Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Making sense of the senseless

“Man dies after drinking gas, setting self on fire, police say

That headline from a short Dallas Morning News article raises eyebrows and disconcerting questions. Even if he decided to kill himself, why would Derek Hobaugh choose to end his life in such an incomprehensibly painful manner? And why even bother to drink the gas?

The main body of the article adds details, some of them puzzling, but little clarification. Before he died, Hobaugh explained that “they” had taken him from his apartment and “poured gas on him, made him drink gas and set him on fire.” And “they” told him that he deserved it. The reporter, however, clearly believes he is describing a suicide.

A logical context, if not understanding, only comes with the concluding sentence: Hobaugh “had been prescribed medicine for schizophrenia but had not been taking it.” Every year approximately 5,000 people with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder die by their own hands.