“How Not to Kill Yourself” by Clancy Martin

Philosophy professor Clancy Martin, author of the new book How Not to Kill Yourself: A Portrait of the Suicidal Mind, has said the following about suicide (Yakimaherald.com): “Suicide, for most people, is a process. Sometimes that process starts at a very young age. The writer David M. Perry talks about his own suicidal ideation beginning at age 9. I have a former student who first attempted suicide by riding his tricycle through a window as a toddler. My own desire to kill myself is among my first memories.”

Indeed, Martin has tried and failed over 10 times to take his own life. How does he feel about this? Via Emily Gould, Vulture: “’I’ve lived all my life with two incompatible ideas in my head: I wish I were dead and I’m glad my suicides failed.’ This sets the tone for the book, which encompasses philosophical and literary musings about the history and meaning of suicide as well as detailed autobiographical accounts of Martin’s own struggles with his mental health, addiction, and suicidality.”

Several years ago Martin’s viral essay “I’m Still Here” detailed much of the background that led to writing How Not to Kill Yourself. An excerpt:

I was already thinking about suicide in a daily way when I was 3 or 4 years old, and this didn’t stop until I was in my early thirties. Every day, for as long as I could remember, I fantasized about suicide. When I was young, I imagined that I might even get to watch the funeral and the aftermath. As I grew older, I accepted that it was not because I wanted to see what would happen, but because I was sure I wouldn’t have to live any longer. Essentially, I started with the ‘Fame’ version of suicide and transitioned to the ‘Consolation’ version…

On “the only really persuasive reason I’ve ever heard for not killing myself”: “A psychiatrist once told me: ‘Don’t not kill yourself because your children need you. They do need you, but they’ll be fine without you. Everyone’s parents die sooner or later. Here’s the real reason you shouldn’t kill yourself. Think of the example you’re setting for them.’”

A Publishers Weekly review snippet:

In three sections, Martin addresses societal conceptions of self-slaughter, his own struggles with alcohol and the times he hit rock bottom, and how to chart a path toward recovery. Along the way, he touches on famous suicides from Seneca to Anne Sexton, and historical and philosophical cases considering or even justifying the act, from philosophies as distinct as Bushido, pessimism, and stoicism. Funny but never flippant, Martin takes into account throughout the weight of his subject, even when describing his own grisly attempts, or those of his friends, without platitude or sentiment…

More from Kirkus Reviews on How Not to Kill Yourself:

Married three times and the father to five children, Martin harbors a deep understanding of others who suffer with the same dark feelings of despair, including several suicidal relatives in his deeply dysfunctional family…While experts impart captivating psychological explanations, Martin’s perspective inspires the most incisive and disquieting passages. Sections on his murky descent into alcoholism smoothly dovetail with accounts of the author’s candid, heartfelt work toward making peace with life and pages of proactive ‘tools for crisis’ for anyone considering suicide…

David Shields, author of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead: “The most honest, complicit, searing, and discomfiting book I’ve ever read about suicide (and I’ve read quite a few—out of purely scholarly interest, of course).”

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One thought on ““How Not to Kill Yourself” by Clancy Martin

  1. The statement shared by Philosophy professor Clancy Martin highlights the notion that suicide can be a complex process that may manifest from an early age for some individuals. It is important to approach this topic with sensitivity and care, as discussing suicide requires a thoughtful and compassionate perspective. From a professional standpoint, here are a few key points to consider:

    Suicidal ideation as a process: Suicide is often not a sudden decision or action but rather a process that can develop over time. It is essential to recognize that suicidal thoughts and behaviors can have different triggers, contributing factors, and progression for each individual. This emphasizes the importance of early intervention and support to address underlying issues.

    Childhood onset of suicidal ideation: The mention of individuals experiencing suicidal ideation from a young age highlights the fact that mental health struggles, including suicidal thoughts, can emerge early in life. Such experiences may be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, early life experiences, trauma, or other environmental influences. It reinforces the need for mental health awareness, prevention, and support services that cater to individuals of all ages.

    The impact of personal experiences: Professor Martin’s reference to his own memories of suicidal desires underlines the deeply personal nature of suicidal thoughts. Suicidal ideation can have a profound impact on individuals, shaping their worldview, emotions, and coping mechanisms. It also emphasizes the significance of open and non-judgmental communication about mental health, allowing individuals to share their experiences and seek appropriate help when needed.

    Thanks for work you’ve done!

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