Suicide – can it be a rational option?

suicide
Gary Speed

It is not uncommon for people with only a mild degree of depression to have thoughts of suicide. Although the majority take this no further, the process of thinking about harming oneself may make one more vulnerable to actually doing so.

Suicide of Gary Speed

From time to time, you might secretly wonder if ending your life might be the right thing for you. That’s what’s Welsh football legend Gary Speed probably had been thinking — only in his case he put his thoughts into action and committed suicide. This despite the success he enjoyed in the eyes of the world: he was good enough to be appointed manager of the Welsh national football team and apparently had everything to live for. Only the previous day, when being interviewed by the BBC, he had talked positively about his job, family, and his golf. Perhaps it just shows how little the world knows about what goes on within the human soul.

We might speculate about his mental state but only those who knew him very well might have had any inkling of what was going on beneath the public façade. Perhaps it was a sense of failure in not meeting impossibly high standards, or was it a fear of criticism by a newspaper industry quick to be judgemental when the national team does poorly? We can only imagine, whatever it was, it must have been something pretty horrendous to cause him to act in a way to cause his family such a loss.

Suicide and its assumptions

The general question remains: can suicide ever be a rational choice in certain circumstances? Some, who have taken their life, have believed that death was the only realistic way out of their difficulties. Others, given their terrible situation, have thought that life was not worth living. Some, because they felt they should be blamed for all that had gone wrong, have even assumed that they did not deserve to have anything to look forward to. I must admit I do wonder how they could have been so sure. When you are feeling low does not everything seems negative and is it not more difficult to get a reasonable perspective?

There is doubt in my mind about how accurately anyone can predict the future.  How does one know that the quality of one’s life will not improve if one were to stay alive? Is it really not possible that what feels to be an unbearable physical or emotional pain, might nevertheless become more tolerable in the future — after all, there are continual developments in medicine and many benefit from professional talking therapy. Is it inconceivable that there might be some changes one can make to daily living that could help? In other words, I’m wondering whether killing oneself might be a permanent mistaken solution to a temporary problem.

Suicide or a ‘living death’

There are some who would argue that deciding to kill oneself can be a perfectly rational decision:  that people who face irreversible suffering, for example of a deteriorating incurable disease, have a right to die rather than having a “living death”. Of course there is disagreement about what constitutes a “living death”.

Suicide and freedom

Some inmates in Nazi concentration camps thought that continuing to live would be intolerable and are known to have killed themselves by deliberately touching the electrified fences. I cannot say how I would have responded to such desperate circumstances but I do know that there were many survivors who had clung on to life and that some took the view that suicide takes away freedom because it amounts to precluding the freedom to make further choices.

Victor Frankl, the well respected existential therapist, for example chronicled his experiences as a concentration camp inmate which led him to focus on an inner freedom. This he said derives from the spiritual dimension of the person. He discovered the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus, he maintained a reason to continue living.

Suicide and religious belief

To my mind, a spiritual perspective also suggests that suicidal tendencies are less likely to be found amongst those deeply religious people who are free from worry and guilt: the reason being they have a deep sense of being loved by God, warts and all.

In my view a correct religious attitude challenges the view that a person’s life is his own and thus free to dispose of it as he wishes.  Instead individual life can be  considered to be from God on trust with that person. In addition there is the idea that suicide is a lack of faith that God will provide any help with desperate problems. Finally, there is also the religious view that it is a mistake to think you know best when to leave this world and enter the next.

Dark forces and suicide

Cognitive therapists encourage us to challenge automatic negative thoughts. Likewise Emanuel Swedenborg, visionary spiritual philosopher, warns us about the dark thoughts that can influence us. We need to be aware of their dangerous presence. He wrote about his own experience of negative impulses for example to throw himself in front of a carriage and horses: he said the source of such thoughts were his demons who wanted nothing else than his destruction.

Swedenborg reported that, when he was in a state of altered consciousness, he became aware of a spirit who had apparently committed suicide when in a state of depression.  Swedenborg says the state of mind of this individual lasted for some while after death. Apparently he was not condemned for taking his life and help was made available but it took quite a while for this spirit to change his mood. In other words, as there is a life after death, even suicide offers no immediate escape from despair.

My conclusion is that a spiritual perspective throws a different light on the question of whether suicide can ever be a rational decision.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

30 thoughts on “Suicide – can it be a rational option?

