… or at any rate prolonged the misery.
I have been reading The Motivated Mind by Dr Raj Persaud, British TV’s most familiar psychiatric face. This book is, for me, rather less than the sum of its parts. There is a structure to it, in the form of the assertion that human motivation is often very complicated, and more complicated than many psychologists have said. But mostly it is a mixture of more or less informed pop psychology about how to get on with your career, love life, etc., and references to interesting learned articles. It reads more like a bundle of articles than a real book, and personally I would have preferred it as a blog, but that may just be me. So I have not been reading this book solidly. Rather, I have been dipping.
And near the end (p. 396 of my paperback edition) I did come across this amusing titbit:
For many years the most popular method of suicide in Great Britain was asphyxiation – sticking one’s head in the oven and turning on the gas. After the discovery of natural gas deposits in the North Sea in the fifties and sixties, most English homes converted from coke gas, whose high carbon monoxide content made it highly lethal, to less toxic natural gas. From 1963 to 1978 the number of English suicides by gas dropped from 2,368 to eleven and the country’s overall suicide rate decreased by one-third. Despite England’s varying unemployment rate and social stresses since then, it has remained at this lower level.
Maybe you knew that, but I did not, and I find it most intriguing.
The moral? Plenty of them, I suppose, but one would be the extraordinary mismatch that constantly occurs in life between trivial causes and portentous consequences. Economic analysis that it would be more dignified to apply only to such insignificances as chocolate bar purchases – in the form of transaction costs – turns out to illuminate self-administered death also.
For me, if suicide ever beckons, it will either itself be painless, or my continuing existence will itself have become so painful that one more spasm of further pain will make no difference. So it does actually make sense to me that if you remove what must at least seem like a reasonably painless means of exiting from life, many who would have slipped out by this door, instead remain living until death, by natural causes, reaches out to them.