went through.

Thank you, Brandon, for writing this. It gives me a lot of new knowledge about suicide (even I think it's an objectively fascinating philosophical idea). Plus, it gave me a concrete history of the church's evolution in thought toward suicide. Perhaps if we can begin looking at this problem, and mental illness in general, in a compassionate, non-judgmental way, those who are thinking about suicide, and people who lose loved ones from suicide, can get more of the help and understanding they need from the communities that they belong to.
My friend killed herself last weekend and reading this helped me make some sense out of my feelings. Thanks
"We get a fair number of suicide calls," said Crisis Services director Michael Reading. In 2009, the clinic received 4,289 calls "with suicidal content..."

Overcome with grief last fall, in October of 2009 to be exact, weeping as deeply as I had ever wept in my life and all the while holding a knife to my heart and telling myself over and over to just do it; I made a decision to put down that knife and make a phone call first.

I was one of those 4,289 calls in 2009 with "suicidal content" and the Crisis Center saved my life. They took me seriously and were able to get me to see a psychiatrist and get on medication the same day. If it hadn't been for them, I would be dead.
This is a beautiful, well laid out, eloquent, and touching article. I was mesmerized. Thank you.
thankyou... we're all thinking about it finally we can actually read about it.. bravo
@72 - my life is roughly divided into two parts; the time before I found my best friends body -- and the time following that day/moment... A "surviver" of suicide is what I call myself sometimes.

I'm so sorry about your friend.

You are a surviver like me now. It's hard, in many ways. Hard work, hard to deal with the way other people might treat you, hard in a million ways.
Do whatever you have to do to stay alive,to survive. This is what I tell myself, this is what I do. Not advice, I'm sure you've already heard more than enough by now.

Sorry - it's "Survivor"
@23 & 43: What's the matter, are you expecting your seventh Glenn Beck-fucked child?
I'd like to see an autopsy performed on a suicide survivor. That being said, while I suppose jump-proofing bridges can be seen as a social service toward the greater good, nothing will stop the truly committed from finding a way to off themselves. It's a pity, but it can't be helped.
Ah, but the economic impact of a human life is somewhere between 1 and 3 million dollars on average. From a purely economic point of view, it pays to prevent suicide.
Without question, there are lots of reasons why people want to kill themselves. But I have to say that one cause that no one, especially psychiatrists, seem to ever look at is that people's biochemistry can be so out of balance that they become anxious, depressed, suicidal, psychotic or anything else. If someone goes to a psychiatrist for help with depression, his biochemistry is NEVER looked at. How can I make such a claim? Because I spent ten years taking 2 family members to shrinks until I finally wised up. The shrink orders ZERO lab tests to find out what biochemical problem might be causing the patient to feel depressed or anxious, hyperactive, psychotic, etc. When my own loved one, "Aaron," became psychotic, the shrink claimed that he had "bipolar with psychosis." Talk about a stupid diagnosis. It was only a description of the symptoms, just like having a mechanic give you a "diagnosis" of "Won't Run Disorder" for your car that won't run. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Then he provided talk therapy to talk about the symtoms and he offered synthetic drugs in an attempt to control the symptoms. What matters is what is CAUSING the psychosis, depression or anything else, right? If you don't know what the causes are, you can't possibly FIX the problem. It was only when I switched to "orthomolecular" treatment that Aaron recovered. And he recovered 100%. ("Ortho" means "correct" and the term means "to correct the biochemistry.") Correcting a person's biochemistry is something shrinks have no clue how to do. All they are taught is how to match up symptoms with synthetic, patented, expensive drugs. In fact, our entire mental health care system is about treating the symptoms ONLY while the real, underlying, biochemical causes are completely ignored. Gee, I wonder if it's because virtually every medical school in the country is supported by tens of millions of dollars from Big Pharma every year. Linda Santini, author of "The Secrets to Recovery from Mental Illness."

I too have felt that awful pull, the strange compulsion. I hate walking over Yesler to get to work. And back to the train at night.

