We have a question: How unpleasant is Hypothermia?

Now, I don't know the motivations of the original poster, but if a friend would be asking such a question and comparing it to other ways of dying, I would be quite worried.

Do we really want to cover questions on, to paraphrase a semi-famous book, how to die in the woods?

  • 3
    It took me a while to get this question. But It is a valid point. I know of at least one time where someone went to a mountain near my with the express intent of killing themselves via hyperthermia. It was actually quite a high profile person (who'd been embroiled in a high media issue) and unfortunately they we're successful. I don't think this question is asking that, but I could see how someone could find this and potentially see it as encouragement. That said, are we the internet police?
    – user2766
    Feb 17, 2016 at 11:46
  • 7
    I have it on good authority that the OP is not considering suicide. Feb 17, 2016 at 13:03
  • 3
    Gerrit raises a valid point, but this question on hypothermia does not suggest suicidal motives to me -- far from it. And a good answer will emphasize that the prelude to advanced hypothermia is probably going to be very unpleasant. And, speaking for myself, I do want to understand how I might die in the woods, especially because I've always regarded hitting timberline from above as moving into the zone of safety -- and once it really was.
    – ab2
    Feb 17, 2016 at 19:05
  • @Liam, not sure if that was a typo but hyper vs hypothermia.
    – Eric
    Feb 17, 2016 at 23:51

4 Answers 4


If you look at the question, it has nothing to do with assisting suicide - it's a very reasonable question to ask of those who have experience in freezing environments so that the OP can recognise the various stages of hypothermia.

Personally, I think the question may be difficult to answer, however it is on topic here.

  • 1
    I'll drag up my core criticism of this site. Nearly everything is on topic. Just take any topic in the world, do it outside, and poof-walla now it's ontopic here. Cooking, dying, reading, walking, eating, sleeping, thinking, etc, etc.
    – Eric
    Feb 17, 2016 at 23:53
  • 3
    Not correct radpin, as you will see from the number of questions that get migrated or closed. But I am very glad we do get such a wide range of questions - in fact some have asked for more, being concerned that their outdoor activities weren't included. Remember you can hide tags you aren't interested in (I do that on Gaming, as it is far too broad for me)
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Feb 18, 2016 at 0:12

I have no experience or training recognizing suicidal behaviors. For better or worse, I personally wouldn't consider this question in isolation to be a sign that someone was considering suicide. If a pattern emerged then I would be more concerned.

To answer the heart of your question, Should we assist people commit suicide, I'd offer the following thoughts:

  1. The outdoors is a dangerous arena, and people who want to learn how to mitigate those risks must be able to ask about them.

  2. We should generally assume good intentions, unless there is clear evidence that something nefarious is happening. For example I might suspect someone is more interested in hunting a hunter instead of a bear, but IMO until my suspicion is unambiguously confirmed my hands are tied.

  3. If someone does unambiguously state that they are interested in causing harm to themselves or others we should notify the moderator team, follow up with the moderator team for status updates, and consider alerting local authorities if possible.

Also not to be too callous but anyone with a true desire to commit suicide, and the ability to travel to a truly wild area doesn't need our "help" figuring out a way to die. The wilderness will oblige their request without mercy, or compunction. There may be a Million Ways to Die in the West, but there are a million and one ways to die in the wilderness.

  • +1 I agree 99%, except "unambiguous" is too strong a constraint in regard to causing harm to others. For example, if I saw someone carrying a gun at a trailhead in a national park trail, I would notify a ranger. Similarly, this site could get a question that would really set off alarm bells without being "unambiguous".
    – ab2
    Feb 17, 2016 at 18:57
  • 1
    @ab2 I agree that everyone should set their own thresholds, but those thresholds should also be tempered by circumstance. Several years ago I was walking into a bank in Jackson Hole. I glanced at a group of guys parked right in front of the bank. They all had guns in their hands and at least had one huge Desert Eagle .50 looking pistol. For a second I felt my eyes bulge and immediately the thought that the bank was going to be robbed flashed through my mind. Then I recalled I was in Wyoming, and chuckled as I entered the bank. If I was in New York City my reaction would have been different.
    – Erik
    Feb 17, 2016 at 19:05

Without passing judgment about if the specific question qualifies as suicidal, if there is a concern about suicide it might be best to refer to: What's the official SE response to serious mentions of suicide in posts?


The answer to this question Do we really want to assist suicide? is of course "No!" imho. However, the "freezing-to-death"-question isn't kind of these. I personally think that it just has a poor title. As soon as I've an idea how to change it, I'll suggest an edit.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .