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

Suicide: Does a Person Have the Right to Take His Own Life?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 5th 2008

 Clarifying Comment: 

This article will not take up the issue of terminal illness and physician assisted suicide. The article will also not take up issues of suicide bombings or self destruction for religious and/or political purposes. 

Recently, there have been a number of comments posted on an article I had written some time ago about "Guns and Suicide."
The original article can be found by clicking on the URL:

/poc/view_index.php?idx=119&d=1&w=5&e=205

One of the troubling aspects of the comments posted to this article and others on the subject of suicide is a seeming belief that suicide should be a right and anyone should be allowed to utilize that right if they wish to do so. A recent commentator gave as an example a hypothetic example of a person sentenced to years in prison. The writer asks if that individual should be allowed to kill himself if the sentence is too painful to bear and if he does not wish to languish in prison for many years? But isn't life about finding the "light" even when things are darkest?

In my view, no one has the right to take their own life. Why do I state this opinion so emphatically?
Committing suicide is an act of finality in an attempt to escape problems that seem to have no solution. In reality, all problems have solutions and all emotions, no matter how painful, lessen and become bearable with time. In other words, life moves on, and time and distance heals or reduces the impact of  even the worst of injuries. More often than not people become suicidal when they fail to have the coping mechanisms to meet life's challenges.

For one thing, those of us in mental health are very aware of the fact that even when a person is convinced that their situation is hopeless, the real center of their problem is the way they think.

An excellent example is that of the television show, John Walsh, originator of the television program, America's Most Wanted. Mr. Walsh and his wife suffered the kidnapping and murder of their small son. I have no doubt the he and his wife went through a period of intense mourning. I would venture to guess that one or both of them contemplated suicide at one point. That is only an educated guess. However, Mr. Walsh and his wife rose to the occasion by setting about a way to save other parents and their children form the same fate. Their efforts resulted in the popular program that has succeeded in the arrest and imprisonment of multiple numbers of murderers who will no longer be a threat to families.

My point in using him as an example is how life offers many ways to redress grievances, overcome the worst of losses and find ways of making a very positive difference in the lives of other people. The problem is that, in the midst of deep depression it is difficult for most people to believe that this is true.

Patterns of Thinking:

As previously stated, it is the way people think during a depression that is the real issue rather than the event that may have lead them to be in that place. Here are some examples of what are referred to as-

Cognitive Distortions:

1. Dichotomous thinking- portraying oneself and the world in black and white (e.g., thinking "my life is completely horrible", rather than "I, like everyone else, have good and not so good aspects of my life/situation/self").
 
2. Over generalization -assuming that one bad event means that the whole day (week, year, etc.) will be bad.
Minimization -the "flip side" of over generalization; assuming that a good trait or event is unimportant or "a fluke" (e.g., I did well on that presentation, but it's only because no one was paying attention to me).

3. Selective Attention -focusing only on negative information or information that confirms other negative or unhelpful thoughts (e.g., thinking "I can't do anything right" and then reviewing your week for only those things that you messed up on, rather than also considering the things you did well).

4. Hopeless and Helpless-one particular way of thinking raises a serious red flag with regards to suicidal behavior. People may become (or are currently) suicidal if they feel hopeless- or that things will never get better.

You can find a longer discussion and more complete list of information at an excellent set of articles about suicide  written by Natalie Staats, PhD, and Mark Dombeck, PhD beginning at this URL:

/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=443&cn=9

Fantasy in Suicidal Thinking:

There is also a lot of fantasizing among many of those who seriously contemplate suicide. Among those are:

1. "They will be sorry for what they did to me. I'll show them."

2. In a similar vane, there are those who picture their funeral with loved ones weeping for the loss. This fantasy along with #1, carries a lot of vengeful thinking and feeling.

3. There are those who have "reunion fantasies" about loved ones who have died. In this type of thinking is reflected the wish to be with the lost loved one and living together for eternity.

4. Wishful thinking includes thoughts of peace as though death will bring the warm comfort of the Garden of Eden or some special place in heaven far away from the "Sturm and Drang of life.

Suicide, A Vicious and Angry Act:

When we think of someone who is suicidal most of us imagine a person who is drowning in grief. While this anguish may be an accurate portrayal of the suicidal individual, it does not give the complete picture.

1. I have known of many instances where suicides were committed in ways designed to punish love-ones.  In these examples, the suicide is done in such a public way that there is no way to spare the family, including children. In fact, some suicides attempt to take children with them.

2. Then, too, there are those horrible examples where a suicide ends up including harming and killing completely innocent and uninvolved bystanders. There is never a guarantee where a gun shot will end up.

3. There are also those times when a suicide-murder pact is made between two people. However, this sometimes really means that a murder is committed and the murderer commits suicide.

Some of those who have left comments seem angry in their stated intention to kill themselves. They seem to resolve that all is hopeless and that there is noting more to be said.

The Most Terrible Irony:

Among those individuals lucky enough to fail in their suicide attempts are those who suddenly realized that they wanted to live. Some of those are lucky because they managed to survive, sometimes due to nothing but pure luck.

How many people who succeeded in their suicides came to that sudden understanding but for whom it was too late?

