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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

"Guns and Suicide" article and Comments: What about the anger?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 18th 2008

 On April 14, 2007 I posted an article about the results of a Harvard study that showed the direct connection between gun ownership and the likelihood of committing suicide. There are many comments about that posting. The posting and commentaries can be found by clicking on this link:

/poc/view_doc.php?type=weblog&id=205&wlid=5&cn=9#wl6135

What has impressed me about many of the recent commentaries is the pain and grief that people feel in reaction to the loss of friends or family to suicide. While that reaction is understandable and I have a great deal of sympathy for the people who suffered these losses, a question has lingered in my mind.

The lingering question I am referring to when reading the comments about the loss of loved ones to suicide is "where is their anger?"

It seems to me, as a mental health worker and a family man, that suicide is an extremely selfish and hostile act that is aimed at hurting others more than the self. In fact, I have know of cases of suicide where the act was committed in such a way that the body would be found by the entire family, including children. Surely, those who completed these suicides were aware of what they were doing and the harmful effects that the discovery of their body would have on everyone concerned.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not suggesting that depressed and hopeless people should find more thoughtful ways of ending their lives. That is ridiculous. What I am saying is that committing suicide is an extremely self centered act, regardless of how it is arranged, that is guaranteed to leave friends and relatives shocked and dismayed. It is also hopeless because it is completely final. There is no way to address issues and fix problems once someone has killed themselves.

There is no question that those who attempt suicide as well as those who complete it are filled with black depression, despair, hopelessness and great emotional pain. But, as the old saying goes, "where there is life, there is hope." This is something I firmly believe. Over the years of my work I have seen people emerge from the darkest depressions and the darkest points in their lives into full functioning and happy people. There is one thing that is always true about depression: if you wait, you will feel better because it often does pass. Better yet, if you reach out for help, it will be provided. Today more than ever, there is real help for those who suffer the worst of depressions.

For the loved ones who lose a person to suicide, I want to remind you that, along with feeling loss and grief, it is perfectly O.K. to have and express feelings of anger as well.

To those who may be thinking about suicide, please go for help and do not keep your feelings to yourself.

If you know someone who is contemplating suicide, speak to them, bring them to the emergency room, call 911, do anything and everything to prevent it from happening. For everyone, there is the suicide hot line that can be called, as well.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    20 Years - - Feb 5th 2011

    I've been praying to my God for twenty years to not be so profoundly lonely. I am always alone except at work. I eat alone, I go to the movies alone, I go camping alone, I go to the bookstore alone, everything alone. I have tried to make changes. I've tried to meet god halfway and reach out to people but I am defective. There is something broken inside of me that keeps me in perpetual loneliness. I don't want to hurt anyone else, but I am going to end my life at some point. I think if anybody could step into my shoes they would feel the same way. god has abandoned me.

    A Place to Remember - SherwinJTB - Apr 3rd 2010

    I'd have to admit that when I'm stressed out I look for a place to keep calm. Anxiety can save you if you are depressed. Laugh more even though you think it's not funny. The world does not own you!

    http://life.sherwinjtb.com/suicide-prevention-in-your-life/

    To Write Love On Her Arms - Victoria - Jan 17th 2010

    A few clicks will help @TWLOHA win $1 Million for suicide prevention. Please share this with others. Vote here:http://bit.ly/7si7Be

     

    teen sucicide - tyrone - Oct 26th 2009

    teen suicide is very important matter. i think parents are naive. until its too later. you have to see the sign.. and help your teen out. before its to later. they fell lost in the world. they feel like outcask and  i understand that. the kids to day are heartless. they push your kid to the egde. but its up to you to pull them back. but you just have to open your eyes. you kno what am say. teen are in a differet kinda of world suck in between two world there are changing in a way that they cant understand. that why they feel alone. they feel like they lost their power so they cause pain to them self so then can have that taste of power they lost.  they need help. from the people theuy should be able to come too. they parents but in some cases those are just broke promises and dreams so there are just helpless.

    Agree - Unproductive - - Apr 10th 2009

    I also find the entire discussion of suicide as a selfish act to be completely unproductive.  The attitude of mental health professionals and the stigma they cast on those who are contemplating the end of their lives is one of the major reasons why I have never considered treatment.  I am entirely too pragmatic to believe that "words" will ever be able to solve the feelings of hopelessness and despair and sense of great loss of everything that matters to a person.  As far as "teaching you to cope", well, not everyone really wants to or can continue to cope with feelings of failure and despair and hopelessness for an extended period of time and anti-depressants do more damage than good.  The feeling that you have been destroyed, to never have hope and that your dreams have been ripped to pieces - these feelings just don't give a person many viable options.