It's an encompassingly morbid curiosity, and some days I have a very real fear that I won't be able to beat it down. Those days, I walk faster.
gtownmike@51, yes i also thought those numbers made no sense. i think they got turned around: the greater sum should be for completed suicide (hence, including the autopsy and investigation costs kiley erroneously attributed to "attempted" suicide).
Thought provoking article. I think most commit suicide because they're just really given up on the future or they were harassed in some way on http://www.dirtyphonebook.com or facebook or something like that. The key is to have people around you that love you and want to help you in your time of need. That's why you should always tell somebody you care for them because you don't want anybody to think that they don't have somebody that they can talk to.
Because my best friend committed suicide in 2006, I had been consciously avoiding this article until now. Mr. Kiley skillfully explores many of the questions I've had since that time. I have imagined my friend's last hours, pictured his face as he looked down into the East River, wondered how his religious family would respond, questioned the negative stigma, got pissed at him, and ultimately came around to a deeper understanding and appreciation for end-of-life issues. It needs to be discussed, even if there are no set answers. As sad as I remain all these years, I know that my friend is free from decades long pain, and that I have learned how to be a better friend.
"A 2005 article in Psychiatric News says some jumpers aren't necessarily depressed or chronic suicide attempters—sometimes people are simply overwhelmed by a sudden desire to leap"

Everytime I'm at a mariners game at sitting in the nosebleeds I wonder about what it'd be like to jump.
#84 - clearly---
But I wonder why he hasnt fixed it...otherwise, a great article...
Every time I walk on the bridge over Deception Pass-I feel a compelling urge to jump just for the thrill of it-not to off myself or freak anyone out.
Its from an experience in the Army when I stupidly volunteered to learn how to fly.I was dumb enough to think the Army was going to teach me to fly a Huey gunship.The reality was they needed dummies to jump out of a plane carrying a large load of C4 to blow up some hill in Vietnam.
That experience scared the crap out of me as I fell from the plane-actually I was so freaked out that the jump master tossed me out the door like a sack of potatoes-the thrill was momentary as I fell-its a rush to fall from several thousand feet- almost flying-and you really don't feel anything other then weightlessness.
I always hold on to the railing-fearing the wind will carry me over the bridge railing or a semi or motor home with those extended mirrors will knock me over-falling into the freezing abyss of raging currents below.
I am not certain why I feel like jumping-but I am reasonably frightened by height and falling, though I am nearly 6'8" tall.
Its an odd sensation. While living in the SF bay area-I saw a lady jump off the Golden Gate bridge onto a passing container cargo ship below.It was very unreal-and the ship was blowing an emergency horn as she crawled over the fence that keeps you from falling.
With all the noise-you could hear her body smack onto a container-I suspect she died right away.
I have had a few friends try to off themselves
by many means-none were a success.
Its a frightening affair-I prefer to let old age or maybe a bolt of lightning get me..

Good reporting!
North Everett
@ 51, 84, and 88:

Nope, those figures are correct, at least according to the "Comprehensive Textbooks of Suidcidology." I'm guessing it's because it costs more to take care of a living, wounded body than a corpse.

Those million-dollar figures other commenters cited are for direct *and* indirect costs to the government, an individual, and his/her families and employers (lost wages, etc.). In that case, the completed suicides cost more.

But for direct hospital and investigation costs, the incomplete attempts are more expensive.

Get a grip on your own reality!

My dad suffered for over ten years from the exposure he had at Hanford building containment cylinders for waste and the A-bomb.
He had heart attacks and infections that ate away his chest,lost his sternum,all his ribs,and slowly died a horrific death.After ten years of 70 pills a day to control his body, he finally asked his Dr to help-the Dr said quit taking blood pressure pills and in 3 days you will fall asleep and won't feel anything or wake up.
Thats compassion-not anything else-
your comments prove you are clueless and heartless!
Assisted suicide is a remedy for horrific illness and long drawn out slow deaths that many face-we keep them alive in misery because we are too afraid to allow them dignity in life or death. Society wants to prop them up-dope them up-keep robbing them of a decent existence.
Well written article. My family has gone through a jump (survived) this past year. The cover silhouette is eeringly similar. Rather than pull punches or be sensitive to whomever, you probably should have gone ahead and showed a bridge railing. I also very much doubt jumpers will be crowding the bridge in a big rush as the new fencing begins to close in.
I've been reading the Stranger semi-regularly since its first printing (1991). This is the finest article I can remember reading in that time. Thank you for making it available.
As someone who recently tried to kill myself I found your article cold, unhelpful and rude. Comparing yourself to Goethe (a favorite of mine) is a joke as this article had no artistic merit whatsoever. It is also incredibly rude to mention the names of those who have taken their own lives as they probably had friends and family who are still around and sensitive to the subject, I can speak to this as I have have been through the death of friends. It seems that you have gone through neither trauma and should stick to what you know about Brendan. I must say I am disappointed.
Oh, my heart goes out to your dad #58. What a terrible condition. The fact that he faced it for so long tells me he cared about life and those he loved. He didn't want to miss it and paid a terrible price to be there. I'm sorry he was so miserable. And I am grateful the doctor told him a way out that left the choice in his hands. I believe that is a simple act of compassion. In ancient times, badly injured people did not have long lives anyhow. So you could say your dad went back to the natural order of things by refusing modern day chemicals.
Part of my last comment did not post. Here it is.