Reach Out for Help:

If you are one of those in danger of suicide please reach out for help. There are several options available if you feel unsafe:

1. Call the suicide hot line.

2. Go to the local hospital emergency room and tell them firmly that you are planning to kill yourself and you feel unsafe.

3. If the danger is very immediate, call 911 and let them know that you are about to kill yourself. They will come quickly. Do not be afraid. I have seen many responses to 911 calls for suicide and both the health officials and the police, who always accompany them, are extremely kind and helpful.

After the storm is over, go into psychotherapy and learn how to cope with life. Please understand: No one here is implying that human tragedy is unreal. People do suffer terrible losses through death of loved ones, ill health, divorce, job loss and many other factors. But, it's a matter of learning how to move on from there. For those with depression resulting from Bipolar or other types of disorders, help is also available and, with therapy and medicine, a happy and well adjusted life can and should be lived.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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.

    Until you live it, you don't know - Already dead inside - Sep 7th 2014

    Honestly, how can ANYONE who has not lived in this bubble, with years and years of tormenting sadness, how can you understand? You studied a book.

    Im not a child, Im not a young person, I am close to the end of my life anyway. I've lived the last 11 years in hell. I can't take people bashing me about every little thing anymore. I use to smile, I use to have a reason to go on everyday, but it's been 11 years since I felt anything but overwheling lonliness and so much sadness. So who are you to tell me it will get better. I've paid doctor after doctor to tell me it will get better. I've been pumped full of so much medication to "Help me see" it will get better, all it has become is worse. I owe MORE money I have NOTHING to look forward to at all. I can't buy your statement that this is temporary, not anymore.

    Suicide - - Jul 8th 2014

    The writer has a big smile on his face. I have not felt that way in years. it is coming down to one thing. peace from this sorrow.

    suicide - Chris Reed - Jun 10th 2014

    Only a person who owns their own life can decide.

    suicide - Chris Reed - Jun 10th 2014

    I own my life.I will not let it be controlled by a country or company.  this view is ridiculous.

    Have You Ever Experienced? - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Aug 7th 2012

    The obvious assumption being made by this writer is that we psychotherapists have never experienced Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression and medication for these and other psychiatric conditions. That assumptions is Wrong!!

    Right yes, rational capacity rarely - Skeptic - Aug 7th 2012

    I can see your point that some do not have the cognitive capacity to make that choice, probably most.

    But it really irks me to hear people blame the suicide victim for making the people who knew them feel bad. The prolonged suffering it takes to push someone against their biological drive to surive is enormous. The passing sadness of people who knew them rarely compares. Regardless, the emotional well being of others is not their responsiblity.

    I think these people need to care less about what others think. If they did, their problems might not seem so bad.

    Have you ever Experienced.... - - Feb 25th 2012

    Have you, the writer ever expereince the horrible effects of depression, anxiety, bi Polar, depersonalization or agorophobia?  Have you ever taken any of the the so called drugs that are to help these conditions and experienced the side effects and the withdrawl hell incudling dreams of family members being killed, people dying in your dreams?

    There is no worse disease on this earth than a mental disease and those that say suicide is a final out to a tempoary condition are crazy. Mental illness can be a life long torture one worse than any physical disease.  One can handle anything with a sane mind, but when you loose your ability to think corrrectly.  It is living HELL.  If God wishes to torment one in the afterlife for these conditions, he is not my God.  My God is loving and caring........ and wishes no one to suffer..

