How Someone Chooses a Location for Suicide

I write this in an abundance of caution.

Before I go further, if you are planning suicide, I highly encourage you to call the

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

“He feels pessimistic about any future. Some time ago, early in his life, he formed a fixed idea, a flawed concept of what tolerable happiness might be, but his great tragedy was that he defined it in such a way that he could never attain it. It is present from the very beginning, in the very first few sentences. It is the pain, the enduring psychological pain that darkens his life. It is a pain that, in his psyche, is unbearable, intolerable, unendurable, and unacceptable. In his terms, it is better to stop the cacophony in his mind that to endure the unbearable noise.” - Edwin Shneidman, Autopsy of a Suicidal Mind

Dr. Shneidman, the father of modern-day suicidology, researched why people killed themselves in an attempt to find reliable indicators that medical professionals could use to recognize when someone may be at risk for suicide.

A friend asked me why someone might choose to end their life by suicide in a particular place. I can speak from personal experience, as well as from what the historical research into suicide can elucidate.

2,000 deaths since 1968, with 100-200 saved from jumping every year.

2,000 deaths since 1968, with 100-200 saved from jumping every year.

In the United States, we are familiar with the high rate of suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge, but you may be unfamiliar with the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China.

The beauty of an expanse of water is a romantic human notion. We are drawn to the possibility of something beyond, and it requires very little imagination to see that dying by jumping off a bridge can, “merge the needs for nurturance and death that occurs in the suicidal mind” (Joiner).

If you believe someone snaps, and jumps off a bridge or slits their wrists in a bathtub; let me disabuse you of that idea.

The act itself may be impulsive, but everything that led up to the attempt was planned. I planned to kill myself by hanging in my basement apartment of my parents house. 

Why? Did I not care that my family would be the first to find me? Of course I cared, but my thinking was so distorted that those thoughts barely registered in my mind.

I planned to die in my home for two simple reasons. One, I was comfortable there. Two, I knew the rhythms. I knew when everyone was asleep, or when the house was deserted. I could plan, intimately, the details of exactly where I wanted to end my life.

Joiner again says it best,

“Planfulness regarding episodes of self-harm represented a significant risk factor for later completed suicide. Planfulness requires competence, which in my model is a key aspect of the acquired capability for lethal self-injury.”

Someone may choose to jump off a memorable bridge or building for a degree of flair, but also because they have read about people dying, and succeeding, at these locations. Whereas another person might choose to end their life in their home or their office, because that is where they are most comfortable.

Still others, myself include, might get a hotel room. Where there is a semblance of home, combined with the knowledge that no one will disturb you if you put that little sign on your door.

Reasons for choosing a location are as varied as our preferences for why we choose to move, or the work on which we embark. It may be due to convenience, to allure, comfort, control, accessibility; the list is truly endless.

These are all answers that we can consider if we are faced with the terrible question, why? Why did my friend, spouse, child, coworker kill themselves? Why there?

I will tackle these questions and more as I explore my own experiences, in the hopes that my search for better answers will help others.