The Motives of Suicide

An excerpt from an eloquent treatise on why suicide should not be dismissed as “merely” an act of irrational behavior. From the blog of Antonio Savoradin:

So I do ask, under such circumstances, in which the sufferer of depression is mocked, is disbelieved, is denied treatment, is blamed for his illness, is acused of selfish whining, is discriminated against for having accepted treatment, or is given inadequate treatment and told to hope for the best (“Here’s a script, follow directions. Expect serious nausea and other side-effects. Your hair won’t fall out, but you may never experience orgasm while taking these. Come back in 2 months if you don’t feel better.”)– all the while the symptoms he feels cannot be seen or measured — under such circumstances, if the depression is severe enough, is ending one’s life truly irrational? Are the circumstances, the “suicide’s situation,” less comprehensible than those leading to suicide for political purposes or to preserve honour, to save face?

There is no doubt depression in all its varieties affects the sufferer’s capacity to think with perfect clarity. But to dismiss a depressive’s suicide as merely the result of a thought disorder, without taking note of the awful conditions against which she has battled, is to do her a great injustice.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do every single thing that is within our power to prevent a suicide when recovery is a plausible possibility. We should. We must. But let us also realise it is not so simple as saying “suicide is madness.” It is far far more than that. Sometimes suicide is despair; sometimes it is escape from pain; and sometimes it is rage.

How do you approach the severely depressed? You do not deny the reality of his prison. You say, I see the walls of your cell. I see the bars and the door and the lock. But there are many keys (we’re making more, as we speak) and we have to try them *all* if we must. We’ll tear the building down brick by brick if necessary. We know the pain –physical and psychic– is real. We’ll give whatever relief we can for as long as we must. And you have to mean it.

(via The Coffee Sutras)

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4 Comments on “The Motives of Suicide”

  1. Chad Says:

    So here’s an interesting.

    Remember BeerMary that used to hang out on my blog? Mmm, I don’t know if you followed that bit of drama, but she was very good at pretending that she was thicker-skinned than she was. That could be a complaint against most of us, I suppose… But in my estimation, she was very thin-skinned and simultaneously could be quite acid-tongued. Not a good combination.

    So someone pissed her off to the point that she felt it necessary to take her blog private and require potential readers to subscribe. Since I had nothing but heartburn over such an action, I simply stopped reading her and dropped the link. Likewise, she stopped reading me, we’ve not spoken since.

    One of the last things she did with her public blog was the Blogathon, and she did it in the name and memory of another blogger’s sister who had moved to Colorado (where Mary lived), owned two cats and was quite depressed. She ended up killing herself and so Mary blogathoned for some depression treatment program or something.

    But I couldn’t support her either vocally or fiscally on that one either. The reasons why were because I admired that woman for having the courage to kill herself and just strand her two cats — which is something I couldn’t do at the time no matter how much I wanted to — and because I don’t think the woman really would have wanted to be the person of honor in such a production. I certainly wouldn’t. If I killed myself it would be because I had no further use for this life, not because I wanted someone to feel sorry for me. I may just be projecting my motives on to others, but my suspicion is that my feelings are not that uncommon among the suicidal.

  2. Kathryn Says:

    I do remember her, vaguely. I didn’t read her — probably for the reason you mention (her tendency to write with an acid tongue).

    No doubt the motives you describe if you came to this point are shared by others. And I can see why you did not want to support Mary’s blogathon project. Such efforts are motivated mostly by self-interest — a desire to deal with one’s grief, or to do something to appease our helplessness to prevent or fix the situation. Not that this is bad, but not all people feel supportive of such motivation.

  3. Chad Says:

    On an odd sort of tangent, I also have noticed that sometimes words of encouragement only have the opposite effect for some people.

    For years I thought it was only me, but I ran into a woman that seemed to have the same problem. Nowadays when either consoling or encouraging someone, I tend to just do it with my presence (or touch, when appropriate) rather than with words.

  4. Kathryn Says:

    Sometimes that is the most powerful gift one can give. And the most difficult — especially for people who feel a need to demonstrate actively in order to reduce their own feeling of helplessness. What you wrote reminded me of something I read last night in Anne Lamott’s book, Traveling Mercies, in the essay “Barn Rasing.” She wrote about the catastrophic diagnosis of a friend’s child (cystic fibrosis) and the response from friends and family:

    We let them spew when they needed to; we offered the gift of no comfort when there being no comfort was where they had landed. Then we shopped for groceries.

    I like how she speaks of the the emotion and immediately moves to an ordinary task of life. It speaks to providing something essential, something real — for the benfit of the sufferer, not the witness.