    "death" - marvin shorter, jr. - Jan 25th 2011

    Divorce: They say: God has a son, had God adopted a son, He would have adopted one from His own creation, but He is God. The Holy Bible is a book of fantasies about the Messiah Jesus a man who was crucified by the pen. Who know more about a man murder then the men who committed the murder? Can you not see all the detail in the murder? To this day no man can give a full detail about a man life except “Lord God”. The Christians and the Jews over plotted in stealing information out of {The Koran with Parallel Arabic Text}.Can you not see that they are fantasizing about “Allah Almighty God” the World Greatest Most High Exalted Creator and Ruler of the Universe. Who did not take the form of a mortal man? This is but one of their fantasies, to clean you of your sins. All “Allah” need say is Be, & it is. People, (The Koran) is “Heaven”, and in Heaven you will find “God”, who lives in Heaven? Also you will find “Paradise” the home of the African-Americans who is the Israelites & Egyptians (Muslims) the faithful servants of Lord God. And the fire that surrounds “Paradise” is the Holy Bible of damnation. The tree that God had commanded you to keep away from He is the Forgiving One, the Merciful God. Allah, we submit this seeking Your divine mercy. Still-born: On {3/5/01}, I had George W. Bush and the Asians to write: The Israelites Eternal Prophets of Korah {Cf. Numbers xvi.} was one of Moses’ people. They stole (The Believers) and (Light) putting a hole in the walls, and reworded it. That “Allah” created to redeem the African-Americans who is the Israelites & Egyptians (Muslims) to salvation and to put the United States of America under His protection, alone with the United Nations being all-knowing and wise this was two in one: The Egyptians Black’s Testimony of Maryam. In writing the scriptures The Koran with Parallel Arabic Text tell the truth about Allah. And He will forgive you of your sins for worshiping the mortal man (Jesus), plus you can make copies of this state and pass it to your friends and family. And He will redeem them to salvation. Now the true repentance has been made {The Egyptians Exalted wife of Uriah} exalting Allah, Lord God. Infant: “Allah” the one Lord God that is in all bibles promise the African-Americans who are the Israelites and Egyptians (Muslims) in making a sacrifice exalting Him over the Universe. He will exalt us over the United Nations. “Allah” please except this covenant: The Israelites Exalted Prophecy of Korah (Cf. Numbers xvi.)was one of Moses’ people. To “Allah” alone is true worship due. He alone is worthy of exalting to the highest highs of glory, honor and praise. Lord God, we submit this seeking Your mercy. Black people, can you not see that the white Christians and Jews are pretending to be us in the Holy Bible, the Hebrew Bible, the King James & others, the faithful servants of Lord God. Marriage: Black people, Allah Almighty God has free us from the state of captivity in all nations. For making: The Egyptians Exalted wife of Uriah. Being His true servants the Israelites: Marwa, Michael, Adam, Abel, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Mary, Jesus, Muhammad, Job, Noah, Malik, Hud and others. George W. Bush the ancient kingdom of Egypt was my county before slavery. The Sphinx is my forefather. Your forefathers deface it hoping to deceive me. By broking off it nose and lips. Stop robbing my forefather’s tombs and return all the treasures you and your forefathers stole. We are the faithful servants of the One and only Lord God that is in all bibles: “Allah Almighty God” the World Greatest Most High Exalted Creator and Ruler of the Universe. Who gave Abraham the title of (Muslim)? And he put the title on his people the African-Americans who is the Israelites & Egyptians (Muslims). Saying: “Allah” out of all those that case light, none can light a candle to You, Lord God. “Allah” please forgive us the (nation) of Africa, that is not (Africa), but is the (nation) of {Israel}: Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Zaire, Mozambique, South Israel, Sudan, Angola, Chad, Burkina Faso, Benin, Algeria, Libya, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia, Togo, Botswana, Mali, Guinea, Somalia, Mauritania and other counties. “Allah” please have mercy, and grant Your peace upon all people on earth, so that we may leave America, Lord God.

    you will go crazy - - Jun 27th 2010

    Who knows the real answer.If you go by what the bible says,you will go crazy.In 1 corinthians8:2  it says if anyone thinks they know anything,they know nothing.Only God knows what will happen when you die whether natural or suicidal.

    who cares? - Zahra - Jun 11th 2010

    To me it doesn't really matter if things will be better someday, if a person doesn't want to go through the difficulties involved in getting to better times, it should be his or her choice to make.  We let people decide to create lives, children who have no choice about entering the world.  Why then not let them make this fundamental decision about their own life?  If people could commit suicide without fear of being prevented, they could do it in ways that are less traumatic, less violent, and perhaps thus ease the aftermath for their loved ones.  If I wanted to just have a nice drink and fade away on a massive dose of tranquilizers, my family could know I died peacefully and at rest, the way I always want to be.  I'd like them to be happy for me.

    Only your own biased view - 39-year-old - Mar 31st 2010

    You speak for your own biased viewpoint.  I have the most caring husband ever, and two beautiful children, and all I want is to die.  I have wanted this for as long as I can remember.  And you are in no position to tell me my pain is not real.

    I beg to disagree - - Mar 25th 2010

    Unless you have walked in another person's shoes, you cannot possibly know or fairly judge that persons decisions. You claim that the problem is how they think, and not the issues they face. While we could argue that forever, let's just stipulate to saying you are right....so what? If that is how there brain functions, that will never change,and they are doomed to suffer and be miserable forever.

    You claim that all things heal with time, as someone who has dealt with depression for the better part of 50 years, and looks forward to having this life being over, I can tell you that time just piles on more problems. I know you will tell me I am wrong, and based on YOUR experiences, I am, but I have to deal with life based on my experiences, not yours don't I?

    making our life shorter - Marvin - Jan 5th 2010

    My positive attitude to suicide is inspired not only by the suffering and pain which is brought by life, but also - and more importantly- by the fact that also the so-called nice moments of life or periods of bearable existence or so-called pleasure do not have the power to make me want to continue in my life. In other words, I do not enjoy the "happy moments" of life, whatever they might be...

    My life can be bad or good or somewhere in between, but I do not enjoy any of these modes of existence. I do not have to wait for extreme pain to commit suicide. I refuse the bearable / nice / calm periods of life as well. You can offer me a vision of one day in my future where all my dreams will come true (e.g. I will suffer from no illness, I will win the Nobel Prize, I will have a happy family, plenty of friends, people will admire me, I will have no problems in life, I will be rich enough to secure my comfortable existence for the rest of my days etc...) and then you can ask me if I want to live when this happy day arrives and my answer is NO. All the happiness which could be offered by this world does not have the potential to make me genuinely want to live. I would happily give up all possible happiness and nice moments in life.

