March 1st, 2024
When a person who has everything kills himself…

… it’s a frightening reminder of the power of the brain. Our brains, when diseased, can kill us.



No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,

More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.

Comforter, where, where is your comforting?

Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief

Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —

Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-

ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”‘

    O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall

Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap

May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small

Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,

Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all

Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.


David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest:

[I]t was as if a large billowing shape came billowing out of some corner in my mind. I can be no more precise than to say large, dark, shape, and billowing, what came flapping out of some backwater of my psyche I had not the slightest inkling was there. … It was total psychic horror: death, decay, dissolution, cold empty black malevolent lonely voided space. … I simply could not live with how it felt. … I understood the term hell as of that summer day and that night in the sophomore dormitory. I understood what people meant by hell.


It is a level of psychic pain wholly incompatible with human life as we know it. It is a sense of radical and thoroughgoing evil not just as a feature but as the essence of conscious existence. It is a sense of poisoning that pervades the self at the self’s most elementary levels. It is a nausea of the cells and soul. It is an unnumb intuition in which the world is fully rich and animate and un-map-like and also thoroughly painful and malignant and antagonistic to the self, which depressed self It billows on and coagulates around and wraps in Its black folds and absorbs into Itself, so that an almost mystical unity is achieved with a world every constituent of which means painful harm to the self. … It is also lonely on a level that cannot be conveyed….

January 28th, 2024
Another campus suicide cluster.

Four student deaths at UW River Falls, in pretty quick succession – with all of them apparently serious depressives … That sounds very much like a cluster, one death inspiring another.

[Tania] Riske said [her daughter] Sabrina struggled with severe depression for many years. She had a team of counselors and doctors working with her in her hometown of Eau Claire. But Sabrina declined help from campus counselors, Riske said…

“A lot of people were asking me what [the university] could have done better. I don’t think it had anything to do with a shortcoming,” Riske said. “I think they are doing appropriate things. And I’m happy about that.”  

As with this earlier post about campus suicide clusters, the problem is not necessarily a lack of school support, though obviously there’s always room for a school to monitor some students more closely, add therapists, etc. The problem is that in some cases of severe protracted depression there’s not much that love, pills, ketamine, teams of counselors and doctors, etc., can do. It’s a hellishly powerful drive, the drive to leave.

The mother of a suicide (her son’s name was Seth) talks about another recent suicide (John).

You could not have prevented it. Even if you think that you could have on that particular occasion, there is no guarantee that it would not have happened some other time. If you are wondering why you didn’t go with John or ask him to come over if he seemed out of sorts, don’t blame yourself. Seth’s roommate was in an adjoining room when he died. Having someone nearby made no difference at all.

If you’re trying to make rational sense of how something like this could happen to someone with such talent and such a bright future, you really can’t think about it rationally — there is no rational explanation. Normal people, those who are not sick in some way, do not kill themselves. Our most basic human instinct is for survival, so to cause one’s own demise subverts that in ways our healthy intellects can’t imagine.

If you’re thinking that John made a choice to end his life, I can’t agree. Whatever was tormenting him — depression, mental illness, some event that threw his mental wiring off kilter — that is what took him. As I said before, it isn’t a rational choice. Suicides are committed by people driven by a distorted mental and emotional reality. It isn’t really a choice.

Americans are practical, success-oriented, ingenious, optimistic, religious — it’s arguably particularly hard for Americans to come to grips with the deathward tenacity of some suicidal people.

I mean, maybe we can grasp this in a frail eighty-year old. A twenty year old college student?


Forget slipped the surly bonds: We’re talking stripped the bonds off hard, with both hands. “I’m climbing up through the clouds and then just gonna head out outside of everything,” a 23 year old student pilot not long ago radioed a confused traffic controller before crashing his plane. He desperately wanted out of everything. His words have gone viral – there’s poetry in head out outside of everything – and we should pay attention to them. Some suicides are virtually punching their way out of the atmosphere. Hard to go up against such people.

January 25th, 2024
‘Following research that indicates that spending too much time talking about or commemorating a [university] student who has died by suicide can risk “contagion,” … the faculty [was encouraged] to retain as normal an educational experience as possible. The university … organized no memorials or vigils.’

Long article in the NYT on a subject of steady interest to this blog: University student suicides. The excerpt in my title goes to one of the many conundrums specific to this heartbreaking thing: You want to honor the student, but you’re rightly scared of contagion if you speak too loudly.

January 23rd, 2024
‘Still, despite all the work underway, Wyoming was expected to finish out 2023 at or near the top in the nation for suicides.’

And that is for a really interesting reason: The vast majority of Wyomingites appear to be, looked at closely, pro-suicide.

I mean, think about it. You don’t get Wyoming’s astounding number of suicides year after year unless you’re practically advocating for it.