My brother in law committed suicide twelve years ago by jumping off an overpass in Seattle. I was so upset I could not attend his funeral. I was in shock for a long time.

I couldn't even talk about it until recently. It took me twelve years to get to that point.

I was so affected that in the first three years I went on several different anti depressants and saw two psychiatrists. I eventually went off the medication, but I was still profoundly affected. I was fearful, angry, sad. For a long time.

Unforeseen suicide is not a private act. Although it may seem that way to the person at the time. It affects more than the person committing the act. When my brother in law jumped he did not go down alone. He took a part of my heart and mind with him for a long, long time.

Right after it happened I had a dream. We were standing on the overpass. He jumped and I reached out trying to save him. And I heard his voice say, "This is not your story. You can't come with me." But despite the dream, I lost part of my own life for a long time. And I didn't want to let go of him. I didn't want to lose him forever. That's how drastically suicide can affect those who remain.

Suicide can set off a ripple effect in a family that can last generations. Especially if someone is trying to raise small children and give their very best to them. It takes time accept that someone they loved hurt themselves. And that takes time away from the children when you have to comfort yourself.

I hope I am never affected by it again. There is always hope. If you are thinking of it. Please find something to hang onto. Like this article says. Something to continue living for.

Why? Because in my own life I have been very down. And thought of it too. But over time I have come to understand that things change. And even when we have profound losses that sink us into despair. Loss of a job. Or a nasty break up. Or the unthinkable. The loss of a child. There are still new days ahead.

I am not speaking to the terminally ill. Or people who are in horrific pain. That is different. I am talking to healthy, depressed individuals who have lost hope.

Call a suicide hotline. Be good to yourself. And if that doesn't register with you... Be good to those around you. Think of someone you will affect who affects children you care about. Anything. And make a call.

That's all I can think of to say.

Good piece, but cut out all the indulgent swings into the irrelevant tangent of the writer faux-debating the Christian morality of suicide with his mother. I'm not Christian, and I've never met your mother. Moreover, moral arguments generally aren't going to dissuade sad people already considering suicide from attempting it. The LAWS on suicide would interest me more, but as I've never been Christian I really couldn't care less what their moral take on it is. For such a "progressive", "edgy" publication (like the sensationalistic and misleading headline about Sound Transit "blocking" an extension of the First Hill Streetcar), I was surprised and annoyed that any religion's moral take was examined, and then only that of one religion many of us don't subscribe to. Is The Stranger really among those we have to remind that not all of us are Christian??
@84 & 87:

It's far more expensive to give/get someone medical treatment than to just cremate or bury them. If a death is very obviously a suicide (i.e. jumping from the Aurora bridge or lying down in front of a train) there isn't much investigation that goes into it - a police report gets written, a biohazard team cleans up the mess, and the family must dispose of the body.

Having recently dealt with the death of my grandmother, I can tell you that the bare-bones cost of cremating someone is about $900, and burial about $2000. A one-day stay in the hospital, however, costs around $4000, not including meds. Therefore, I think Brandon's average costs are probably quite correct.

Excellent piece, Brendan. Especially the open letter to your mother. It will always be this kind of writing that keeps me coming back to The Stranger to read your work. The article is informative, thought-provoking, and humorous ( a true achievement, considering the subject). Thank you for once again being brave enough to write intelligently and creatively about something most of us would rather not have to think about.

"The direct cost of an attempted suicide—hospital fees, autopsy and investigation costs—is $5,310. The direct cost of a completed suicide is $2,098."

I can understand it may cost more but obviously a non-completed suicide doesn't have autopsy costs -

sorry to be such a nit
Hi Brendan: Overall a good, thought-provoking piece. One thing I wish you'd covered however, are suicides related to student loan debt. Student loans cannot be discharged due to bankruptcy, elapsed time or disability; they literally follow student borrowers to the grave and some choose to hasten that process. As documented on studentloanjustice.org, some student debtors commit suicide after enduring relentless harassment from student loan collection agencies that are not subject to the standard consumer protection laws.

@25 there is an episode of radiolab titled "after life" and at about 26:30 begins the story of ken baldwin who jumped off the golden gate bridge and survived. he regretted his decision mid-fall...
yeah Brendan, you look a bit of a fool here, insisting that attempted suicides require autopsies...extremely sloppy and laughable that you defended it

and i also think that you should not describe just how easy it is to hang oneself. irresponsible and selfish "journalism."

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