    Moreover, everybody knows that one day in the future all those happy moments will be terminated by our natural death. So where is the difference between natural death and suicide? The only difference is that we make our life shorter by committing suicide and we decide on the way how we will disappear from this world (i.e. we do not wait for surprises such as cancer, stroke, heart attack, murder etc...). So the problem with suicide is that it all comes to the question of time and circumstances of our death. In my opinion, everybody has the right to influence these two things and if they come to the conclusion that suicide is their option, nobody should criticize them from any "superior" position.

    Even if we lose some bearable moments of our life by making it shorter (by suicide), it is not such a tragedy. We are not immortal and sooner or later we would die anyway. We have just decided to avoid the suffering (and good moments as well) and for us the pros of our decision are bigger than its possible cons.

    Some people will say that it is a "selfish" decision to commit suicide because we can make other people (our relatives, friends etc) unhappy by our suicide. But again, our natural death would make them unhappy too. Or they would die sooner than we and then their death would make us unhappy. Is it so much better or fair to wait for their death and suffer only because I do not want to disappoint them?

    The death of people usually brings pain to our life, but this pain is inevitable as people are not immortal. It is just a question of time and in my case I do not like the idea of leaving it to chance...

    Is it resonable to live and suffer only because other people enjoy the spectacle...? They would suffer if I died / committed suicide. But I would suffer if I had to live longer than I wish. Why to sacrifice my happiness which I find in terminating my life only because they find their happiness in seeing me alive?

    Now you can ask me what I am waiting for and why I am still here writing this post instead of cutting my veins or jumping out of my window if I see things in the way which I described above. Well, it is the most difficult question for me and I am not proud of the fact that I am still here. One part of the answer is that I still haven´t found the most effective technical way how to terminate my life without the risk of being saved. Or do my genes make me wait just because they "hope" that I will spread them into the environment by reproduction? But I hope that one day in the future I will take the action which I have postponed so far. Or maybe I will die sooner? It would be a nice surprise...in fact, the nicest surprise of my life.

     

     

    possibility - severin - Jan 1st 2010

    In my opinion the perspective of "rights" to do something is a misleading perspective when speaking about suicide. The term "rights to do something" is related to moral and ethic (probably political?) grounds and from this point of view I would say that nobody has the "right" to deny anybody´s "right" to end his/her life. Who has the "right" not to allow me to end my life? Whose possession am I supposed to be, who can allow or deny my actions to handle my life? God? Society? Politicians? My boss who I work for? My parents? My children? Medical experts? Superintelligent psychologists? Some people who really know better than me what is good for me and they feel entitled to give me some rights and prohibitions?

    If I had to accept this perspective of "rights", I would definitely say that I have a right to end my life. Nobody has the right to deny this right of mine.

    However, I truly think that "rights" is misleading term here, I am more inclined to say that people have a possibility to decide whether to end their life or whether to live. I am very thankful for having this possibility and I hope that no person and no circumstances will ever rob me of this possibility, which actually makes my life at least bearable to some degree. Some disguised judges will probably feel the irresistable obsession to bring some label of illness, diagnosis for me. You are welcome...

    Benzodiazapines - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Dec 6th 2009

    Hi Max,

    You make a very good point about the anti anxiety medications called benzodiazapines. When writing the article and in my thinking, I tend to dismiss the benzo's because I agree that they are addictive and harmful. When writing this article, my thoughts were of the anti depressants, anti psychotics and the various types of psychotherapy, that help people improve the quality of their lives.


    In addition, terminal illnesses fall into a different category when discussing suicide.

    My final comment to your excellent and correct point is that, when all is said and done, there is no way to stop a person from committing suicide if they are absolutely intent upon that final act.

    Dr. Schwartz

    not entirely true - Max - Dec 5th 2009

    "Lobotomies? - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jul 29th 2009

    2. You seem to believe that psychiatric medications make you "feel good" similar to those who become addicted to heroin. Not true. These medications allow people return to a baseline of functioning so that they can return to work and resume a social life. They do not change personality, addict people or make them feel euphoria."

    Dear Dr Schwartz,

    I'd just like to comment on the above statement that was written by you. This statement is not entirely true. Benzodiazepines are classed as a psychiatric medication (for others who are reading this examples are: Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc) and they do addict people and they do make them feel euphoria. Also they cause tolerance, then after a few weeks the patients symptoms return in the form of withdrawal symptoms. Like Heroin they need more to get the same effect. More times than not they are not increased or even refused any more scripts which is malpractice. This is due to the fact that if this class of drug is stopped suddenly the withdrawal symptoms are horrendous. They may include hallucinations, paranoid dulusions, ridiculously high levels of anxiety and worst of all seizures and suicide. This confirms a change in personality.

    Numerous rich and famous celibrities as well as normal everyday people have committed suicide or died while dealing with the side effects of this class of drug. eg: Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger etc.

    Max

     

    Suicide in Japan - Andrew Grimes JCP, JSCCP, M. Sci. Pth. - Nov 20th 2009

    I would like to suggest that as many Japanese people have very high reading skills in English that any articles dealing with suicide in Japan could usefully provide contact details for hotlines and support services for people who are depressed and feeling suicidal.