Here’s a local commentator:

Like most good ol’ boys, [Wyoming St. Sen.] Kolb hemmed and hawed and found an excuse to do nothing, even while kids in his community kill themselves… [Kolb says:] “As soon as we start dragging [suicide] down the emotional road, we’ve lost… ”

Kolb’s attitude about suicide — that we shouldn’t get emotional about it, that we don’t really need to take action — reflects the cold-hearted stubbornness that has kept Wyoming from dealing with [the state’s suicide] crisis in any real way… [A]s long as people running the state maintain the same harmful and lazy attitude that caused our state to become the worst in the nation for suicide in the first place, we won’t see anywhere near the progress we need against this issue that tears so many of Wyoming’s families and communities apart.

Don’t get all boohoo. Don’t take action. Guns are there to kill people, including yourself if you feel like it.

Cowboy nihilism is super-chic. The macho charisma of killing yourself with Marlboros, Wyoming Whiskey, and a Kahr CM9 Polymer 9mm.

The state’s most popular book.

Second highest rate of car crashes in America, even though no one lives there. Most guns per capita in the nation. One psychiatrist every whatever … every five thousand miles…

December 14th, 2023
‘The core of the gun-rights movement—and the firearms market—is made up of white men who live in suburbs or rural areas. These buyers are among the least likely to encounter gun violence, but the most likely to die by their own hand using a firearm.’

This is a subtle and sensitive examination of the gun suicide epidemic, featuring Bob Owens, whose death was hypertypical.

[A] journalist who was friends with Owens said that many gun owners [like Owens] are afraid to tell doctors about their mental-health struggles, because they worry someone will take their weapons away.

Eh bien. UD’s heart goes out to these silent, lost, sufferers, but their logic’s a bit skewed. Surely they know they are overwhelmingly unlikely to need their twenty firearms for self-defense; surely they know (or at least intuit?) that those guns are far more likely to be used by someone in their home for suicide.

They may even know that the act will be impulsive – one drunk self-hating night; the failure to complete some task or other; a bad fight with your wife. Gun, stage left.

And it wouldn’t even be about taking the weapons away. It would be about temporarily locking them up until a crisis passed. But even that…

What does one say about flagrantly suicidal people who refuse to go to doctors and refuse to put away their guns?

November 29th, 2023
Keep those handguns plentiful and convenient!

Everybody’s doin’ it!

October 28th, 2023
Fuck ’em. Let ’em die.

Like most good ol’ boys, [Wyoming St. Sen.] Kolb hemmed and hawed and found an excuse to do nothing, even while kids in his community kill themselves… [Kolb says:] “As soon as we start dragging [suicide] down the emotional road, we’ve lost… ”

Kolb’s attitude about suicide — that we shouldn’t get emotional about it, that we don’t really need to take action — reflects the cold-hearted stubbornness that has kept Wyoming from dealing with [the state’s suicide] crisis in any real way… [A]s long as people running the state maintain the same harmful and lazy attitude that caused our state to become the worst in the nation for suicide in the first place, we won’t see anywhere near the progress we need against this issue that tears so many of Wyoming’s families and communities apart.

October 27th, 2023
‘States with the weakest gun safety laws saw the rate of gun suicides jump 39% over the past two decades – from about 8 gun suicides for every 100,000 people in 1999 to nearly 12 in 2022… But in states with the strongest gun safety laws, gun suicide rates decreased slightly over that time — down from 3.6 to 3.4 gun suicides for every 100,000 people.’

Scroll down for the fantastic state by state graphic, which so dramatically gives Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska pride of place!

Good on ya, gunny states! You’ve got ’em dropping like flies.

August 6th, 2023
‘At the second Mental Health Summit in Casper, [Senate President Ogden] Driskill bemoaned that [Wyoming] legislators created a Suicide Prevention Trust Fund but didn’t put any money in it. Wyoming has the nation’s highest suicide rate per capita… But Driskill balked at any solution that includes gun control. He admitted the number of suicides might drop if there were fewer guns, but insisted people who want to kill themselves will use other methods, like car wrecks. “Because the root of suicide isn’t the gun, that’s the tool they use,” he maintained. It’s not the gun? Come on. That argument ignores the fact that 86% of all gun deaths are suicides in Wyoming, while 10% are homicides… [And keep in mind that] nine out of 10 people who survive a suicide attempt don’t try to kill themselves later. Because firearms are so lethal, though, [nine in 10 don’t survive the firearm attempt].’

Give Wyomingites guns and they’ll kill themselves. Give them cars and …

Hell, why don’t your basic rodeo boy just kill himself by smashing his Chevy Suicido into a lightpole?

I’ll tell you why. First and most important when you use a Glock that ol gun will survive pulping your head fully intact, to be handed down to your suicidal son and his suicidal son ad infinifuckinitum. OTOH you’re definitely gonna total the truck. The truck’s goin down with you.

Secundum: It takes a whole lotta planning and a whole lotta luck to stage a successful trucko-da-fe. Maybe you’ll just go the paraplegic route. Maybe you’ll kill other people. The whole thing’s a big ol mess. At-home pulping, especially if you do it in the bathtub or shower, is neat and sweet and one hundred percent effective. State park pulping, a popular option among Wyoming’s rugged outdoorsmen, is even neater, and leaves you, as you expire, not with views of yourself careening agonizingly into a hard surface, but of calm majestic Tetons.

