Suicide Blogs Make me Ill

Dr. Rob,

Recently I was severely depressed over the death of a close family member. During this time, I started to have thoughts of suicide and while I would never have acted on them I was thinking about it enough that I started to read about suicide online.

What I found startled me. I found “suicide blogs” where people count down the number of days until they kill themselves. And this forms its own little culture with some people writing in to talk the writer out of killing himself or even to encourage him to do it. The furthest I’ve seen it taken is for the commenter to ask the writer to form a suicide pact.

My understanding is that many of the sites aren’t real but I still think that glorifying something like suicide is unhealthy, especially when someone who is intense emotional pain may not realize that.

I suspect you think the same but I’d like to hear more about your take on blogs such as these.

Thanks


You are correct. I do think it’s wrong. Who in the mental health field wouldn’t? I’ve heard about these sites and they basically glamorize suicide and portray it as this hip trend that everyone should be considering. Whether the sites are real or bogus, anti-suicide groups are working hard to prevent this type of material from reaching the internet and many countries are asking their governments to get involved.
In graduate school students are taught to treat any and every suicidal thought and gesture seriously. This does not mean that you should attempt to hospitalize every person who mentions thoughts of killing themselves (with a clinical approach such as that you will ultimately alienate your clients as they will feel unable to open up and be honest with you). What it does mean however is when thoughts of self-harm and death do come up they need to be discussed: are these simply passing thoughts of dying? Does the client actively think of ways to hurt himself? Do the person’s religious beliefs (if any) prevent her from taking any action? Have these thoughts occurred in the past and, if so, how were they dealt with? It is common for people who are struggling to at least entertain thoughts of death and by telling clients this fact you can free them up to talk openly about their thoughts. It is only when their thoughts might morph into action that a Psychologist is faced with the prospect of needing to hospitalize a client against his or her will. This is not only the code of mental health practitioners but also the law.

There is an important and often misunderstood fact about suicide: people do not commit suicide because they want to be dead. People kill themselves because they don’t want to suffer with their intense psychological pain anymore and cannot think of another way to free themselves from it. I had a professor say to me “tell a suicidal client that you won’t stop him from killing himself once he doesn’t feel depressed anymore. Promise him that. Promise him you won’t even try to stop him if he isn’t depressed anymore. Then watch what happens over time. Once he’s not in such a horrible spot he’ll lose some interest in the suicide plan.” Whether there are exceptions to this or not, every single suicidal person I have spoken with has agreed that if they could simply feel better they might want to stick around. This admission by a client is an opening to offer help and the possibility of thinking and feeling differently. This is usually is quite helpful. With time and intervention most people are able to stop thinking along these lines.

Unless a writer explicitly stated that he was not suicidal I would follow my training and treat the blog as valid and serious even if I ultimately looked like an idiot for doing so. This would be despite many people’s take that the site is possibly a complete hoax and that the writer is a total is seeking attention, web traffic or simply gets off on playing with peoples’ emotions. I have no firsthand knowledge of how many sites are real versus fake; regardless it is a twisted enterprise.

Writers of real suicide blogs should know that they are in all likelihood depressed and both need and deserve help. Bogus writers need to realize that they are using the most extreme form of self-harm to generate traffic for their websites and are duping naive and vulnerable people into thinking that suicide is a wonderful thing. This is essentially self-absorbed manipulation and exhibitionism. In other words they are ill. I say this in the pejorative sense because they are the ultimate attention whores. I feel sorry for these people. Maybe at one point they were very depressed and needed help. But now they see their former struggles as a way to garner pity and approval. Either way it’s a disturbing mess.

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21 Responses to “Suicide Blogs Make me Ill”

  1. kate says:

    sounds similar to the anorexia/pro-ana blogs. those make me so sad because i think of all the girls reading them and how long it’s going to be before they can undo the damage and be happy.

  2. SB says:

    When I once contemplated suicide to the point where I googled painless ways to do it, all I got was how I would go to hell.
    Put me off, no point leaving this world to go somewhere worse!

  3. Disciple of "Bob" says:

    This does not mean that you should attempt to hospitalize every person who mentions thoughts of killing themselves (with a clinical approach such as that you will ultimately alienate your clients as they will feel unable to open up and be honest with you).

    And here is the #2 reason I am no longer looking for help (reason #1 being $$$$$$).
    Funny you should mention considerations about the patient’s religious views and how they affect the suicide decision. I really think the only thing that has kept me from doing it is that I don’t believe in an afterlife, nor in any gods or whatever. I don’t know why I fear oblivion (by definition, it’s not an experience, so what’s to fear?) but at least at the moment it outweighs my self-contempt and the crushing futility of looking for something to look forward to in life.
    Plus, I sort of figure that since I’ve managed to screw up my life in every other way imaginable, there’s no reason to believe I would succeed at suicide. Rationally, I know that if I just wait around long enough, heart disease or a crazy driver will switch me off eventually.

