Tina K. Russell

July 5, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:35 pm

The Urge to End It – Understanding Suicide – NYTimes.com

Here, the NYT magazine talks about suicide.

I’ve thought about suicide, before. I still do; the transsexual suicide rate is estimated to be something abysmal. I won’t go into all the motivations, as they are too numerous.

I will admit, though, that a large motivating factor is the “cry for help,” wanting to tell my friends that I’m serious, I’m trouble, I need help, the idea that if they find me passed out in my bed next to an empty bottle of pills (and a note apologizing for being a coward), they might stick with me in treatment, watch over me, check up on me, tell me they love me. As it happens, I tend to lean far too much on the friends I have, sometimes to a breaking point (see an earlier post).

In California, I met with Ken Baldwin, a schoolteacher who, in the grips of a deep depression 22 years ago, leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge.

“I’ve had two lives,” Baldwin said. “That’s the only way I’ve ever been able to describe it. Up to the day I jumped, that was one life, and now this is another. I’m not so much a changed man as a completely different one, and that’s why it’s so hard to even recollect what I was like back then, what I was thinking.”

One aspect of the survivors’ personalities that appears to have been left behind is whatever mind-tumble caused them to try to kill themselves in the first place. Since their attempts, none of the survivors I spoke with had experienced another impulse toward suicide. Nor had they spent much time seeing psychologists or hanging out in support groups. In Baldwin’s case, he attended just five therapy sessions after his jump from the Golden Gate.

“And after that fifth session,” he recalled, “the therapist said: ‘You know, I really don’t think you need to do this anymore. You seem to have it all put back together.’ And he was right.”

I really wish I could figure out a way to do that, you know, without trying to kill myself. I wish I could wake up one morning and forget whatever it is that made me want to do it, say goodbye to that part of myself.

Most of the article is spent on a cruel counterintuition: people who premeditate, think long and hard about suicide and travel all the way down that dark path, tend to do something like overdose on pills or slit their wrists, the least effective means of suicide. (They’re still dangerous, so don’t do them!) In contrast, bridge-jumpers and people who shoot themselves have little to no premeditation, are caught in moments of existential weakness, of overwhelming dispair, and if they survive, they wonder why they ever attempted it. The article’s main point is that, yes, suicide barriers on bridges work, as does keeping your gun unloaded and the ammunition someplace else, because all it takes for real suicide prevention is often just giving the victim a few minutes to come to his or her senses and stop.

I found it a bit reassuring that even if I try to kill myself, being someone who has thought about it long and hard, I probably won’t succeed. (The world needs me, yo. I still need to leave behind my legacy!) That said, I’m still at a loss for what I should do, better ways to cry for help, to leave that part of myself behind. I’m worried that I’ve tapped out my friends… what should I do?

With that, I should note… if you think your friend might be suicidal, don’t be afraid to ask. You aren’t giving them ideas, because everyone’s heard of suicide and considered it at least once, I would imagine. Rather, anyone who is suicidal has a piece of themselves begging for help, trying to get out, and that manifests itself in many ways. You need to grab onto that and bring it out.

Listen to your friend right now. Talk with them. More accurately, let them talk, and listen. Don’t make plans to do it. Do it right now. Don’t judge or criticize, and try not to give advice. Listen. That’s all you can do, right now.

You also might want to take your friend out to do something fun, basically anything that counteracts the harsh and false instincts of suicide. You could take them somewhere they like, to show you care. You can’t force your friend to come, but don’t take it too seriously if they say they never want to go anywhere, ever, or whatever. As long as you extend the offer, unconditionally, you’re stroking that one, precious part that tells your friend “stop,” the little spark of hope in them that you can help make into a roaring fire. Even if they turn you down, they’ll remember the offer; trust me.

Yes, look out for your friends. Care for them, love them. That’s important. When you think about it, you often have no one you can count on but your friends.



  1. Hi Tina
    I hope your post is not a cry for help at this moment.

    How to listen to someone in this virtual world ?????

    You have a Quaker upbringing which I hope you understand gives you much wisdom and a much stronger moral compass.

    You will leave a good legacy in this world. But that takes time and you gotta’ stick around to do it. Just have faith in yourself.

    But now I’m talking again and not listening.

    One hug is worth more than all the theology in the world. (Charles Schultz)

    Comment by John and Joanna — July 6, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

  2. Okay, I’m jumping on the “concerned about you” bandwagon as well. Either blog something else quick or write and let me know you’re doing okay, personally. (And yeah, the worry could be completely unwarranted, but better safe than sorry.)

    Comment by Riftgirl — July 7, 2008 @ 7:39 am

  3. Yep, I’m still here! Thanks for your concern.

    Comment by Tina Russell — July 7, 2008 @ 9:50 am

  4. Shew! 😉 Keep on keepin’ on!

    Comment by Riftgirl — July 7, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  5. Especially for transwomen, it seems like there are soooo many other crappy things to worry about, other than just the “normal” life stuff. Also, I sometimes feel that relatively successful transwomen-those that transitioned with few problems-sometimes can be, dare I say, rather contemptuous of those who do have more problems than usual.

    I hope you are fine!

    Amanda in San Jose, ex Oregonian

    Comment by Amanda in San Jose — July 10, 2008 @ 7:32 am

  6. Oh gosh, I didn’t mean to put anyone down, if that’s how it came across. Its just that everyone’s trans experience is different, everyone’s personality is different, and sometimes there are conflicts!!

    Comment by Amanda in San Jose — July 10, 2008 @ 7:36 am

  7. Thanks for posting this. Funny I didn’t take it as a cry for help then again I guess for me what you wrote rang very true for me, right up to and including that loss of desire any longer.

    Hopefully one day you will just wake up and be there, it’s much better that way if one can.

    Comment by femme — July 10, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  8. Sorry one more thing.
    I want to confirm what you said about asking a person if you think they might be thinking about suicide.

    A person, I learned this working on the distress lines after my attempts, will admit to it if they are most times. A person who is not isn’t going to think ‘ hey what a good idea I should try it”

    Last year was a bad year for me with people dying, three people, two extremely close, left this world and I wish I had had that chance to ask.

    Comment by femme — July 10, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

  9. Last year, I called the cops on an (ex) trans friend, who was giving me some rather serious warning signs. Well, its 11 months later, he still hates me.

    Comment by Amanda in San Jose — July 10, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

  10. Your friend may hate you, but at least they are alive to hate you.

    It takes time for people to work out their own crap. I had that call happen to me way back when. Was I angry, yes. In fact I didn’t know who it was for some years.

    But I am so glad she did it. I’m only sad I wasn’t there to do the same for her in time.

    Comment by femme — July 20, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

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