  1. I have forever wondered what drives a person to an act that would leave others behind in such pain. Sadly, those who commit such acts often aren’t thinking of that aspect or, consider themselves to be such a burden that others would be better off without them. I had a cousin who ended her life because her husband had passed away. She couldn’t see herself without him. In her case though, her suicide note went into great detail in letting her mother know that the guilt was on her. She wanted her mother to suffer. It was also discovered that both of them had a pact that should one of them die, the other would end their lives. It would have worked the other way around too. Both had long since written their suicide notes for that time when it came. I don’t feel that it was a cowardly act as it had to have taken a lot of courage to have made that determination long before and then, carry it through when the time came. However, it left the entire family and friends still here, suffering a form of shock, grief and even PTSD. I don’t know either what causes this behaviour nor, do I or can I, condemn it because I don’t know why or what causes one to get to that point. However, I do wonder if some of them do want others to suffer in some circumstances as in my family’s case. I just know that not only must the person committing the act be in heavy pain and confusion that it leads to such a final act. I also know that while attempting to solve a perhaps temporary problem which may have passed, blaming suicide note or not, it may relieve their earthly pain but, it puts others into pain. Thanks for your piece. It has made me question once again and it needs more reflection from the mental health professionals.

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  2. As someone who has suffered from depression in varying degrees for roughly eight years I would say it is not simply a spiritualism that can put suicide in perspective. It is simply a mindfulness of others. In my deepest darkest moments when I have thought daily about suicide I can proudly say that I never even came close to acting. I would not let depression beat me because I was mindful of the pain my actions would bring to those around me. I could have left behind an explanatory note but no words would have eased my mother’s pain. My many siblings would have been I’m sure in their own unique way distraught. At one time I was considered the most likely to succeed and succeed at an exceptional level amongst my siblings. Would they have felt their peer pressure caused this? A mindfulness of those around me even at my most self pitying moments seems as effective as spiritualism, no?

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    • having a midfulness, of those around you is considered spiritual strength, your a strong person,not every one is that strong they have a sickness of the mind and can’t rationalize, thats what i believe, thank you for sharing your thoughts

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  3. This is an interesting post. I’m impressed with the subtle way you put your point across, without condemnation.
    There was this girl I went to school with… She was bright, coming near the top of the class every year. She became a student nurse. She should have passed her final exam with flying colours, but she failed. She could have re-taken her exam a few months later, but instead she commited suicide; just like that – one failure, and she ended her life. She’d be 62 now, if she’d lived – probably with a successful career, a happy marriage, kids, grandchildren… but it appears she chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
    We weren’t friends, just in the same class, but it shook me. She was so sunny and popular – seemed to have everything to live for. When I think of her, I picture her smile, and the way her hair swung when she turned her head. There’s an empty space where she should be.
    I also had a terminally ill friend who went to Dignitas, the assisted suicide place in Zurich. He chose to be buried there. I respected his choice. I would have kissed him goodbye before he left, but I didn’t really think he’d go through with it. I’m pleased he ended his life in his chosen way. He wasn’t depressed, just in a lot of pain, and he didn’t like being helpless.
    Our town witnessed quite a few suicides of addicts in 2014-2016. They mostly jumped off a bridge which was built over the river. They’d discovered a drug that was cheaper than heroin. It turned out to be more lethal. Who can say whether their deaths were the only solution? Most of them hated their lives, and wanted to get clean. Some of them may have succeeded.
    I’ve sometimes wished for death, but suicide is out of the question. I love my family too much, and anyway, who knows what good things may be around the corner.
    Sorry – I seem to have sent you a whole post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been hospitalized for suicidal ideation in the past coupled with explosive rage. It was not until my last round of counseling/therapy that I realized I was building the parameters that lead to my suicidal thoughts and plans. It is a very selfish disease of the mind, at least for me, that prevents rational thought. My therapist basically said that there are always other options. They may be options that are out of the box but there are always other options. For example, if being a responsible husband and father was important but I was not doing so hot at it, then a solution outside of suicide could be to take a break from family life to get the time I needed to be able to meet the demands I was placing on myself in life. Essentially, I can’t take care of anyone else if I am not taking care of myself. I struggle with this still. But things are better. I appreciate this post more than you know. It is super important for these things to be talked about and for mental health to not have a stigma associated with it like it currently does throughout North America. – Keith

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  5. Some people have people to close to them who care about them, but some don’t. In that case, if you’re empty and miserable, why do people–who will only have fleeting memories of you anyway since they didn’t give you the time of day during your life–act like it matters if you kill yourself?

    Liked by 1 person

    • taking your own life, to some people matters from a human and religious perspective i guess, but if they did’nt care for you, how human and religious are they anyway, thank you, for sharing your thoughts, God bless

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article! Suicide goes against nature, as I sense it. Like those plants that burst through black tar pavements, life wants to express life. It shows off how much it can surpass obsticles. Humanity is coming out of a dakr age called the Victorian Age iin which so much critisim, judgements, and social orders were placed before everyone that it crushes that very natural urge to live. Look at the photos from that time and the next two generations, no one was suppose to smile. Now if people can just move pass that, and pass all the social medias which seem fare game to impose soome restrictions and judgements on anyone for anyreason, maybe we will all start having fun and not be so deadly serious!!
    Thank you for this article!

