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"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."

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hedglingsd Sept. 16, 2011 @ 9:11 a.m.

This article is very distasteful. Very insensitive to those who have lost loved ones to suicide. You appear to be promoting successful and painless ways for someone to take their life. What YOU need to put your energy and effort in to is helping people so they don't feel that they need to take their life! I know there is the principle of free speech, but there are people out there that are hurting and need help to work things out, not end them, not to mention all the survivors of suicide that you have not offended and upset. You should get some guidance before writing articles on such a sensitive topic.


rcovell Sept. 16, 2011 @ 10:40 a.m.

The "Is Suicide Painless " article is one of the most outrageous, insenstive, harmful articles I have ever read!!! How hurtful to persons with mental health issues or temporary crisis that might lead to suicide; families of suicide victims; and efforts to reduce stigma and prevent suicide etc. Shame on the Reader. Ruth Covell MD


AFSP San Diego Sept. 16, 2011 @ 11:34 a.m.

While we understand the author of this article often writes in a satirical nature, this piece is highly insensitive and potentially dangerous.

Tragically, every minute of every day, someone attempts to take their own life and every 15 minutes someone dies by suicide. From 1998 to 2009, suicide took the lives of 3,991 San Diegans.

Despite these alarming statistics, suicide continues to be stigmatized and media portrayals that make light of suicide contribute to that stigma and misinformation. To learn how media coverage of suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking, please visit www.afsp.org/media.

We urge The Reader to release a sincere apology to its readers and remove this article from its website to reduce further risk and harm.

We also encourage The Reader to join us on October 15th at the 2011 San Diego County Out of the Darkness Community Walk (www.outofthedarkness.org) to understand the enormous toll suicide has on surviving families, friends, classmates, co-workers and communities.

As a community, we must work together to learn more about suicide and ways to prevent it. TOGETHER we can save lives.

Thank you, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - San Diego Chapter www.afsp.org/sandiego


lostsoul Sept. 16, 2011 @ 12:10 p.m.

Omg! I lost my brother to suicide only months ago and this is hurtful. With every suicide there are at least five to six survivors to them. Not every person that takes their life has a mental illness. People that do it don't really want to die. It is a disease.Yes a disease! Writing an article about how ways could be hurtful or about putting a cop in that position is just wrong. There are so many people that die by suicide everyday and sto many people that say that it is wrong, selfish, and they go to hell. Wait until it happens to you and you will regret writing this. You may have suggested ways it is painful our gave ideas to the fourteen year old boy who is picked on daily, but it is not painless to their survivors! The ones who live with the why, hate, blame, and guilt.


ReaderReview Sept. 18, 2011 @ 4:48 p.m.

Humor is one thing. Cruel, insensitivity is quite another. Reader, you're allowing Walter Menchen to portray you in a very bad light. He's bullying people who are in a very bad state of mind. As a sufferer of depression and a one-time suicidal woman, I can honestly say it is mean of the Reader to publish such an article. Shame on you. I was able to get help and I have hope for the future. I can only pray no one was negatively influenced by this demeaning story. Shame on you, Reader. You owe your readers an apology. Do the right thing.


buddhajer Sept. 19, 2011 @ 9:23 a.m.

This post is not only insensitive, but potentially harmful. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young adults, takes the lives of almost 400 San Diegan's a year and is almost always a symptom of a mental health condition, usually depression. Detailed descriptions of suicide in the media can often lead to a 'contagion' effect. Also, the article does not mention that depression and other mental health problems are treatable and there are many options for help, such as 1-800-273-TALK (8255) the National Suicide Hotline. Millions of people each year benefit from mental health treatment. Please let your readers know that there is help and hope for the hopeless.

P.S. Here is a very useful resource on suicide in the media from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center http://www.sprc.org/library/media_guide.pdf

I encourage you to remove this blog post.

Thank you,

Jerry Phelps, Ph.D.


Ponzi Nov. 2, 2011 @ 8:36 a.m.

Freedom of speech aside, it's rather obvious this "story" should be removed. It is a disservice to the community.


hellend Dec. 7, 2011 @ 4:39 a.m.

This is a weird and insensitive article.


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