Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Suicide Is Not Painless

My husband and I recently rediscovered M*A*S*H on Netflix. It's our go-to for a short evening laugh. But the theme song haunts me.
Suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please. 
…and you can do the same thing if you please.*

Suicide is not painless. It is a national tragedy. Suicide is the tenth highest cause of death in America; the third  highest among youth. Every 12.8 minutes someone takes their own life in the United States; more than 41,000 deaths annually.

Maybe I’m morbid, but these statistics catch my attention. They make me wonder about the society we live in, the values we hold. Suicide seems a silent shameful epidemic we prefer to keep in the shadows.

But then maybe not so shadowed. The Robert Altman film, M*A*S*H*, was released in 1970. The spin off television show was on the air from 1972 to 1983. Altman’s 14-year-old son, Michael B. Altman, wrote the lyrics for the theme song. 

Suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.*

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, but no one prevented my colleague's act of desperation  two weeks ago.

I didn't know. I didn't recognize the signs. I saw a cheerful, irreverent colleague who was deeply engaged with his students, who always had a smart-ass comment, who spent breaks between classes smoking, chatting, and laughing with other smokers - students, faculty, staff. The camaraderie of smokers could almost entice me to take up the vice once again, but unlike my colleague, I want to live.

Fall quarter begins without my colleague's laughter, his pat on the back, his encouragement, and another song loops through my mind.

Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my sadness hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room I cry
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around**

To learn more about suicide and suicide prevention, please visit:

Music Sources:
*Suicide is Painless: YouTube and lyrics
**The Tears of a Clown: YouTube and lyrics  


Kit Bakke said...

I had no idea those were the lyrics of the MASH song--somehow, after watching it hundreds of times, I never caught that first word "suicide." Yes, suicide is NOT painful. I have nothing else to say, other than I also have lost neighbors by suicide, and it's a sad and terrible and complicated choice for people to make.

arleen said...

Thank you for reading and sharing, Kit.