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  7. I have lived with the loss of family and friends to suicide. Suicide has taken four people from me and the pain I have felt has seemed unbearable at times. I enjoyed your post and will be posting some of what I have learned about suicide. Thank you for addressing such a important topic. God bless

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  8. i’ve pondered suicide far too often.below is so.

    First of all suicide has such a negative connotation. When someone dies of cancer, we often say they lost their battle to cancer. There is no sugar coating. yet when someone dies from too much pain because of depression, bipolar, or life just being too much, another tag gets slapped on that, suicide. let’s stop the sugar coating, they lost their battle to depression, bipolar or the pain of life.

    you talked about the coach who interviewed one day and lost his battle the next day. he did a good job to mask his pain to the reporter, the cameraman, the producers and the thousands of people watching the report. he probably masked the pain to his friends, family and himself. if not, they would have seen his true pain and got help. it was only when he took the mask that hid him from himself did he lose his battle.

    i see a common thread through the coach’s story, the storries in suicide and its assumptions and just about anyone who lost their battle. if you think about it, there are many people who are in an incredibly deep spot and they don’t even thing about losing their battle. why? because they see hope in their life. someone loses their battle when the pain at this moment is greater than the good they can invision in their life. i’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “why go on?” that’s the shortened statement of, “the pain at this moment is grreater than the joy i see for the rest of my life.” to beat that moment the pain must be reduced or the hope increased. if that happens, the person doesn’t likely follow through.

    wouldn’t it be great if there were a self-test so people could gage how close they are to that edge? There is, put together by kirk strosahl. i wrote about it in the threee i’s of depression., the three i’s are inescapable, interminable and intolerable. when someone is feeling all three of those, the pain/lack of hope quotient starts getting big, but hopefully not too big. when they start to get to big, something must be done or the results may result in the loss of a battle.

    so, as you see, i have thought too much about losing the battle. most of that has occurred since the second to the last and closest time i came to losing my battle. my hope is the next time i get too close to the edge, i can remember half of this, like the last time i wandered too close the crooked edge.

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  9. When I was six I nearly drown & as a result I spent most of my life terrified of water. Then I did something that seemed irrational… I joined the navy.
    Five weeks into boot camp, I was standing on the edge of a 13′ deep pool, expected to jump in the water.
    As I stood there, paralyzed by fear, I was told that if I didn’t jump in, I had to go back to day one & start boot camp over. And when that wasn’t enough to get me to do it… they added “Not only do you go back to day one, but 5 weeks from now, you will be right here, standing at the edge of this pool again. You’re not leaving this place until you jump in this pool! You don’t get to skip the tough parts!” That’s how I view suicide… I believe that our souls stay stuck, until we can face the unfacable.
    I appreciate your courage in taking on a really tough topic. Thank you… & I hope you have a great day!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I dealt with suicidal tendencies after the suicide of my best friend and the prospect of being a homosexual. I very nearly took my own life, but instead found the Lord. Still though, I had to deal with feelings of self-worthlessness and my place in God’s Kingdom. One of the biggest boosts to my self esteem was the discovery that I am His child, not His pet faggot. Finding this out really changed me, and helped me cope and let me know that it will be okay.

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  11. Pingback: discussing the thing that shouldn’t be discussed | bipolarsojourner

  12. The cover of the book is not always about the story inside. We think material success is an indication of happiness, The question was asked is “suicide a rational option”, to the thinker it is. It is all about choice, the consequence of which result in pain for so many. But to the thinker the pain they felt left them no ability to think of others.

    The question now is, what good will come from their action?

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  13. In 2013 a patient of mine with a combination of autoimmune disorders, who was faced with extreme intractable pain and was unable to get relief through any means, in addition to a number of other issues such as being unable to obtain the home care she needed (she lived in a remote, underserved area), made the decision to end her life. It was an entirely rational decision, not a matter of depression or mental illness.

    As soon as she decided, in a way she became well. Energetically and psychologically, she was OK after that, at peace, though her body was as distressed as ever. She died in that state of grace. I was able to contact her once after her death, and she expressed the thought that she wished she had done it sooner and that only fear had held her back.

    She had often mentioned that no one would allow a dog to go on suffering as she did. That’s true. Since observing the long and horrible process she went through, I have been 100% in favor of the right to die. Her situation may be relatively uncommon, but it does happen to a great many people, and there needs to be a reasonable option for them. She should have been able to get help to die in a gentle way rather than having to do it herself by a much more violent means.

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