How hard would it be to stab yourself to death?

Like, through the heart?

This seems like the most obvious way to kill yourself, but suicides seem to gravitate toward more elaborate/slow measures. I don’t know much about anatomy, is this not as easy as I’m assuming it is?

Well as anyone who’s seen Pulp Fiction knows, you have to go through the breastplate to do so.

shigyu–do you need help?
Are you alone?
Do you need to talk to somebody?

Stabbing yourself is a very bad idea!

The only person I’ve heard of who actually did this was disgraced Queens borough President Donald Manes. He did it when he was put on hold on the telephone. By his psychiatrist.

You cannot make that shit up.

The big problem is that it is psychologically difficult to stab yourself with the strength and follow-through that are necessary to drive the blade in all the way. Your automatic instinct is to flinch or hold back to spare yourself the pain.

Most suicides approach the problem is a way to give themselves the least pain, to avoid needing to actively rip up their body for themselves, and to not give themselves an out. Guns are irrevocable once the trigger is pulled, as is poison, hanging, jumping off high objects or into the paths of moving objects, etc. Those who commit suicide by slitting their wrists are often found with several not-quite deep enough cut marks before they finally get it right, and failed attempts because of this are common.

The object of suicide is to *stop * the pain, emotional or physical, the person currently feels. Inflicting deliberate pain on yourself to achieve that end is a psychological hurdle that is next to impossible to overcome.

There are physical reasons as well. The heart is well-protected by bone and muscle; most people couldn’t find their hearts in their body to save their lives, let alone end it (that’s why stomach pain is called heartburn); the angle to stab oneself in the heart is a difficult one; and the range of motion to get up speed and strength is extremely limited compared to the motions possible when stabbing someone else.

The thought of failing at suicide is a horror to someone who feels so failed at life to try to commit suicide in the first place. That’s why plans are often elaborate. They want to be sure. Elaborate plans might be more likely to fail than simple ones just because they’re that much harder to get right, but that’s the wrong way to look at that. Getting suicide of all things right is the psychological necessity.

Did Elliot Smith not end his life in a similar fashion?

How about Hari Kari? Didn’t they stab themselves in the abdomen to suicide?

You mean hara kiri. That was a ritualized suicide, and it wasn’t a stab to the heart; it was an evisceration. And since “true” hara kiri was an honor thing, a friend could be available to lop your head off after you successfully laid your intestines in your lap, thus putting an end to an otherwise highly-painful and not-particularly-quick death.

It’s actually spelled hara-kiri. And no, that’s not how it works, at least not according to an iaido instructor I talked with one time. This is a little gross, so I’ll spoiler-box it, but it’s actually a disembowelment.

Seppuku is done by creating a doorway out of your belly. Essential, you slice three times, creating three edges of a rectangle. The last edge of the rectangle is a flap that swings open from the pressure of your innards as they make their way onto the floor. So it’s not a stab so much as three cuts that only need to be deep enough allow your belly to empty itself. I have no idea how deep the cuts would have to be, but this is still far different from stabbing yourself.

Wouldn’t stabbing yourself in, say, the jugular result in a rather rapid demise? If you start bleeding from one of the major arteries or veins, isn’t death pretty much a given within a matter of minutes?

…Or has Hollywood lied to me, again?


I think you’d be looking for more of a slice than a stab. It would be too easy to miss if you stabbed.

But take another look at what Exapno Mapcase wrote. I doubt if someone committing suicide really wants to go out in a panic, trying to stop the bleeding because he or she changed her mind and just freaked out. Sure, it doesn’t take long, but I don’t think it would be a very happy exit.

And three years later his brother tried to do it the same way, but lived.

Lied to again.

The major veins are pretty deep, as are the arteries. And you’d need to take out a major vein to be sure of dying from blood loss rapidly. The external jugular wouldn’t do it with any great speed or guarantee.

Do an artery, and the odds improve a bit. But arteries are muscular, and tend to spasm, so it’s no rapid slam-dunk either, unless you puncture a really major one.

Bleeding is pretty damn messy, too.

Falling on one’s sword has been a traditional suicide since Roman times, at least. The key is to position the blade and let gravity rather then your own strength do the work.

I’s not quite as your write it: you would typically go across and up to form a sort of cross. One important and relevant technical point about seppuku (hara-kiri) is that you’re supposed to push the handle with the palm of your left hand. This is because your muscles will tense up so much that it will be very difficult to plunge the blade in. Apparently many cases of amateur seppuku end up with people slicing their palm as their right hand slips off the handle.

Another case of suicide by stabbing was the lead signer of the Québec band Les Colocs, Dédé Fortin.

How to threads on suicide technique strike me as a very very bad idea, even if the participants themselves are not contemplating suicide.


The OP forgot to add that this is for a character in a book he’s writing.

As a moderator, I can appreciate your position. It boils down to a question of judgement, and I tend to let these moral questions run. I have shut down a thread in the past where it was more obvious that the OP was possibly contemplaing suicide.

samclem GQ moderator

It’s happened by (rather dumb) accident as well: