Monday, 24 November 2008

Tragic death on camera in Miami

The death by overdose of a 19 year old Abraham Bigg on camera watched by thousands of people on the internet is tragic. Commentary about this has focused either that it was online and people actually encouraged him to carry through with his act (sic) or that "internet causes suicide". Just to put this in context there are over 30,000 suicides in the USA every year - so what was different about this death? People have very different views about people who want to die. Historically the view that people who want to "self murder" are bad people who should be condemned has been prominent. This is clearly what a lot of people watching this thought. More recently thinking of suicide as a medical probleem has generated several useful ways of thinking about suicide prevention including effectively treating mental illness. What hasn't been emphasised is that Mr. Bigg had a bipolar disorder the adequate treatment of which represents an important opportunity for suicide prevention. This however is not a sexy headline - especially when compared with internet causes suicide. The other thing to note here is that clearly Mr. Bigg was ambivalent about death - otherwise he wouldn't have killed himself in a way which also offered the chance of someone saving him. Mr. Bigg's exposure by web cam to a potentially vast audience was both an expression of anger and hope. It is a truism that if someone is talking to you about suicide they are ambiivalent and at least part of them wants to live.