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I am a 78-year-old retiree, living in Australia. I notice that there have recently been a few articles about the contentious subject of suicide in Psychiatric Times. My first wife died from suicide about 40 years ago, and my second wife died 3 years ago after a short illness.
Some people do commit suicide, and this has surely happened since humans first walked the earth. This is not a treatise on the causes or possible reasons for suicide, but the complexities behind the act have puzzled me for many years. In particular our seeming abhorrence and our obvious dismay, regret, and great sadness that anyone should even contemplate the need to end their life, by whatever means has taxed my understanding and the meaning of my life.
What follows below is my considered opinion.
I ask the question—why is suicide considered such a bad thing? Now I am not advocating that anyone should commit suicide. I am just trying to pick apart the emotional clutter that accompanies this very personal and private act. The only answers I get are that it is a waste of a (usually) young person’s life; that they were loved; that they had unlimited potential, now never to be realized; that they had a future to live for . . . etc, etc.
This is partially correct but is not a real answer. The person concerned—the person now deceased—obviously had a different view of life. I am not discussing his or her view—I have no idea what that was. I am discussing our view—that of the outsider—the ones left behind.
Why are we “outsiders” (I deliberately use this word because we are “outside” that person’s inner world) affronted because someone considers living—in their current situation—to be so bad, so threatening, so limiting as to be not worthwhile continuing? Are we discomforted because this rejection, this dismissal of all we have striven for (in “our” world), may reflect poorly on us, those left behind, regarding the way we have organized the world? Are we disturbed by the confronting prospect of having to admit that we make mistakes and that the way in which the economy, our legal, welfare, and education systems are set up may actually cause distress, that we are not always fair or just in our dealings? Do we feel guilty that we have developed a financial system that promotes the massive imbalance between the very wealthy and the very poor and the disadvantaged?
We have to recognize that we are all, all, party to the ills of the world. We created them. If we look with even a modicum of insight, we should see in ourselves the cause of these shortcomings and see ourselves reflected in the eyes of the distressed. And we should be dismayed.
Is this why we consider suicide a “bad thing” and are so shocked when it occurs?
Mr Campbell-Watt reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article.