Suicide is Painless? Nonsense

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MASH   Google SearchRemember the TV show M*A*S*H?

For the young folks out there, it was one of the most popular shows in all of TV history, set in an army MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital?) unit serving combat casualties just behind enemy lines in Korea. It aired for 15 years or so. Great, great show!

This program’s peppy theme song was an instrumental version of the original theme song from the (prior) movie, M*A*S*H.

As the TV show was largely presented as a situation comedy, it’s no surprise the producers decided to eliminate the grim lyrics from the original song. For those interested, here’s the upbeat TV version: M*A*S*H. (first 48 sec)

The Mash    Suicide Is Painless    Theme from MASH     YouTubeThe original version from 1970 by Johny Mandel (music) and Mike Altman (lyrics) was “Suicide is Painless,” not exactly sit-com fare. It was a haunting song that sold as a single for a while.

Here are the lyrics (or listen: Suicide is Painless):

“Through early morning fog I see,

Visions of the things I see,

The pains that are withheld for me,

I realize and I can see,

That suicide is painless,

It brings on many changes,

And I can take or leave it if I please.

The game of life is hard to play,

I’m gonna lose it anyway,

The losing card I’ll someday lay,

So this is all I have to say,

Suicide is painless,

It brings on many changes,

And I can take or leave it if I please.

The sword of time will pierce our skins,

It doesn’t hurt when it begins,

But as it works its way on in,

The pain grows stronger,

Watch it grin,

Suicide is painless,

It brings on many changes,

And I can take or leave it if I please.

A brave man once requested me,

To answer questions that are key,

Is it to be or not to be,

And I replied “Oh, why ask me?”

Suicide is painless,

It brings on many changes,

And I can take or leave it if I please.

And you can do the same thing if you please…”

This song aptly depicts many of the common features of suicidality:

Ruminating thoughts,

Deep ambivalence over life versus death,

Hopelessness and despair,

A sense of inevitable loss,

An expectation for ever-worsening pain without any hope of relief,

A sense of being punished and deserving it,

And a distorted sense as to how reasonable, how rational it is to kill yourself.

People can become completely convinced they are worthless, they offer nothing to humanity, it will never change, and that everyone would be better off without them. Given those “facts” – deeply convincing at the time – and the desperate suffering involved, suicide makes perfect sense.

Of course those “facts” are lies, as people come to realize soon enough,


Fortunately, seriously impaired abilities to plan, act, or decide save many lives by preventing lethal action.

Still, many thousands die for no good reason.

Too many people talk of suicide as some sort of easy way out, selfish, vaguely evil.

They assume suicidal people deal with the same facts the rest of us do, that they have the same cognitive tools to work with.

They’re wrong, very badly wrong.

When people are severely depressed and suicidal, their thinking is badly impaired.

Such disdain for the suicidal, on top of all the other mental illness stigma in the world, kills people.


Lots of people desperate for help never seek it, out of shame and fear. They hide instead, isolate themselves.

If someone is bleeding to death or having a heart attack and they hide, then often enough they die.

They die BECAUSE THEY HID instead of seeking help.

People don’t do that, because there’s no stigma against bleeders or heart-artery-clogged people.

Suicidal people DO hide – it takes bravery NOT to hide, as the song says.

Often, too often, it’s the hiding that ensures their death.

Stigma kills, folks.

Let’s do more about it, save lives. Give suffering people a break, at the very least.

Sound good?

What do you think?


  1. Great post with lots of things to think about. Suicide has touched most people in some form or fashion. We’ve dealt with it in our extended family, and also amongst friends. Like you said, it takes bravery not to hide. We can all do something personally to help someone who is suffering to be able to be brave and not hide. Unfortunately, we never know who or where that might be, so being open and available to other at all times as a natural way of living makes this most possible. It has the added benefit of enriching life for all. Societally, removing stigma would be a great leap in the ability to do that, but I don’t see that happening quickly. Fortunately, with posts like this that can get people thinking or talking, we can move in that direction.


    1. I agree. The more we make such topics commonplace, the more people learn the deal, the less stigma, the less suffering and death. Simple! And yet much work to bring such simple reasoning to fruition. My chosen role is to take the risk of openness on myself, and help others that way. Lead by example and offer others support and education. It’s gratifying to force my dismal experiences to yield a silver lining. Thanks for your support. It helps the cause!


  2. The theme tune was both beautiful and haunting and both tears and laughter could come in – it was also offering hope and not being on your own – thanks for your work x


    1. Thanks for your support. The idea of Muse, a goddess providing inspiration, is ancient, yet I can think of no more satisfactory explanation for such random ideas that burst forth, as I experience it, out of nowhere, unbidden. Unreliable and miraculous, both. Again, thanks – Greg


  3. 35 year survivor of my suicide attempt, at age 20 I swallowed down every pill I could find and I’m not talking just a few. 35 years latter I now wear the semicolon tattoo on my wrist and will tell anyone my story who is curious enough to ask. Mental health needs to be talked about, those that are suffering need not be stigmatized nor shunned. Mental health affects us all in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, awareness and treatment benefits us all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tell me about the tattoo. My attempt was far more precise. Medical student that I was, I looked up a lethal dose of a very dangerous medicine and took exactly that amount. Depression often involves such concrete thinking and lack of creativity. It may have saved my life, as I could have taken more. As it was I lost 36 hours alone in my room and woke up with injuries and confusion consistent with seizures. Now I see no reason to die: I’d rather live far longer than I’m apt to be granted. So much to do!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “The semi-colon represents a sentence the author could have ended but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” I first learned of the Semi-colon project in 2013 and that year I drew a semi-colon on my wrist, it wasn’t until a year later that I decided to make it permanent, I had to be very certain that I was ready to talk about it because I knew people would ask. It took me 34 years to be open about this, the more I read about children committing suicide I knew I had to. At 20 I would say I was not a mature adult, still trying to find my place in the world and very naive, insecure and impressionable. I want people to know my story and know that sometimes all it takes is to get through that one moment and then the next and the next. I want anyone out there that sees it to know that I’m one of them, I’ve been there, I still battle my demons but I’m here still to tell you that you can do this and it is definitely worth it, even last crappy and glorious moment.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a very heavy subject Greg. Thanks for opening it up. I have friends who have lost family to suicide and they have never been the same. I feel for them and unfortunately, the impact will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it will. It;s a huge number of deaths annually, mostly unreported, unackowledged, undiscussed. Celebrity cases shock partially because people think suicide is rare. It is not. Quite common, actually.


  5. Wow Greg you’ve totally put it as it is! I remember having this discussion 20 years ago at university where my friends said they thought suicide was easy way out, selfish etc but having being very near to that … with those thoughts you describe of feeling worthless, that everyone would be better off without me, hoplessness and dispair… i know it is not easy. It is not easy to want to give up your life. It is a terrible place to be in and people just do not understand. Thanks for this its a really well put.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind feedback! It’s one of those experiences that are very hard to understand from the outside. I’ve found that such insights are very helpful with depressed people; they find it reassuring and it greatly builds credibility to your optimism about their future. Again, thanks –


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