    I also refuse to believe that a desire to commit suicide is a sign of mental illness.  It's more a sign that your spirit, your hopes, your dreams and your energy have died before your mind and your body.  The result is a form of torture beyond anything you can imagine.  To force "help" on someone contemplating suicide is the selfish act - to impose your own will on their desire to take their life, to have them locked up, to become uninsurable for both health and life insurance, to trade off their relief from misery and despair - all for your own sense of comfort and to avoid your own negative feelings of guilt.

    I believe that one's life belongs to the person that has either been blessed or cursed with it and it is theirs to develop if they can find a path to success and happiness and theirs to end if they choose.

    This is just my opinion and how I intend to live my own life and not meant as advice or as an excuse to anyone.  We all have to make our own decisions and live with the consequences. 

    Selfish - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Apr 7th 2009

    First, I really think that you and others should read the entire article instead of focusing on one observation and opinion.

    Second, there is not question about the anguish and emotional pain that drives someone to commit suicide. But, at the very same time, I have seen the devastation that suicide causes to the surviving family and friends. Yes, among the emotional devastation that surivivors experience are feelings of  intense anger at those who took their own lives.

    Third, horrible experience working in mental health has taught me of the many ways some people commit suicide. For example, a mother who hangs herself in the living room exactly where she will be clearly seen when the children return home from school. Not selfish? Or the woman who hurls her child out the apartment building window before following her down the same path of death. The child did not ask for this even if the mother did.

    Think before you jump to conclusions.

    Dr. Schwartz

    You're kidding, right? - - Apr 6th 2009

    "It seems to me, as a mental health worker and a family man, that suicide is an extremely selfish and hostile act that is aimed at hurting others more than the self."

    That's a strong generalization made from someone with a selfish perspective. Only an egocentric person would get mad at a friend or family member because of what *they* did to *you* by killing themselves.  If you had a higher level of empathy, you might be able to understand that the person was experiencing unfathonable internal anguish and was WILLING TO KILL THEMSELVES to escape that anguish. Mull that over. Can you imagine? Of course not. This is unimaginable to the sane but very real to the suicidal. The agony suicide victims experience is in the whole of their being - the self-hate, the hopelessness, the struggle to survive each never-ending day. The reason a suicide victim is typically found at home is because that's where they felt most secure in committing the act. Not because they wanted to punish a child/spouse/parent/friend.

     

    good advice - mr shelfish - Feb 15th 2009

    mybe you were just trying to use phycology and trying to get people to think about what they were doing. I have no problem with that. As for me I'm ok, been on prozac and trazodone for 3 weeks for sleep. nurologest seem to confirm with photos/MRI's that phyciatrist were right al along ssri's can help lots of people in a big way.

    Pain of Depression - Allan N Schwartz - Feb 15th 2009

    Dear Mr. Shelfish,

    Today, more than ever, there is no reason to return to depression because it can be treated and relieved. Even for those cases of depression that seem untreatable, there are now new treatment methods that work well to help people feel better and live better.

    You need to contact a good mental health specialist, ie, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, etc, to get the help you need and deserve.

    Dr. Schwartz

    depression really is just pain - mr. shelfish - Feb 14th 2009

    Went trrough 4 yrs of off and on sevear depression as a teenager. Later in life felt what it was like to have all the skin burned of one leg with lots of 3rd degree. had an inflamed gallbladder removed, numerous abcessed teeth that couldn't be fixed faster than 24hrs. I have faith in morphine novacane. that kind of pain is very selfish.. for anyone!

    I have no faith at 48 yrs I could last two weeks with the sevear depression I felt as a teenager.  I could not carry out suicide then because of what it would do to my mom. but I learned two things for sure. I'm no longer afraid of physical pain. And I would never judge someone who died of suicide. A huge percentage of the population lives and dies without ever knowing what real pain combined with time is really like. sevear depression is a very goulish kind of hell, I have nothing to compare it to.

    selfishness is expecting someone to continue living in hell when thev'e been treated for years and keep going back to that state.  

    "Selfish" - Allan N Schwartz - Jan 12th 2009

    Dear roofer,

    While it may be true that there are some selfish aspects to being depressed you are missing the main point: when someone is depressed they are not choosing to be depressed and they are not choosing to be selfish. Instead, they are caught in a web of blackness and misery from which they see no escape. This becomes very difficult for loved ones who want to help but feel frustrated and rejected when they are pushed away. That is why your wife needs psychiatric intervention immediately, perhaps with medication to help her get out of this cycle and psychotherapy for her to learn how to cope with life.

