Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Is Suicide Painless? Not Necessarily, Warns San Diego County Health Department
"Suicide is Painless" goes the song that served as the theme for M.A.S.H. all those years ago. But according to San Diego County health officials, that's only if you do it right.
Consider the case of the 54-year-old man who made it to the Coronado Bridge, only to die in a hail of gunfire after provoking police into shooting him multiple times. What could have been a serene plummet from the heavens into deep blue nothingness instead ended with what must have been the searing pain and reflexive will-to-live panic of a "suicide by cop."
Or the case of Rebecca Zahau, a woman so distraught over the impending death of her lover's child that she took (literal) pains take her clothes off, put tape on her body, remove the tape, bind her own hands and feet, stuff a t-shirt into her mouth, and knock herself in the head multiple times before finally slipping a noose around her neck, tying the other end of the rope to a bed, and hurling herself over a balcony.
Last year, 372 San Diegans took their own lives, but, say officials, too many of them incurred needless suffering during their final moments. To mark the kickoff of Suicide Prevention Week, the County will be conducting training seminars to help friends and loved ones recognize the warning signs of impending "botched takeoffs."
"The decision to take one's own life is a profound one," says Susan Downing, President of Pain And Suffering in Suicide Elimination Delegation - Oblivion NOW (PASSED-ON). "Often, the consequences are literally life-changing. It's not a decision that should be made lightly, without clear and cogent forethought. Sadly, all too often people who choose to end their own lives do so under conditions of mental or physical duress, with less-than-satisfactory results. As a good citizen, you can do your part to ensure that your friend or loved one chooses a method that will not leave an officer of the law waking up in a cold sweat for months afterwards or make a the Sheriff's Department of a major metropolitan area look deeply suspect."