IT-related websites have recently been flooded with reactions to the suicide of Aaron Swartz. Swartz was a brilliant programmer who had made a lot of contributions to his field. He was a co-owner of Reddit, a popular social news website. He was also an Internet activist. Sadly, he was found to have hanged himself in his apartment on January 11.
Why did it happen? There was no suicide note, but the consensus was that he was depressed due to the legal battle he was going through which had him facing a potential prison term of up to 35 years. The case stemmed from charges brought against him for downloading four million academic journal articles without permission (more details here).
I’m not going to comment on the legal stuff. My focus here is on why he made such an unfortunate decision.As it turned out, he had already contemplated suicide back in 2007. He even wrote a blog post describing the last day in the life of someone who was about to kill himself, and it was intense. Here is an excerpt:
The day Alex killed himself, he wandered his apartment in a daze. The light streaming through the windows gave everything a golden glow, which had the odd effect of making the filth he’d become surrounded with seem cinematic.
He went to a new café across the street, the one place he hadn’t been to yet. Light streamed in through the huge picture windows, making the whole place seem bright and airy. So much light, in fact, that the outside seemed a glow, as if the café was suspended in the middle of a powerful white light. People held lowered, indistinct conversations. People on his left, people on his right, people behind him.
By the way, in the original version “Alex” was “Aaron.” Scary, isn’t it?
Through the blog post, I got a glimpse of how someone with suicidal thoughts sees the world. But, to be honest, I still can’t understand why someone would choose such a tragic way to escape their troubles. Hearing of Swartz’s death saddened me.
Life, I believe, is a gift – a great gift. It’s something to be appreciated and grateful for. There are ups and downs, of course. But the beauty of life is still there. Though you might not be able to see it in moments of darkness, you will soon see it if you keep going.
If you were now in bad times, I just want to say this: there is always hope. Your situation isn’t as bad as it looks. Many people have faced a more challenging situation than yours and overcome it. You can do the same. Just keep fighting on. A bright future is waiting for you.
Photo by Felipe GabaldÃ³n
very nice article, i always wait for new post in your blog 🙂
The greatest advice I received was from someone who told me that when times are really really hard, just tell yourself,”Even this will pass away!”
And it usually does despite the challenges.
Unfortunately I’ve met too many extremely brilliant people who suffer from depression and cannot deal well with their emotions.
How sad and what a great loss this is.
It is very sad…
Thanks for your article!
If you can’t understand why someone would choose suicide, you probably have no business commenting about it. Otherwise, I hate the rhetorical device of claiming something so distance from yourself that you can’t fathom it. It distances Aaron too.
And sometimes things just get worse.
Thanks I needed this message to remind me that all is not lost…. Aaron rip
Indeed it is sad to hear about the story of Aaron. such a waste of life. I can only see one way to stop this in our environment- among friends and family- teach and encourage the spirit of service. This leads to a sense of purpose. In my own little way, I find a sense of meaning in life whenever I make the effort to make someone else happy. It’s my way of paying it forward- passing the kind experience I had from another person.
I think we need to be careful in confusing true mental health issues with self-improvement issues.
Thanks for the comments, everyone!
@Joyce: I like the advice. It’s helpful.
@Rob: I completely agree with you. Yours is a good solution to the problem.
I agree, you can always improve your situation. It can be tempting to want to escape but when you keep working on it you can definately make big improvements on your situation.
It is difficult to imagine how someone could commit suicide. But the thing to keep in mind is that depression distorts reality. Suicide is not a rational decision, so trying to make sense of it with a rational mind is a losing proposition.
I like your message, though. When I am counseling a person suffering from depression, I always listen first, then very gently direct them towards the inconsistencies in the way they are viewing their situation. And I always try to get them to direct their thoughts to hope and positivity. For many, it works (over the long term). For those who are deeply depressed, and have suicidal thoughts and plans, it is usually necessary to medicate them before the talk therapy is truly effective.
Just my experiences.
This is truly is a sad story, but hopefully good comes of it. The best we can hope is that others in similar situations see the tragedy of it and are inspired to seek help rather than viewing Aaron as an example to follow.
Thank you for giving such great advice. During dark times, there is always hope even in dire situations where you think hope is impossible.
I am considering suicide at this very moment but on my journey to my finalk decision I am trying to find a glimpse of hope in sites like these I hope I can find a solution other than ending my life I only have a few hours left as I cannot take anymore.
As someone who has experienced depression many times, I can only echo the sentiments related here. I hope you found someone to talk to Miles. When I was in my darkest times I kept coming back to the phrase ‘This too shall pass’
There really is always hope.
Miles. Please call the local mental health help line, or if you do not know it, 911. Or check yourself in to an ER. Even though it may not seem like it, there is help and hope.
That’s totally simplistic. Telling a guy who want to kill himself that “things will get better” 🙂 Seriously.
Myself I want to die since I’m 6 years old, I never did because I didn’t wanted to hurt my parents. Now they are gone, I tried not to make any friends, I still have some because I’m a really cool guy 🙂 but I stay away from the more people I could, that way now I can go without hurting anybody. It took me a VERY long time and it was horrible because there wasn’t one single day when I didn’t wanted to blow my head, but I didn’t wanted to be too selfish.
Now I have all the pills / gas I need to go away from this big piece of shit world.
I really think that people who can live happy are insensitive for a lot of things, are able to ignore a lot of shit that surround them and are just plain ignorant. During that “waiting time” I got a PhD in science from one of the best college and I could have make a difference but they prefer to hire psychopaths full of BS or import chineses that are not even good at what they are doing. I’m done with that shit they can all go to hell or whatever and the people who close their eyes and never complain about those situations can go to hell too.
I will only miss Kitty Cats and Donkeys 🙂
Im sure your kitty cats would miss you as well. All the more reason to get help. While it may not seem like it, there are effective treatments out there. You sound like an intelligent and caring person. Im sure the world would be a worse place without you in it.
Any situation would get better by time.
We just have to wait one more day, that is it.
But taking our own life is not an option.
My heart goes out to Swartz family.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
One thing I have learned over time is that everything changes. So, if times are difficult right now, you can take solace in the fact that things will change. You can make choices now to make those changes for the better.
Its always darkest before the dawn. Life is full of ups and downs, turns from every angle sometime. But life is gift and were put her to learn and develop through our challenges so that we can take better measure and gratitude in our triumphs.
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