    Useful telephone numbers and links for residents of  Tokyo and Japan who speak Japanese and are feeling depressed or suicidal and need to get in touch with a mental health professional qualified in Japan: 

    Inochi no Denwa (Lifeline Telephone Service):

    Japan: 0120-738-556

    Tokyo: 3264 4343

    AMDA International Medical Information Center:

    http://amda-imic.com/

     

    Tokyo Counseling Services:

    http://tokyocounseling.com/english/

    http://tokyocounseling.com/jp/

     

    http://www.counselingjapan.com

     

    Another Doctor who thinks he is God! - Max - Nov 12th 2009

    Most psychiatrists think they know more about life than anyone else. - TRUE

    It has been proven beyond doubt that humans can have a chemical imbalance in their brains and they need a doctor(which most have been bought and brainwashed by greedy and corrupt drug companies) to correct that balance buy giving them drugs(dangerous chemicals) - FALSE

    There are 17 million children under the age of 18 in the US alone on psychiatrict medication at this point in time. - TRUE

    Doctors contribute to 1 third of patients deaths in the US. - TRUE

    In 2007 - 11.7 million prescriptions were given out for benzodiazepenes, 98% are dispensed by GPs in the UK. - TRUE

    There are an estimated 1.5 million people addicted to benzodiazepine drugs in the UK. - TRUE (source - http://www.daidaviesmp.co.uk/campaigns/drugs-time-bomb/prescription-drugs.aspx )

    The majority of psychiatrists are delusional and may even act as if they think they are god. - TRUE

    Drug company drug trials are unbiased and all trials are published even the unfavourable ones. - FALSE

    Doctors addict millions of people to addictive drugs then lay blame and guilt onto the patient when they have difficulty trying to get off them. Now that is a true chemical imbalance in the brain. Created by doctors. Then they diagnose them with depression and anxiety disorder. - TRUE

    Doctors always tell their patients the truth. - FALSE

    Things are not what they seem! - TRUE

     

    Behavioral Industry? - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Oct 4th 2009

    Dear Werner,

    You have a right to believe what you want but, for the sake of accuracy, I must disagree. I am not sure what you mean by the "behavioral care industry?" If, by that, you mean the drug manufacturers, well, yes, they make huge profits from the medications they manufacture and sell. However, with thirty years working in mental health, I have seen the huge and beneficial difference that medications make in the lives of people who, prior to this time, had no means of getting relief from suffering caused by psychiatric disorders.

    It is not that there is more depression today compared to fifty years ago, proportional to the population, of course. It is just that we understand volumes more about the brain, depression and suicide than ever before in human history. What did people do before we had medications? They drank very heavily. They were placed in mental institutions where they languished for years and, sometimes, for their entire lives and they committed suicide.

    Actually, poverty does not seem to cause suicide. I may not be completely accurate, but, there seems to be a code of conduct among the poor that makes suicide not an option because it is cowardly. In addition, though there remain plenty of poverty stricken areas in the U.S. and the world, there appears to be more social cohesion there than among the middle and upper socio economic classes. Remember, I am speaking in very general and broad terms. There are plenty of exceptions.

    As to proof of depression being an illness caused by chemical imbalance in the brain, there is a vast area of research, including laboratory test, MRI and fMRI studies to prove that fact. We are not speaking of theory.

    What defines depression? If someone continues to suffer for two weeks and more, we are in an area of depression, rather than passing and transitory mood. We are not speaking about grief and loss.

    Yes, depression is an illness.

    Do I think there is a solution to everything? Well, if I were to sum up my opinion about this I would say, "where there is life, there is hope." Death is hopeless.

    Dr. Schwartz

    Depression is not an illness - Werner - Oct 4th 2009

    Looking over some of the comments I agree only a fool or a bully would believe personal problems are simply matters of "chemical imbalance". Where is the proof for this? If people born after 1945 are ten times more likely to "experience" major depression explain how such a 'disease' can evolve so quickly. It seems the psychology "industry" can not make up its collective mind. On the one hand people can be become depressed/suicidal owing to increasing misery felt in their lives ... and the next moment they are merely "sick". Well, which is it? Where was the "illness" in an elderly German pensioner assisted in her suicide because she did not want to live in a retirement prison ... opps I mean "home" or the Chicago masters degree student continually harassed by a filthy loan corporation who finally topped himself? What I see here, and you'll pardon the conspiratorial tone, is an attempt by the behaviourial management crowd to force people to accept situations that should NOT be accepted. If governments are so obsessed with rising suicide rates then perhaps they should look in the big mirror at the policies which destroy lives. Would soldiers kill themselves if they did not have to go to Afghanistan, or Irag in the first place?. Would increasing poverty and unemployment be driving people to despair and madness if western governments had listened to the many voices of reason decades ago campaigning for a universal basic income? You seem to believe that all problems have solutions. I don't believe this but some issues CAN be resolved and demoting these to the status of "illness" doesn't help anyone.       

    there are doctors who simply do not want to deal with it - - Oct 1st 2009

    I have an acquaintance who ended up severely stressed from work due to a bullying manager.  Her GP took the time to talk with her and put her on  leave.  However, the GP I ad (eventhough I told him what was going on in the owrkplace and overburdening workload - did not want to deal with it) - inmy case, medication was not the issue - the lack of time and comprehension on the GP's part was. I had gone on leave for physical reasons and super stressed at work due to the department andmanager (also who was very controlling and a bully). I at the time could not articulate this, I just needed to get out of hell, so to speak. Why did the GP, not give me the time to explain and document what the real issue was.  Again, had h done that, I would have seen a qualified female therapist to get to the root of the problem and been transferred out of the department.  Correct me if I am wrong, would this not have been the proper course of action...

