In her March 30, 2003 daylog, Mitzi is understandably disturbed by a disturbing (albeit small) number of E2 "suicide-note dayloggers". Agreed, committing suicide is in bad taste. Threatening to commit suicide is even worse, a case of bad manners. Mitzi tells these people, in no uncertain words, to quit writing suicide notes and get professional or semi-professional help instead.

Nobody in her or his right mind would want to contradict Mitzi's advice to get help. Let me also state that I have no emotional attitude whatsoever toward suiciders or suicide-note writers. I see them dispassionately as an age-old problem of demographics, a problem that may (or may not) find sociological and psychological solutions in some distant future.

It is clear that a writer of suicide-notes proves in writing that he or she is mentally disturbed in some minor or major way, and should hence seek professional help, as Mitzi recommends. There is a problem, though. Does the suicide-note writer know that he or she is mentally disturbed? If I or Mitzi start seeing pink elephants in our living-rooms, then we surely know that we are in a bad way and will immediately call for professional help. But we also know that there are people who do see pink elephants, but surprisingly don't call the doctor. We call such people psychotics, but they themselves don't know that. Does a suicide-note daylogger say to himself: "I must really be in a bad way, writing this silly suicide-note of a daylog, I have to get professional help quickly."?

The suicide-note daylogger is probably not a psychotic. He or she could even be a childish prankster. Most probably it's just a person who feels a bit low on this particularly drab, gray day and acts in very bad taste, giving me and Mitzi an uneasy feeling of unwarranted responsibility for his or her imagined or real predicament. In effect, a suicide-note daylog is an undeserved pain in the ass to most E2 readers. In some cases professional help is really called for, but as we have already seen, the cases themselves don't know that. And then there might be a rare case or two who will eliminate him- or herself by committing suicide as threatened, without the courtesy of seeking professional help first.

In spite of the pain in the ass, I would still strongly recommend accepting the suicide-note daylogs on E2, enduring the pain that goes with them. After all, we don't have to read them, and if we do, we don't have to take them to heart. But to most potential suicide-note writers the mere thought of an E2 audience of 62,790 (at this morning's count) has a decidedly greater psychological impact than privately writing a few desperate lines on paper and later burning it. Take note of the word "potential": it is quite possible that for every actual E2 suicide-note there are hundreds of potential ones, never written, only because they COULD have been written, to be read by an audience of 62,790 readers. The very knowledge that you are free to hang out your anguish before tens of thousands, may give solace enough to leave it at that.

A note on the subject-matter:

Combating suicide is a tricky business. There is no telling who will and who will not commit suicide. Some write notes and go on living, some make repeated attempts and never kill themselves, some write notes and kill themselves, while most simply kill themselves, without any warning in writing or otherwise. The words of conventional wisdom, "suicide is a cry for help", is a well-meaning misunderstanding of the bewildering facts, facts that are extremely difficult to analyze. There is very seldom an identifiable "cause" of a suicide, quite contrary to popular belief. In "bad times" and in "bad societies" the suicide rates are paradoxically lower than in "good times" and "good societies". And the remedy "professional help" is most often not applicable to potential suiciders, because most suiciders don't show any overt signs of mental disorder before being found dead.