Thursday, August 14, 2014

Suicide, a Crime of Loneliness

By Andrew Solomon, The New Yorker

(TM Note: Andrew Solomon wrote "The Noonday Demons, an Atlas of Depression," which won a National Book Award. His later book, "Far from the Tree" is also excellent.)

Every forty seconds, someone commits suicide. In the United States, it is the tenth most common cause of death in people over ten years of age, far more common than death by homicide or aneurysm or AIDS. Nearly half a million Americans are taken to the hospital every year because of suicide attempts. One in five people with major depression will make such an attempt; there are approximately sixteen non-lethal attempts for every lethal one. The rate of suicide is going up, especially among middle-aged men. These statistics get dragged out over and over again, but they bear the endless repetition. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it is one that beckons with burgeoning seductiveness.

We lionized Robin Williams for the manic gleam in his performances; at his best, he was not only hilarious but also enchantingly frenzied. There are very few people who have that kind of wild energy who don’t dip the other way sometimes. It often seems as if those who are most exuberant experience despair in proportion to their joy; they seem to swing wildly about the neutral average. Not always: some people are like Bill Clinton, who appears to have sustained a level of hyper-engagement that never lapses into withdrawal or dysfunction. But not very many.

(More here.)

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