    My impression from all of ths is that doctors are very afraid to point the finger at te company - and companies do push people to their limit.  What is really comes down to, the GP is the first person contact - they SHOULD first take the time to document what is going on in the person'slife - I am not the only one that this has happened to.  They are quick to send a person to a psychiatrist - my problem with this is - if meds are already prescribed - why do this - Again, I stress doctors are very quick to label - if the GP had documented himself what was going on in the workplace (as did my acquantance's GP did) - then the patient immediately feels a sense of security.

    I have subsequently spoken with many people who have gone on stress leave and were literally "flying off the wall" because of the severe and prolonged stress encountered at the workplace - their GP's took the time to speak with them.  It is a fact, that there are doctors who simply do not want to deal with it.

    I suppose a patient, cannot always relate to doctor, who has a "mood disorder" andnever really knows what "mood" he's in when you walk in.

    Doctors should spend some time in the REAL world - - Sep 5th 2009

    I agree, with one of the posted comments. Doctors themselves, pyschiatrists, therapists and especially GP's should have the "hands on training" aspect of people's illnesses (i.e. THEY dould be sick with some of the ailments) lives.  Though it is true, that there are many people who's cognitive tinking is out of sorts andmay require medication - at times "poping a pill" is not the answer.  YOUR MD should be able to recognize that it is a situation/circumstance that is the REAL FACTOR.  POINT IN CASE - GP's these days - if a patient is put on stress leave/sick leave _ IT IS ALREADY assumed that person has a "mood disorder"./ This is a very broad term; meaning depression, anxety, stress - I STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT GP's take the necessary time to document what is going on with the person's life albeit home life and ESPECIALLY if it is work related.  Most GP's quickly refer that person to a physchiatrst - NOT ONLY does this make the patient feel they are"crazy" but also may inhibit them from fully disclosing what the root of the problem is - therein lies the problem itself.  DOCTORS DO NOT REPEAT THEY DO NOT want to take on the added responsibility that a workplace is the real issue underlying the person's stress/anxiety and if you are the type of person who believes that it is your actions that brings about consequences - well you have no chance of REALLY explaining the situation.  AGAIN I STRESS, that IT IS THE GP's PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY TO DOCUMENT WHAT IS CAUSING THE PERON'S ANXETY AND STRESS BEFORE THE PATIENT IS WHISKED OFF TO A PSYCHIATRIST.  How many people have been labelled and/or stigmatized because of this oversight - MANY!!!!  People ARE NOT CLONES of one another.  Another valid point, and this actually happened - workplace was beyond stressful (it was actually toxic and overburdening) - went on sick leave due to physical illness/mental stress - GP wrote "mood disorder" The irony HE was ALWAYS MOODY!!!  Had to fight for second and third opinions re physical health - that was dealt wth and then tried to explain as to what the department was like - but to no avail.  DOCTORS DO NOT  REPEAT DO NOT want to blame the workplace for having such effects on a person - therefore they will label a patient (making them feel it is their fault).  I say , GP's should themselves be trained and take time to talk with the patient before sending them off to a psychiatrist.

    Lobotomies? - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jul 29th 2009

    With all due respect to the person who wrote this last comment, you are making lots of assumptions and assuming those assumptions are correct. They are not.

    1. You seem to be assuming that mental health workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and others, have no emotional problems. Of course they do and, in fact, many of them are taking the same medications as their patients.

    2. You seem to believe that psychiatric medications make you "feel good" similar to those who become addicted to heroin. Not true. These medications allow people return to a baseline of functioning so that they can return to work and resume a social life. They do not change personality, addict people or make them feel euphoria.

    I regret the fact that you have such a dim view of mental health workers, medication and psychotherapy. We, in this field, are trying to help and I have worked with many patients over the years who lives were vastly improved as a result of medication and psychotherapy. That includes people who, at the time, felt suicidal and hopeless.

    I wish you luck for a better life and I hope and pray you do not give up.

    Dr. Schwartz

    Chemical Lobotomies - - Jul 28th 2009

    Imagine how you would feel if, when you were feeling particularly sad, someone were to kidnap you, tied you down, then injected you with heroin, a drug that causes euphoria. Assume that this drugging process continues until your mind is so fried by the drug that you really don't care anymore about anything-- you live in a fog, a haze, so that nothing can really trouble you much anymore because you simply don't think or feel anything at all. Now your kidnappers release you, now an addict, a veritable zombie, and insist that your condition is "better" than before. As time goes on, you begin to suffer severe health problems from taking the drug, but your former kidnappers, who are still keeping tabs on you, make sure that you don't quit shooting up since this is "best" for you.