  4. Hopefully the topic of suicide will be more visible, as it is a very misunderstand area. These blogs tend to be an extension of a person’s expression of pain, which for whatever reason isn’t being addressed in their lives (or at least addressed enough).
    I’d rather take any reports of suicidal ideations seriously, than to be the one to have to talk to the surviving members about why I didn’t think they were serious about it.

  5. Wayland says:

    Pro-suicide blogs? Seriously? Sad, man…sad.

  6. Michelle says:

    Dr. Rob, I like your light-hearted posts more than these deep-thinking ones.
    As a HS English teacher, Ive had to send two pieces of creative writing to our counseling department that seemed a little “off.” One turned out to be just that: creative writing. The other one was written by a student who was later diagnosed as manic depressive–she later attempted suicide twice! Scary stuff.
    To make up for this intensity, we need some serious humor in the next one. Make fun of yourself or something.

  7. Jenna says:

    There was a Law and Order: SVU (or was it CI?) about this… it turned out to be murder.

  8. Drew says:

    Thanks Rob, great post.
    I can’t help but consider the ‘learned helplessness’ theory of psych. Are those that never learned to empower themselves (the learned helplessness folks) more prone to consider suicide? Seems likely to me. It also seems like this group is more likely to commit suicide than those who suffer a devastating–but not chronic–trauma.
    Sorry, tangent.
    Regarding the suicide blogs: Anyone seen the Japanese movie “Suicide Club”? It is about a cultural phenomenon where kids in large groups form suicide ‘pacts’ and kill themselves in large numbers.
    I think the movie was about how a vapid, spiritually bankrupt culture will wreak havoc on it’s people, but I’m no film critic.
    Are these blogs an echo of this? Or, more likely, just cheap exploitation for pagerank.

  9. Nicole says:

    I tried to kill myself once but I didn’t succeed, I called a friend right away and vomited all I had taken. Now when things get bad, I get the urge the do it again but I don’t tell my therapist. I know he is not a mind reader but I do wish he would understand how bad I feel even though I can’t verbalize it. I once went online and found a website that told me just how much I should take of different medications for a call for help or the real thing. I wish this subjet wasn’t so taboo. I guess I’m scared of what my therapist and my friends and family would think/do if I spoke up. Great job Dr Rob!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I can understand the concept of wanting to die to end the pain (physical or psychological), but I can only imagine it in a situation where it’s pretty clear that the pain is not likely to stop or “getting to the other side” is almost insurmountable. I’ve had some periods in my life where I was miserable – growing up with alcoholics, my painful divorce. But the one thing that always saw me through them was the belief that it would get better. It always shocked me when friends who were in similar situations told me that there were times they contemplated suicide. I honestly never did.
    It always horrifies and saddens me when I read about people who have committed suicide when it was pretty clear that things could have gotten better for them with time and help. One that comes to mind immediately is the girl who was humiliated by a classmate’s mother on Myspace. I want to throw up just thinking about it.

  11. foot says:

    “This would be despite many people’s take that the site is possibly a complete hoax and that the writer is a total is seeking attention, web traffic or simply gets off on playing with peoples’ emotions.”
    Is a total…?
    interesting how you had to stop yourself there

  12. Pete says:

    Hey Dr. Rob, just curious on your thoughts about this page:
    http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=suicide
    I personally find it hilarious but it has generated a lot of hate mail from people who think it may encourage suicide. What’s your take?
    Dr. Rob Note: I’ve always been a huge fan of Maddox from Thebestpageintheuniverse.com. The reality is that there will always be people who take what you say quite literally. I had many people get upset about the interview with Dick Masterson from menarebetterthanwomen.com who didn’t realize that it was tongue-in-cheek.

  13. Brandon says:

    There was actually a website tania.movielol.org that did a mock type of suicide blog to try to raise awareness of A. that the suicide blog trend is happening, and B. did a lot to help, and according to their claims actually helped saved lives.

  14. I just had another quasi-suicidal patient (not mine, I was covering)…fun fun. By the book, hopefully a transfer happens before the next time.
    Do you get a lot of this in your private practice? I’ve always wondered how prevalent this is in PP.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Dr. Rob,
    Do you have any tips on how to quit smoking?
    Dr. Rob Note: This was actually pretty informative:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_cessation

  16. Michelle says:

    Hi,
    My name is Michelle Roberts and i am a junior in high school. On September 4th, 2008 my grandma committed suicide. Losing her was the hardest thing i have faced in my life. I want so badly to help others see what its like for those they leave behind. I want to help others and try to get them to see the beauty in life. If there is any way for me to share my story and possibly have the chance to save a persons life please let me know. thank you for your time

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  20. Mervin Stinnette says:

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  21. ggggggggg999999999 says:

    Do people really go to hel after a committed suicide

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