Thirdly: The whole public/private thing. The wreck’s gonna traumatize onlookers; and because it’s a news story it’ll make the local tv shows. Some guy popping his top at home is no news at all in Wyoming. Furthermore, beyond the extra expense your family will bear making you coffin-ready with your whole body pulverized vs. with just a little hole in your head, there’s the whole embarrassment on top of grief thing as the kinfolk deal with the community curiosity whipped up by the newspaper pix of your twisted truck/body.

June 9th, 2023
‘In the neighboring province of Ryanggang, another official told Radio Free Asia that suicide was impacting the community more than starvation.’

More even than starvation!

The Dear Leader has now declared suicide illegal.

April 28th, 2023
‘Thursday’s occurrence marks the 14th death of an NC State student since the school year began on Aug. 13. Information provided to WRAL News showed 10 of those students who died were male. Eight students who died were enrolled in the College of Engineering.’

A suicide cluster (seven of the deaths were suicides) emerges at North Carolina State, and the dreadful thing is that each suicide risks nudging another student on the edge over the edge. Suicide is contagious.

This is presumably (aside from privacy/family considerations) why the school fails to describe methods – you don’t want to give on-the-precipice students ideas.

 “In any community there is always a certain number of people who are on the edge, and something as emotionally charged as a suicide (or multiple suicides) in the community (especially a small community) is frequently enough to tip more of them over.

What we do know about the school’s suicides is suggestive. Anyone who followed the male/Asian clusters at other engineering schools not that long ago will wonder about the ethnicity of some of the students at NC State/engineering who may have killed themselves.

How many were gun suicides? UD wouldn’t be surprised if it were one hundred percent. It’s North Carolina, where guns are everywhere. Guns would help account for the school’s high number: With a gun you almost never, as it were, miss. Every other method gives you a bit of a fighting chance.

As for the draining, shell-shocked sensation NC students who are watching all of this report feeling: Well yeah. Jesus.

January 20th, 2023
“I encourage all of us to think about our Wyoming values.”

NONONONO. THAT is not the way to pass anti-suicide legislation in a state ALL of whose values are screamingly suicide-friendly. Why do you think Wyoming’s suicide rate is – by a wide margin – the highest in the nation? Why do you think some self-slaughtering Wyoming counties, their rates way higher than the rest of the state, are strewn with freshly-shot dead white male? Our Wyoming values are guns guns guns (the more guns you got, the more suicides you got), anti-therapy macho stoicism, alcoholism, driving your car like a bat outta hell and eventually right over a cliff, hatred of rules (like securing your guns), divorce, loneliness and long distances. Perfect toxic brew, but we’re Wyoming dammit and we wouldn’t have it any other way! No way any legislation’s gonna pass. Some American state has to stand for Amy Winehouse-style life-affirmation, and – haha! – I guess that’s us. Leemealone w/ my… uh… guns and booze fuck you I’ll do what I want and I spect my state rep to vote my way on this… BANG I’M DEAD.


‘Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) lost her primary — was that because Wyoming didn’t approve of her anti-Trumpism, or because she didn’t hold pre-announced campaign events because she faced so many threats?’

The Great State of Wyoming: If We Don’t Kill Ourselves, You Better Bet We’ll Kill YOU! You want Wyoming values? Here you go. We’re an officially violent state baby, so stand back and let us kill and be killed.

State Flag, Wyoming:

December 19th, 2022
Echt Wyoming Suicide

Our most suicidal state does it its way.

A Ford F-150 truck [drove] through the guardrail at Lookout Point on Casper Mountain.

… 43-year-old Lowell ‘Leroy’ Campbell was the individual who drove his vehicle through the metal barrier…


Took a big bite out of that thing.


Natrona County is a suicide epicenter even for Wyoming.

Picture: Nick Perkins, Town Square Media
August 6th, 2022
The whole essay is a reminder that depression is just a mess.

Over the years, I struggled with what came to be characterized as “major depressive disorder,” and took a cornucopia of medications. Nortriptyline, paroxetine, venlafaxine, buspirone, sertraline, citalopram, pregabalin, mirtazapine. None worked. Optimistically, I tried lurasidone, bupropion, and vilazodone, followed by aripiprazole, amitriptyline, and zaleplon, which also made no difference. Then Restoril, protriptyline, desipramine, escitalopram. Nothing. My psychiatrist began to talk ominously about “treatment-resistant depression.” Nonetheless, I carried on with fluoxetine, temazepam, triazolam, and trazodone.

This piece in the Atlantic is an astringent little take on lethal sadness.

June 21st, 2022
New Wyoming State Anthem: “My Sidearm”
Sing it.

Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money
Maybe we're ragged and funny
But we'll travel along singing a song
Side by side!

We don't know what's coming tomorrow
Maybe it's trouble and sorrow
But we'll travel the road sharing our load
Side by side!

When my deep depression
Makes me wish I were dead
I'll just grab my little buddy
Point you right at my head

When the booze and divorces undo me
When the cold lonely winters cut through me
I'll just go and unlock one of my Glocks:
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