    This is what psychiatry is all about for suicidal people. Their kidnappers are doctors and their fellow workers, who will force people into "treatment" with drugs that do exactly what is described above. They get paid for doing it, too-- the doctors, hospitals, and drug companies rake in tons of money from this insanity (pardon the pun). It is nothing less than imprisonment and torture justified by an unproven theory of "chemical imbalances" in the brain that is reminiscent of the crackpot theories of yesteryear, which were also used to justify atrocities against people with mental health issues. A chemical lobotomy is a fate worse than death. Sometimes dead is better-- and it is every individual's right to decide when and if this is the case.

    Every mental health worker should be required to take these drugs and to live in a mental health center for six months before being allowed to work in the field. Perhaps that would change their perspective on what is "best" for the patients under their care.

    how can anyone be confused about the answer to this question? - - Jul 1st 2009

    Of course a person has the right to commit suicide.

    The only reason a person could have for believing that he/she does not have the right to self-termination is if that person believes they are a slave, and more importantly, believes that they should be a slave, in any and every way (although if you have children who are dependent upon you, or you have promised your wife/husband and children that you would not commit suicide, then suicide could be a rather dishonorable choice to make). Does that mean we shouldn't try to discuss this choice and look for reasons that someone we care about should not choose suicide? Of course not. Usually the feelings that bring a person to a place where they contemplate suicide are temporary and will soon be replaced with feelings of happiness to be alive. The decision to commit suicide, like any decision, is best made after careful consideration, along with time to determine if it is a temporary desire or a continuous desire which shows itself to be what that person truly wants. It is a bit of a shame when a person who does not truly want to die (in the sense of the previous sentence) rashly chooses suicide, but ultimately, suicide is the most profound and innate right any living creature has, and anyone who argues otherwise stands against freedom, especially personal freedom. These are people who believe you are nothing more than a tool in the great machine, that you should be nothing more than a tool, because they are unable to see beyond their own self-inflicted slave status and that personal choice is the most righteous right inherent in free will.

    Luckily, very few people are in a situation where another can actually stop them from making this choice, so the real sadness is for those who are forced into such an abhorrent prison of existence that they lack the ability to exercise free will.

    crock of sh*t - erik - Feb 18th 2009

    lets see where do i begin.. well thats a real crock of sh*t what i just read.. all problems have a solution.. thats f*ckin bullsh*t.. i broke my foot  a few years ago because some psychopathic homosexual tried to lock me in his house.. im lucky to still be alive.. but now i cant skate i cant snowboard and i limp when i walk.. do u have a solution for my f*cking problem...?  do u have a solution for someone that ends up in a f*cking wheelchair paralized from the neck down.. half u kids that write these articles must not be thinking or something, its not as basic as all problems can be solved.. would u rather let urself get so mentally unstable that u might swurv ur car into traffic. or do something insane.. rather then just take ur own life so no one gets hurt.. tihnk people please think its common sense..what about losing someone in your life as well. can people just simply be replaced with other people.. well i really f*cking hate a lot of  u psychologists that think u know evertthing and understand peoples problems..and i hate even more the ones who have never been through sh*t and think they understand the root of everyones problems like some kind of maricle worker.. f*ck  uuu

    Suicidal Ruminations - Carl - Jan 17th 2009

    I feel the question of 'rights' is a mute point as there is a biological withdrawal response that goes alongside depression in which brain activity pulls back into the lower limbic brain.

    The individual contemplating suicide is 'not in their right mind' quite literally - the logical neocortex brains partly close down due to emotional overload and 'thinking' is left to the ruminating lower brains which tend to be full of pain at that point.

    The idea that somehow the individual concerned is 'thinking' is incorrect.  The mind of a depressed person is disconnected from the external world and the wish to commit suicide may in fact be driven by a desperate urge to get back out 'into the light' by the upper minds.

    If you can catch a person at the right time and protect them for long enough they can come through it - but I tend to think it's the lower mammalian brains that are making the decisions during that period so if we can protect them we should.

    The best description of suicide I've come across is 'a permanent solution to a temporary problem'.

    sean....dec12 - littlepiggie - Jan 3rd 2009

    how good to read about someone who agrees that when the time is right suicide can be the answer....... not because of a reaction to some trouble or loss or massive problem.........but simply because.......... i have had enough.......... thankyou sean

    Alternative? - Allan N Schwartz - Dec 14th 2008

    Sean, I am very sorry to read that you believe that no one will be there to mourn your death. John Dunn, the great poet, wrote (I am paraphrasing) that "no man is an island and each persons's death reduces me." That is a rough approximation. You are just as important as each one of us, whether you realize it or not. No suicide is not an alternative. Life is to be pursued and if things feel as hopeless as you seem to indicate for you then it is time to reach for psychological help.

    Dr. Schwartz

    Alternative - Sean - Dec 12th 2008

    Suicide is an alternative; nothing more or less. Life is not for everyone. Think of it as the ultimate escape clause. Some people are better off dead.

    I have always had a great admiration for people who end their lives. I've always felt proud of them. In Japan it is a normal, acceptable way to end a dishonorable or disgraceful existance. I don't think we would be judged harshly, this is a god awful place.

    I don't think anyone will be here to mourn my death. All illusion.

