Change is good medicine

paracetamol blog

The news that simply changing the packaging of paracetamol tablets as well as restricting the size of the packets had cut the number of suicidal deaths by paracetamol overdose is quite chilling. I had always assumed that if someone intended to kill themselves there was little anyone else could do to stop them. And of course, for those who are truly determined that is true.

But what came out of the research into paracetamol deaths was the surprising knowledge that, sometimes, suicidal despair can disappear as quickly as it appears. According to one psychologist interviewed, sometimes the mere hassle of having to go to the chemist for more tablets provides the distraction, and the wake-up call, needed to change their mind. Even introducing blister packs rather than having loose jars of pills stops some people from swallowing a fatal dose. I’ve heard of people dying from frustration, but rarely the reverse.

The harder it is to kill yourself, and others, the fewer people will do it. I think that’s why I favour gun control because you may not be able to legislate against random acts of fury and insanity, but you can make it less likely that those random acts will end in multiple deaths simply by keeping as many people as possible away from loaded guns. Let them make do with kicking a can down the road like the rest of us.

The desperate will always find ways to kill themselves, but the harder we make it for them, the more chance we have of helping them through that black cloud. It’s 50 years since Sylvia Plath killed herself with gas from her oven during a dreadful bitter winter. Listening to interviews with her friends this week it is hard to think of any more they could have done to help her. Friends begged in vain for her to continue to stay with them while she recovered from the heartbreak of losing her husband, Ted Hughes. The only person who could have helped at that time was herself. Soon after her death, legislation was brought in to remove carbon monoxide from domestic gas, and by 1975 it was impossible for anyone else to kill themselves the way she had. Who knows if that would have helped her or not, but at least the rest of us have one more reason for making it through the night.

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