Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why are so many suicidal people so selfish?

Robert Heinlein famously opined that "Suicide is the most sincere form of self-criticism". I don't like the thought of suicide, and I've never entertained it myself: but, sadly, I've had friends who did so.

The saddest thing about suicide is the number of people it hurts: those left behind, who must mourn the departed, and wonder whether they had anything to do with his or her decision. In particular, spouses, parents and children suffer this way. Those who take their own lives don't seem to take into account the pain they'll be causing to others.

What's even worse is the number of suicides who deliberately involve others in their deaths, sometimes killing them, sometimes putting them at risk. Parents who kill their children with them; desperate people who deliberately drive head-on into other vehicles, successfully killing themselves but also seriously injuring or killing other people; those who switch on the gas in their houses and blow themselves up, at the cost of injuring those nearby with flying debris; the list goes on and on.

The latest example comes from Canada, where a suicidal man endangered the lives of everyone aboard a plane by opening a door at altitude and jumping out.

The aviation community in the North is abuzz with praise for a flight crew who managed to land a small plane in Nunavut after a distraught passenger opened a door at 7,000 metres and jumped.

The pilot of the Adlair Aviation King Air 200 declared an on-board emergency Wednesday as the cabin of the plane quickly depressurized, filling the cockpit with a roar of frigid, Arctic air.

The plane, a twin-engine turboprop, managed to safely put down with its door wide open at Cambridge Bay.

Paul Laserich, general manager of the small family-owned airline that has operated in the North for more than 25 years, paid tribute to the two pilots.

"I am quite proud of my flight crew. They brought the ship safely back," Laserich said Thursday. "Everybody is OK. They are a little shaken up. They are OK. That is what is most important."

He declined to say anything about the 20-year-old Cambridge Bay man who jumped.

"Our condolences and thoughts and prayers are with the family."

RCMP say the drama began when the pilots on the plane enroute from Yellowknife reported that a passenger had become unruly. They told police they tried everything they could to prevent the man from jumping but were unsuccessful.

. . .

RCMP and searchers in a Twin Otter aircraft were flying over the route about 160 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay searching for the man's body. His name was not released.

Word quickly spread among the small aircraft charter companies that fly in the North.

A pilot from another airline said dealing with such a depressurization emergency at that altitude would have been frightening and challenging.

"The shock of it. It would have been instantly cold," said the man, who declined to be identified.

"You would have a hard time breathing. Things would have been flying around the airplane. It would have been mass confusion."

There's more at the link.

If this young man wanted to die, very sadly, I guess there's nothing anyone could have done to stop him - but why endanger an aircraft and everyone else aboard in the process?



Anonymous said...

Unintended consequence of Canadian gun control laws?

Anonymous said...

Why? Suicide is a selfish act. This young man's is exponentially so. First, the danger to everyone on the plane, but much more so to his family (and surely he has some, because he is 20). On top of the trauma of his death there will never truly be closure, since it is unlikely his body will ever be found. And even if it is it will have to be identified from dental records. So stupid.


LabRat said...

Speaking as someone with experience mostly of the "people around them" mode and a little of the "me"... thankfully relatively brief... depression is a tremendously self-centered state. The sufferer can't really help it; they've literally got no mental or emotional room left for others. I doubt those suicides that involve others are even capable anymore of calculating the cost to others. It's part of what makes them so tremendously draining to deal with- aside from being so overwhelmingly down on themselves, they also basically never consider you except as another mark against themself. If they think of you at all, it's still all about them... and so damagingly so, which makes it even more frustrating, if intellectually understandable.

At the point of suicide, the cost to others has gone out the window ages before. For many, the only thing left is ending it.