Exit doesn’t publish ‘how-to’ information on its website – that is reserved for the literature and workshops. But a twenty second google search will tell you how to end your life with helium. Only slightly longer is needed to find the materials for death by household chemicals. Ironically, the most specific information available online is often provided for suicide prevention such as emergency services learning to cope.
Let’s be clear about a few things:
- Any death is regrettable – in the sense that good life is preferable to death. We want for others what we would want for ourselves, even when we are not able completely to respect that some people would want very different things for themselves than what we would want.
- Persons who can be encouraged to desist from suicide on the basis that their life can become worthwhile should be encouraged and empowered to live.
- There is a qualitative and quantative difference between persons who are ‘suicidal’ because of temporary emotional disturbance and those who are ‘suicidal’ on account of unbearable and unrelievable suffering.
- Availability of suicide methods information does not affect the the number of suicides. If young Tommy wants to go to the Golden Gate Bridge to jump off, it’s only human to try to dissuade him. But if he has made up his mind to end his life, he will simply use another means – possibly more painful and undignified, possibly even one that will endanger others.
- Although the methods of ending one’s life using helium are not complex, Five Last Acts II provides the most detailed, thorough and easy-to-follow instructions published worldwide. The helium section alone provides 24 illustrations, with step-by-step information. It has been described by the World Federation of Right to Die Societies as, “the most comprehensive guide to self-deliverance techniques available.” (Exit’s experience and knowledge in suicide methods goes back further than any other organisation in the world.)
As with anything, the waters are easily muddied. Spending some time on the underground newsgroups (not the whiter-than-white ‘right-to-die’ ones) shows people from both camps, emotionally disturbed and unrelievably ill, getting desperate. They are particularly intimidated or worried by the ‘high tech’ approach by some advocates. So let’s make a few more things clear:
- You do not need two tanks of helium to end your life by suicide
- You do not need a special valve to adjust the flow
- You do not need a commercially made bag (such as a Gladd bag’)
- YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE SCARED.
- But you DO need to calmly assess whether it is WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO.
We have repeatedly seen people research the subject and find the array of information, special equipment and warnings simply too much. They look for something simple and turn to chemicals. Suicide from household chemicals is on the increase but:
- Suicide with household chemicals (usually to produce a lethal gas) is potentially very unpleasant and can involve extreme suffering before death occurs.
- Suicide with household chemicals risks hospitalisation and even death for innocent bystanders, even when you put up warning signs.
- Suicide with household chemicals requires more planning than helium.
- The cost difference should not be a factor – a tank of helium costs maybe £25 more than the household chemical people are using, maybe less. On one occasion when we sourced the items needed for chemical suicide vs helium suicide, helium worked out cheaper – additionally, all the items are fairly straightforward to obtain; whereas obtaining the chemicals often involves many different sources and the names can cause confusion and doubt.
Before deciding on either option it might be worth looking at other ways. Effective pain control doesn’t appear out of the sky. Making a fuss – including a loud noise – is more likely to result in effective treatment than just lying there. Far more pain can be treated than is treated. If you are suffering from paralysis, it might be worth looking at the lives of those who have, surprisingly, discovered they can live a full life after paralysis. Give it time if you can – like a broken love affair, the initial emotional reaction doesn’t disappear overnight. Wait until you are fully able to assess things calmly. The same goes with a sudden diagnosis.
- Don’t do anything rashly.
In cases where you are emotionally traumatised or suffering due to inadequate social support (housing, welfare), a similar rule applies: make a noise! If people realise something is very, very wrong, so wrong you are planning to take your own life, they will be jolted into action. They can’t always make things right, and can’t always do it straight away, but a large proportion of depression is eventually treated effectively. What seems like an unbearable life event today is less unlivable a few months in the future (and that could mean many more moths – even years – of fulfilling life).
For those who are unconvinced, let’s look at some facts . . .
- Seven police officers were hospitalised last month after farmer died using chemicals.
- After 72 of the documented cases of chemical gas suicide since 2008, at least 80 percent resulted in injuries to firefighters, police officers, emergency workers or civilians. This is in spite of warning signs attached to the inside of vehicles used for suicide.
- Panic-mongering over helium is mostly ill-founded. One writer on an underground blog reported that the gas was so horrible he had to stop after a few seconds. Anyone can easily disprove this by taking a single breath of helium – it is tasteless and odourless and causes no gasping for air. Panic-mongering tends to push people towards more horrible of suicide, not prevent them trying to end their lives.
- ‘Medicalisation’ of suicide can also increase panic-mongering leading to similar results. There is no need for fancy equipment. Careful persons might want to look into the details, but don’t be frightened into thinking painless death is a horribly complicated matter and go driving your car off a cliff. Calm down, go through it carefully so you have no fear, then go through the emotional issues even more carefully. Be at peace with yourself. Be at peace with those you leave behind. If necessary, phone the Samaritans (anonymously and confidentially) or the Befrienders.
- Exit does not encourage suicide. We want to empower those who have (or may have in the future) a rational desire to control the timing of their own demise. Similarly we want to empower those suffering from a temporary emotional or social disturbance to recover and to live a long and happy life. The two are not mutually exclusive.
- For most people who find out how to end their life peacefully and with dignity, that in itself is not the main benefit. The main benefit is the knowledge; the courage it brings. For many people, knowledge of death means being able to live longer.
Five Last Acts II
Seven police officers hospitalised
The chemical suicide phenomenon
Hollywood suicide points to chemical danger
Chemical Suicides Increasing in U.S.
Coroner: Bath salts present in both involved in murder-suicide
Officials warn that chemical suicides are on the rise
Imperialist Suicide Epidemic in India
Recession’s wake finds more youth suicide
Women’s copycat suicide flat is so toxic police have to wear chemical protection suits 24 hours on
Death tied to vapor whiff
Revisiting Impulsivity in Suicide