Street Smarts: Suicide Isn’t Painless

Are you going to kill yourself?

That abrupt query is not our usual attention-grabber meant to draw the reader into a discussion of some technique designed to save your sorry hide. Nope, I’m earnest and serious: Are you thinking about putting a gun in your mouth?

Hopefully not a single reader answered in the affirmative, but statistics and experience say probably one or two have, or will have, that thought bouncing around in their skull sometime today. I earnestly hope something in these words will prevent anything else from bouncing around in there.

This column, like most, is in response to a noteworthy event. I’m sure some readers can figure out why this topic is relevant to Your Humble Correspondent, but I’ll intentionally be vague because the names, dates, and places don’t matter. The message does.

I’ve witnessed a pretty common phenomenon from “gun” people: They kill themselves with firearms. No big surprise. There are a zillion reasons why, but regardless, I’ve come to realize how many people I know who have used their own defensive firearms to end their life.

And it sucks, so I’m going to say a few uncomfortable words on a topic nobody wants to discuss.

One thing that cops don’t usually ruminate over is the depressing number of threatened, attempted, and successful suicides they encounter during their careers. Suicides are profoundly sad, and in some cases disgusting beyond words, so the whole matter gets shoved in that little box inside our heads where bad stuff is locked away forever.

I’m going to drag a little of it out and maybe help someone gain a new insight on what they might be considering at this moment.

So you’re having a rough stretch of life. You glance at that gun on your hip for minutes, or hours, or days, considering the options, until the moment when you slowly bring the muzzle to your temple. After a few more seconds of cogitation, you pull the trigger, the gun fires, and a dramatic chain of events is set in motion.

First, realize your death might not be instantaneous or painless. I’ve seen a significant number of suicides during my career where even spectacular gunshot wounds didn’t prove instantly fatal, and it would appear from evidence at the scene that the victim didn’t enjoy the experience.

Imagine the horror at realizing what a terrible mistake you made but simultaneously understanding you can’t change the outcome. This terror has been borne out by the statements of others who have survived a suicide attempt. However, let’s suppose you got it done—there was a bright light and then nothingness.

If you are a religious person, you want to end up in heaven or your version of it, but most religions don’t believe that will happen if you commit suicide. Instead, you get an all-expenses-paid trip to eternal damnation. I’m not wading any further into the religious aspect of things, but I wanted to point out that if you are a person of faith, suicide is a really bad exit plan.

Regardless of where your spirit or soul lands, your body is surrounded by emergency personnel quietly talking about the upcoming big game as crime-scene technicians nonchalantly take pictures. Meanwhile, the local undertaker stands outside chain-smoking cigarettes while waiting to transport your body to a long stainless-steel refrigerator that smells vaguely of disinfectant and spoilage. To the assembled group of responders, you’re just another sad, sorry lump of cold meat that chose an early exit from life.

But waiting nearby is a group of horrified friends and relatives. The emergency personnel and investigators probably will forget you in a day or two, but friends and family certainly won’t. Unfortunately, they won’t be good memories.

That’s because we know that suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. You might not be able to bear the weight currently resting on your shoulders, but suicide selfishly transfers that burden, and much, much more, onto the lives of those who care for you. And regardless of what you, your depression, or recreational chemicals might be telling you, somebody does care.

Even if you are angry with those people, suicide accomplishes nothing. No one will feel sorrow for your choice or any role they have played, only anger at the fact that you did something so blindingly short-sighted. Your memory and everything positive you accomplished in life will be forever tainted because you chose to shirk your responsibilities as a human.

It’s also cowardly. If you lived your life as any sort of warrior, even if you felt like a fraud inside, it doesn’t help to confirm that neurosis and ruin your legacy by taking the “easy” way out.

Ultimately, that old theme song from M*A*S*H be damned: Suicide isn’t painless for anyone involved.

If you are having thoughts of taking your own life, stop and give yourself the luxury of one more day to consider the problem and how you can fix it or make some kind of reasonable accommodation. With the perspective of time, you might realize that suicide truly is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Plenty of assistance is available, but most of us are too proud or cowardly to seek help. It seems easier or more private to pull that trigger one more time and “solve” the problem.

But it’s just dumb.

Don’t be that idiot.

Brent T. Wheat is a former SWAT officer, canine handler, detective, and patrol supervisor who retired after a 30-year law enforcement career. Brent is the publisher of WildIndiana Magazine, a regionally focused outdoor magazine. He can be reached at btwheat@wildindiana.com.

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