Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Commentary: Suicide and Second Life

By DrFran Babcock

There has been a lot of discussion, anger and passion over the Commentary posted by Nydia Tungsten and Brandi Streusel Tungsten on March 2nd, 2015 in this esteemed publication  ( When I got to the monthly Newser staff meeting last Saturday, I was alarmed to find that Nydia was not there. According to editor Bixyl, she was taking a break from Second Life™ because of her upset over the event which had prompted her commentary.
I had wanted to tell her how much I agreed with what she said. However, I didn’t get that chance, and then the Plurk-driven underbelly of Second Life™ cranked into action, resulting in this SL Secret submission last Sunday. (see number 9 ).

I suppose you are wondering why I am inserting myself into this controversy. I have worked in behavioral health for almost all of my life, the last 30 years full-time in a psychiatric hospital. I work in a huge health system, and I am one of seven people who comprise the Suicide Task Force for the health system. I am not bragging; I am attempting to establish the fact that I have been very close to the subject for many years. 

Suicide is always a mess. It means that someone is in enough pain to override the human instinct to stay alive. It means that the people left behind will suffer, and spend their lives wondering what they could have done to prevent it. Most of all, it means that something that was essentially preventable took place.

The fact that someone threatens suicide because they want us to know they are in pain, or because they have learned that these gestures bring attention and love does not mean that they will not eventually complete a suicide — either on purpose or by accident. However, if you tell me you are going to end your life in a venue or situation in which I have no actual access to you—there is nothing I can do.

Nydia and Brandi are angry because they were put in a hostage situation. There is no denying that the person who sent the photos of himself with the gun was in pain, but he put his friends in a horrid no-win situation. 

In virtual worlds, where we don’t always know how to contact the person behind the avatar, it is easy to create a drama. While I don’t know the details of the relationship this person had with Nydia and Brandi, they scrambled to help the man in whatever manner they had at their disposal.
Perhaps this incident can serve to raise awareness of suicide. Suicide is always preventable, provided the person who is suicidal seeks help. The sad reality is that the disease of depression, the single largest stimulus for suicide, can also cause a person to remain isolated and secretive about their feelings. It is never OK to threaten and tease people with suicide, but the suicidal person’s judgment is often impaired.

I applaud the Tungsten’s for venting their feelings about this event. It is time for mental illness and suicide to come out of the darkness. The discussion has to get going. We have to be able to talk about these things so that people understand that suicidal people are in pain, and not bad. What this guy did was an act of anger and need, and I hope he gets help. I hope if there is a next time he feels this way that instead of emotional hostage-taking, he picks up a phone and asks for help.
Many years ago an ex-patient of mine contacted me (my number is unlisted, so I have no idea how she did it), and started to threaten suicide. I got her number from the hospital and called it, but the number had been disconnected. I made some other attempts to contact her which turned out to be all dead ends. I let it go, because I had done all I could do. 

Am I responsible for helping someone who doesn’t allow me to really help them? I think not. I am responsible for making the effort to do so. That is what Nydia did. I hope she can come back to Second Life™. Until then, I will miss her fine writing in the SL Newser. 
This editorial reflects my beliefs, and my experience. I welcome a dialogue, because that’s how things emerge from the shadows. Suicide needs to emerge from the shadows, so we can help.

DrFran Babcock


  1. An excellent followup too a messy rl and sl situation. Thanks for writing this.

  2. I wasn't angry with her reaction. What that man did is not excuseable. I was angry with her telling those with suicide on their minds to disappear. That is wrong that is the last thing anyone needs to hear. Let alone people who need help. Nydia was wrong to say that.

  3. "But if you think you absolutely must take the selfish cowardly way out, find a cannon ball, tie it to your ankles and jump in the ocean so no one will find you. After a while, you will just be forgotten, which is all you deserve."

    Words like these only hurt people who already feel like shit and probably have nothing to do with the incident.

    She argues that just because you are hurting doesn't mean you can hurt others, well that goes more than one direction. She should have calmed down before writing an article meant to be seen by anyone passing by the Newser. (Maybe be more like this article, which has way less ranting and telling people to kill themselves)

    I know Newser isn't a real newspaper and is mostly advertisement for Sunweaver stuff but publishing a personal rant like that was uncalled for.

  4. I spent 12 years with someone who pulled this on a regular basis. I have no tolerance for it anymore. Emotional hostage taking? No. It's worse than that. It's emotional BLACKMAIL. "Do what I want OR ELSE."

    Call me callous. The last time someone tried to pull this on me, I handed them a knife.

    Serious suicides DON'T WARN YOU. I know this first hand. The ones who are constantly claiming they will are simply engaging in the worst kind of emotional manipulation. They don't want "Help", they simply want you to fulfill their wishes, no matter how IMPOSSIBLE it may be. They are DIVORCED from reality, and if you give in to them, you simply allow them to continue to avoid reality.

    It took nearly dying myself to learn this. I wasn't helping. I was simply permitting her to get worse and worse.

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