PSYCHIATRIST: I Hate Suicide But Also Understand It
by Charles Raison M.D.
CNN, Aug. 21, 2012
Editor’s note: Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth’s mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
(CNN) — I got a terrible shock when I heard the news that the famous director Tony Scott had apparently committed suicide by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, California.
Not because I knew Scott, and certainly not because it is a rare thing for people who seem to “have it all” nonetheless to kill themselves.
No, I got a shock because I knew the bridge.
For the better part of a decade, I trained and then worked as a psychiatrist in Los Angeles. For several of those years, I did psychotherapy with a young woman who drove over that same bridge every day. The bridge became almost a third person in our work together, because she talked about it constantly.
Every morning and then again every evening she faced huge anxiety as she approached its yawning span because it was all she could do not to stop her car and throw herself off it. Just seeing that bridge made all her pain and despair intensify, and it came to represent everything that was wrong with her life.
On the other hand, it’s a beautiful structure, in an industrial sort of way, and it also seemed beautiful to her because it was always there, silently waiting, always offering an easy out. When things were really bad, she’d drive 20 miles out of her way just to avoid that bridge and the terrible temptation to jump or crash her car off the side.
Fortunately, my patient avoided Scott’s fate. She came to grips with a history of abuse and her depression eased. She married and left Los Angeles. I also left Los Angeles, but a few years ago, I returned to the San Pedro area to give a talk and crossed that bridge with a mixture of relief and distress.
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