In the Plath family, both mother Sylvia and son Nicholas died by their own hand.
In my family, the passive kind of suicide, is the norm.
So, it shouldn't be any surprise that son of famous suicide - Philip Graham of The Washington Post - killed himself on December 20th.
The method was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had been William Graham. Here are more details from the media.
We hear a lot about cluster suicides. In her book "Night Falls Fast," Johns Hopkins University professor in the psychiatry department - Kay Jamison - describes those. Not too long ago the phenomenon took place among middle-aged trial lawyers in Kentucky. There seemed to be a play-out of the cluster effect among the fatal jumpers at New York University.
However, we hear less about the possibility of suicide as a kind of family trait. I first observed this when I became a member of a 12-step program in the early 1980s. In the same extended families there were multiple deaths occurring within relatively short timeframes.
Some were declared suicide.
Others involved car accidents, supposedly accidental overdoses, high-risk sports like skiing, cancers in which there was a delay in seeking medical treatment, failure to take medication for conditions such as extreme high blood pressure, and being murdered when in dangerous settings.
Eventually, I connected the dots with deaths in my own family. At the time, the most recent had been the murder of an uncle walking home drunk along the mean streets of pre-gentrified Jersey City, New Jersey.
The pragmatic issue is this: Would it prevent suicides, active and passive, to build awareness of this possible family predisposition? It did for me.
Once I accepted the presence of this syndrome in my own family, I turned to cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness to change thought processes. I have already lived longer than any member on the Eastern European side of the family.
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