What Would Have Saved Alison Parker and Adam Ward?

Probably this is the last thing you would think about if you were planning to end your life, but did you know that the way we make decisions can affect whether life pushes us to this dire action?

According to newswise.com, difficulty making choices is one of the factors that make certain people vulnerable to suicide. 

Now, does that mean if you can’t decide between a Big Mac and a Whopper for lunch, you’re going to go out and get a gun?

Obviously not.  But in light of the recent awful killing of two journalists in Virginia this week, was that murderer obsessed with choices he couldn't make sense of, or grapple with?  We'll never know.  

I'm not looking for sympathy for him.  What he did was heinous and he deserved to rot in prison -- or die slowly, painfully -- if he hadn't killed himself. 

It hardly matters, in the end.  But researchers have found that high-risk decision-making was prevalent among many parents of individuals who committed suicide, which may serve to explain its apparent “inheritability.”

"People who have a tendency to make risky decisions lean toward solutions that provide short-term benefits despite the high risk, instead of solutions that are safer over the long term," says Dr. Fabrice Jollant, assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill University, who has studied this for many years. "They also have difficulty identifying alternative solutions when faced with a problem.” This can explain the link between decision-making and suicide. “Within the context of a major depression, this difficulty making good decisions can translate into choosing death, which is a solution that ends the suffering immediately, despite its irreparable consequences, without seeing any alternative solutions.”  

This young man was troubled for a long time.  Listening to former co-workers describe him, he was clearly depressed and looking for ways to assuage it -- causing police to be called when he was fired and knocked over desk and computers at the same station the journalists worked for.  Following a man who called him out for his driving erratically, and threatening him.  Looking for signs of discrimination against him at every TV station where he worked.  Yes, he was spoiling for a fight, or as he put it in his last statement of 23 pages to ABC News, he was a "powder keg."

But who hasn't ever felt this way, that things were never going to get better?  I certainly can relate. Large parts of my life were lived like this.  I'm not saying that my inability, at first, to have a child, or my struggle with cancer (twice), or even a family history of depression, caused me to think of ending my life.  But I do remember living in a darkness that pressed down like a heavy blanket and not being able to see any light.

If I were less mentally healthy, might I have tried to kill myself?  Maybe.

 There's a sensible part of you that knows things will get better, and that you just have to sit tight.  But it's hard and I can imagine if you're already struggling with something wrong with your brain, or your chemistry, it's much harder to pull back.  

 Add to this the fact that making poor life choices in general creates a variety of stress factors. Individuals who make risky decisions experience more problems in their personal relationships, which represent classic triggers for suicidal crises, Dr. Jollant says.

For all we know, this killer was rejected a lot in life.  When he was criticized for his poor reporting skills, co-workers say he always took it badly.

So what keeps people who are depressed and despondent from harming themselves, and others?  Maybe good support systems, or talents they take joy in, none of which brings Alison Parker or Adam Ward back.

What would help is better mental health services.  And, most of all, laws that keep guns out of their hands.




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