Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Coroner’s Suicide Thought Piece

One in 5 or 6 people are touched by or are close to someone who has died by suicide or will die by suicide. That is a huge number. As they say, a sobering thought.

I have been “touched” by suicide in the past and continue to be brushed. This Friday I will be attending a workshop for Counseling Professionals regarding suicide prevention. More personally, I have had even closer brushes recently.

I was recently in a conversation about someone we knew who was thinking of traveling to Switzerland, where suicide is legal, as a place to die by suicide. As a matter of fact, I had just run across an article on the internet, just that day, about that fact about Switzerland. Apparently, a fair number of folks travel there with suicide on their mind. More to the point of this post, should I intervene? The individual is elderly, feel that they have lived a full life and fear that they will become a burden as they age further and develop more severe medical problems. Beyond trying to keep them aware of all the reasons life is worth living and the distinct possibility that they won’t become a burden, do I force my value system on them? Are they wrong to chose an end with a view of the Alps?

“Brush” number two: A dear friend of mine has serious fears that a mutual friend is or has contemplated taking their own life. They feel that because of a hurricane of stress that will be a choice that that person will make. There are risk factors, but that person has shown resilience in the past. They have a support system readily available. I feel that in this case the positives outweigh the negatives. But who can really predict what will happen? Certainly we have seen a number of folks who have died by suicide who had friends and family who felt the same way about them. Of the future, we can see only the possibilities.

Another brush is a young person. The darkness always seems immense and seems as if it will last forever. It is critical to work to help, to get them help as is appropriate. Expand their knowledge of available options, watch for impulses. Teach them resilience, the ability to work through it. Teach them that the darkness will not last forever, that they can get through the darkness, that there are other possibilities. Life is worth living, there is so much potential in each and every life.


Anonymous said...

I think the scariest potential suicide situations are among young people. They may have unrecognized mental illnesses, or they may simply lack the life experience to know that there's no tunnel so long and so dark that there's not a light at the end of it. These are the kids who don't communicate their feelings of hopelessness and whose deaths come as such a terrible shock to their loved ones.

In regard to your elderly friend, I think people should be allowed to decide for themselves that they have lived a long full life. There are worse things than choosing how your life will end - such as ever-increasing debilitation and/or loneliness.

Anonymous said...

As a'young person' who has attempted suicide I do struggle
with the knowledge of how my death by suicide would affect those around me. Had I succeeded my family would have no idea why - and most likely would have refused to believe that I would take my own life.

Sadly, even with the love and support of others, the despair sometimes gets too much. Mental health services are usualy far too overstretched and under-funded.

I do see a difference with people who contemplate suicide due to chronic or terminal illness. When faced with the prospect of having a fully active mind inside a body that no longer works, who can blame someone to end things prematurely. I know my aunt who had motor neurone disease wanted to end her life, but needed assistance which she couldn't get. Not without someone potentially facing prosecution.