I had heard there was a device in Sweden that could read your palm and tell you whether or not you would kill yourself. I wanted to try it; among other reasons, so that I could find out whether or not I would kill myself.
It’s the sort of thing a person really ought to know about himself. And yet nearly eight out of ten suicides deny, in their final conversation with a health care professional, that they are contemplating the act. There are plenty of good reasons for this—shame, fear of involuntary hospitalization—but what if there were an additional reason: What if many actually weren’t contemplating suicide, or were but somehow didn’t know it? The Swedish device, which is called the EDOR and is manufactured by a company called Emotra, was billed as “a new and objective method for assessing suicide risk,” one that “has proven itself amply in clinical practice.” It promised to tell you what you might not be in a position to intuit yourself. I wrote the company’s CEO, Daniel Poté, and awaited the ugly truth.
At the time, I was in an ideal position to consider the implications of this sort of invention. During the height of the pandemic, when offices were closed and everyone had begun staying indoors and leaving each other alone, I was given access to a small meeting room typically used by a psychoanalyst. It was where she saw her patients, back before analysis became something conducted entirely remotely. Leather chairs, tissue boxes, soothing lamps. The bookshelves were filled with works by D. W. Winnicott and R. D. Laing, and titles like Soul Murder and On the Nightmare. Reaching for something to read, I’d inevitably land on a book like Internal World and External Reality or The Restoration of the Self. Our inability to understand our own behavior, our own motivations, was a recurring topic.