    Deb L and Lee and Everyone - Allan N Schwartz - Dec 11th 2008

    I completely agree with Deb L. It would be extremely dangerous, I think, to allow people to kill themselves because "they have exhausted every solution and given up hope." Even those who lose the capacity to control their bodies and have no family have the government, through medicaid, and the hospitals, to provide for their care. I think of the great scientist, Stepen Hawkings, who is totally paralyzed and relies on his mind, a man who has given so much knowledge to the world despite his condition. No, I am opposed to suicide. And, I agree with Deb L about physician assisted suicide in terminal cases but that is the only exception for me.

    Dr. Schwartz

    Physician Assisted Suicide - Deb L - Dec 10th 2008

    I have to disagree with Lee. Dr Schwartz stated from the outset he was not talking about physician assisted suicide or terminal illness. I don't know his views regarding that, but my personal belief is if a physician and patient decide ending the patient's life is the best option, I see no reason for anyone interfering with that decision.

     My fear regarding legalizing non-physician assisted suicide is it devalues life. Society should not be putting out the message that it's ok to kill yourself. Of course, people can choose to commit suicide anyway, but IMHO we as a civilization should not be sanctioning it.

    Throughout my life I've been suicidal. I attempted suicide at the age of 16 (a cry for help, I suppose). I suffer from suicidal ideation. Several months ago I suffered a loss I never expected to recover from. Life was an agony for many months. I'm now at a point where I can find some happiness in being alive, and I'm grateful for that. I still find myself thinking about suicide sometimes, but so far I've been able to ride out the bad times and enjoy the inevitable good ones.

     For those of you who are contemplating suicide, please reach out for help. You need a caring person- friend, family memeber, therapist, social worker- to be there for you. Because of your depression, you may not be aware of all your options. Love yourself enough to get that input from those of us who value your life. 

    Deb L

    Very hard to determine...but not anything to judge - Dr. T. - Dec 10th 2008

    The right for a suffering human being to take his/her life is a very controversial topic that has included the opinion of philosophers, psychologists, and medical doctors as well. Committing suicide has never seemed reasonable to the person on the outside of a situation, nor has it seemed ethical to those who argue it's futility. There are always going to be those "self-righteous" types who view suicide as a means of spinelessness. I have a friend who views physician assisted suicide as a pathetic way of dealing with negative medical circumstances.
         I disagree with the above, and I have proclaimed that suicide is nothing more and nothing less than an outlet for those who feel that they lack the motivation to succeed in their lives. I almost lost a very good friend to suicide and if it wasn't for my understanding of his pain, he would have done it. People feel that they should have the right to determine their fate when their current circumstance warrants itself hopeless. People who judge those who are suicidal are the very persons who encourage those who are suicidal to go ahead with their plans.
          Take, for example, the story of a 65yr old man who has been diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disease such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) where walking and speaking becomes extremely difficult or Friedreich's ataxia which damages the nervous system. If you were this man and couldn't take care of yourself and your wife had to take care of you, including helping you bathe and eat as well as watching your body gradually lose it's competence. If you had children who were almost destroyed by your degenerative nature, would you want to live if you had the option of physician assisted suicide?
    As a Christian I almost hate to speak up for something that appears so unethical. However, I am not supporting something for the simple fact of gaining brownie points. The way I see it is that God has allowed man to understand science for many reasons and perhaps he would excuse or accept certain instances of suicide. The theory that depressed Christians should not take antidepressants is nonsensical. God wouldn't want one to suffer.
          Back to the theory of suicide: If this person has exhausted all other resources, that is, therapy, medication, counseling, etc. and believes that nothing else will help or change their current time, they should be entitled to making the ultimate decision on their existence. I do not believe in suicide; but who are we to judge when someone should or should not take their life? What would we do if we were in their shoes? Can we honestly say what we'd do? I don't think so and until we can...we shouldn't make this an issue.
    From a psychologists perspective, if anyone feels suicidal, I would recommend seeking help as soon as possible. Sometimes what seems to be the right decision at a particular time, can later prove to be a very foolish and rushed decision. I by no means support committing suicide without first seeking outside help.  I think we should all try to give life a chance; you can never really determine when a stroke of hope or luck may find you. 

    Responding to Lee - Allan N Schwartz - Dec 10th 2008

    Dear Lee,

    Clearly, you are an intelligent and well-read man who makes a lot of intellectual sense in what you write. However, to assert that suicide can be committed in a way that does not harm others (and I admit that I am paraphrasing as I do not have your direct quote in fron to of me)  is an oxymoron because suicide does harm others. Even if the "others" are the police and coroners who inspect the body, they are affected by what they have witnessed. Yes, in an ideal world we should have the complete right to decide our fate. But, in this, "the best of all possible worlds" we do not have that right because of the effect that our actions have on others. Family, friends, neighbors, children (not necessarily our own), and unanticipated others, are affected by what we do. Suicide leaves an indelible mark on those around us, whether we intended it or not.

    My grandmother lost her eldest child and first son when he was eighteen years old to an a sudden illness. She lived to 84 years of age and never forgot. However, she did recover and live a full life despite that cruel and painful loss. She never forgot but she lived and lived and lived. That is my point. