Both the movie and the TV show M*A*S*H share the same theme song. Even if you can recall the music in your head, many people don’t know the song’s strange title: “Suicide is Painless.”

My latest piece for NPR’s Health site, “Shots,” recalls my mother’s death by suicide from my viewpoint as a son and someone entering the medical profession.

In thinking about my Mom’s death, I’ve always remembered the title of the M*A*S*H theme, but had never really thought about its meaning. Here’s the refrain:

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it’s too late, and…

It’s interpreted to mean that compared to the horrors war, suicide is the less painful alternative.

I’m OK with the thought for soldiers and as a literary device, but I’m here to tell you that suicide is most definitely not painless to those it leaves behind.