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101 Alternatives

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide … by Kate Bornstein

… is the subtitle of my so-far favorite book on suicide prevention.

Author Kate Bornstein, a transgender performance artist, has assembled largely from personal experience an entertaining and fundamentally useful collection of “things to do today instead of killing myself.”

Bornstein invests the first 80 pages of the book in gender identity politics, which may or may not interest a particular reader. The remaining 160 pages are a brilliant compendium of 101 things a person could do today instead of dying.

Each strategy is ranked for:

  • Safety (are you going to risk the rest of your life by doing this?)
  • Effectiveness (how likely is it to improve your mood even a little?)
  • Ease of accomplishment
  • Suitability for various ages (for instance, “requires Young Adult Assistance”)

Recommendations include …

Classic self-indulgences:

  • Go shopping.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Eat it all.
  • Stay in bed.
  • Bitch, moan, rant and rave

Classic “bootstrap” remedies:

  • Serve someone.
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Stop f**g around and get to work.
  • Go for it, against all odds.

And some “rewrite your life” strategies:

  • Frame your own debate
  • Defy prophecy
  • Write your own code of honor

By the time you’ve picked one or two to try, you’ll already have laughed enough (Believe in your own laughter) to have bumped your mood up a notch. And remember, she starts by telling you that you’re not going to go from suicidal to fabulous today. Panicky to “I can breathe” is a good start. Even though we’re Americans and expect everything at once, she says, personal change comes one small step at a time. So she even gives you a list of 50 emotions. Find where you are today, then pick a spot no more than 3 higher as a target.

What a smart approach to staying alive!

I will tell you the same thing I messaged to Bornstein: I wish the 160 pages of this book which are suicide prevention, plain and simple, were available separate from the 80 pages of polemic on gender politics directed at teens confused about their gender identity.

I understand that LGBQT kids have a higher suicide rate and suicide attempt rate than the population at large. I understand that choosing to live a different gender identity than that assigned at birth is stigmatized. Right now, I’m trying to help a coworker live in his new male identity (“Joe is running every day and I told him you said you’ve gotten too lazy to run so he’s going to kick your butt to get you moving”) even while I refer him to fabric sales and ask about his knitting.

But the thing is, when you add up the numbers, LGBQT teens are only a small part of the suicide total. I understand that Bornstein feels she has a message that she needs to get to them. I just wish she understood that she has a message for everyone who wants to die today … and they might not page past the polemic to get to it.

PS: I read Bornstein’s book as part of my survey of suicide prevention strategies for my own forthcoming book, 50 Shades of Suicide Prevention. Excerpts to come.

Update: Via Twitter, Bornstein has encouraged me to create my own book of 101 Alternatives. Which seems like a great idea! Here are a few so far:

  1. Call the only person in the world who understands.

12. Go to the best chocolate shop in town.

16. Give yourself some quiet space.

17. Get out of the quiet.

23. Stare soulfully into a dog’s eyes.

31. Write the ultimate revenge murder story.

37. Make a wild, crazy decision you’ll probably regret.

37. Decide something that doesn’t change anything important.

What are some of the things you do instead of dying when you feel like there’s no reason to keep moving? If I use your idea in my book, you’ll get credit! Follow Kate on Twitter at #stayalive.