I am inclined to be one-sided and I don’t believe that suicide is a selfish act. I wrote exactly that recently.
It’s a difficult impassioned discussion.
I know that something shared by those who’ve had someone close to them die by suicide is the struggle to make sense of something seemingly senseless. I’ve heard many speak of the ongoing guilt of not having been able to help more.
All of the scenarios that haunt you in bereavement start with ‘if’ and ‘why’.
Living with loss is difficult, the wound is indelible.
Living with depression can be even more unbearable, I think of William Styron’s description, found in the archives here, of the “gray drizzle of horror” he recorded as “totally removed from normal experience”. No wonder suicide is unfathomable to those who have not suffered through a severe depression.
Then there is the another pained and moving view, like that described by Gabrielle Carey in an article from May 11 2009.
It is said that for every suicide, on average there are eight people left behind who are seriously and often permanently damaged. When it comes to my father’s suicide, I am one of those eight. Twenty-one years later I have concluded that suicide is — not always but often — an act of anger and revenge; ultimately an act of selfishness.
… I have had many years to contemplate how I might have prevented my father’s death. By forcing him to see a doctor (he hated doctors) who might have prescribed anti-depressants? That might have seen him through the worst of his depression and then out the other side. But what if the doctor had recommended a psychiatrist? And what if the psychiatrist had recommended scheduling him because he was clearly such a high suicide risk? Would the family have agreed to admitting him, against his will, so that he could be monitored day and night? Would we have been able to save him from himself? I don’t know. But I suspect that, if someone had walked into my father’s house at the right moment, and had seen the rope he was preparing, had realised the extreme torment he was suffering, and had taken him by the hand, led him away, talked to him, kept him close, told him that he was loved and wanted and needed, he might well still be here today. I also suspect he would have wanted that. That he would have enjoyed getting to know his five grandchildren. But, of course, I don’t know for sure.
Unlike my father, whose final act I now consider to be cowardly and selfish, when my mother was suffering intensely she behaved quite differently.
Gabrielle Carey. (May 11 2009). You do not have the right to die. In The Age On-line. Retrieved May 27 2011, from http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/you-do-not-have-the-right-to-die-20090510-az6t.html.
I understand that I don’t understand.