    Good luck,

    Dr. Schwartz

    the selfish depressed - roofer - Jan 11th 2009

      I believe the secret to hapiness is "helping others to help yourself". To find enjoyment and wonder at all things great and small, true perception or awareness, is what has given the human being life here on earth. All these things to lengthen our life span, keep us warm, nourished, learning are the good things. 

       The depressed people are in a sad place in their mind, and their selfishness is real because they think NO ONE FEELS MORE SAD THAN THEM and this will never be proven by them or anyone else. Happy people feel very sad inside also. Darkness decends on everyone. All comments from the depressed and attempted suicides have one frequent and even proud characteristic.......   MY thoughts, MY darkness, MY worries, MY problems. SELFISH.  It is like a theif, taking whatever it is they can because, in their mind, they are better than their victim.

        At 36, I have been completely victimized by a girl with depression, anger, violence, cutting, spreading darkness throughout our life and that of our four year old son. She says she loves him more than anyone else in the world and then assaults me in his presence, sending chaos into his little brain. This December she cut her self very badly, and I AM THE ONE REACHING OUT TO FIND HER HELP because she won't do it herself, then she says that I trying to hurt her. WRONG. The one thing that is maintained through all the chaos is her SELF CENTERED DISSATIFACTION with life on earth. This is not love sent out from her, and she claims there is no love given her.

         When all of the depressed people say "YOU DON'T KNOW MY PAIN", I am very sad and very depressed to say " I AM SAD. I DON'T HAVE TO. HOW CAN I HELP YOU?" All of the people, the apparently happy ones too, wish they could help you, and they are very sad themselves that you are so sad and depressed in your life. So it is SELFISH to think no one is as sad or lonely as you. DEATH IS NOT AN ESCAPE FROM LIFE - IT IS AN END OF IT

    You are not helpful - Anonymous - Dec 29th 2008

    Being a clinically depressed person, if you have not suffered this, do not try to understand the real feeling of black despair. To call suicuide a selfish act is just stupid. The person contemplating suicide is bearing enormous psychic pain and wants to be rid of it.

    To tell a friend of an attempted suicide to be angry is also stupid. They already feel bad enough. The friend does not have to handle it with kid gloves, but a little compassion would suffice. And encouragement for help.

    I wonder if I will ever be well, as this is lifelong and I am 58. i see a doctor, take medication, have spent untold dollars on untold therapists, all of whom helped in some way. And mostly I can see through the blackness to the other side.

     But at times, such as in losing a job, a betrayal of a close friend and the ending of a relationship.....all within a month.....can be too much. I wanted to commit suicide but i didn't. I called my friend for help and now she is mad at me for contemplating suicide. Where does it end?

    Her anger at me only exacerbates the feelings of isolation and the cruelty of people. Why don't you learn some compassion and stop sending unproductive messages?

    Completely Final - lifelongdepressive - Nov 8th 2008

    You say that suicide is hopeless because it is "completely final". I have tried unsuccessfully to think of anything that is "incompletely final".

    People are much too fond of describing suicide as "selfish" when they have no experience of the indescribable pain of severe depression, which pushes All other thoughts out of the minds even of kind and altruistic people.

    The idea that suicide is "hostile" is merely an attempt to fit this puzzling act into existing psychological theories. the fact is that most people kill themselves either by semi-accident (Cry For Help gone wrong) or else because life has become literally Unbearable. The non-depressed quite understandably prefer to doubt that such extreme suffering exists.

    i have a suggestion - ehsan - Oct 19th 2008

    hi my name is ehsan

    i want to tell something about the comment that Liz sent before me about the position of her life and her problem.

    Liz what you want from your life freedoom and enjoyment.isn't it?

    you prevent sucide to serve for your husband and child why?

    are they pay any attention to you.if they really now your feeling about death and your pleasure abot it they can help you and aid you to commite it.of they want your soul be free and do not fell misrebell felling and think about nothingless things.

    do you think about wat you need in life and yourself spearte from others.you lonely deoarted from others have some rights, isn't it?

    if you want to still be like this your kid and husband also have deep depression and they can not enjoya nd feel bad when see you always in depression.

    How to get help without health insurance? - Liz - Sep 21st 2008

    I have been diagnosed with severe depression by some therapist in the past and bipolar by other therapist I have seen. My husband is on disability and I can't afford the spend down needed to get medicaid, so I can't get coverage and I can't afford places that have that sliding scale. I can't afford the bills I already have.

    When I'm in one of these deep depressions, suicide does come to mind and I fight it off because I love my kids, but especially my 13 year old son needs me. Sometimes though I feel I can't even think, I get real bad mood swings and the depressions I find myself in just gets overwhelming. Where can somebody get help without any possible way of paying for it?

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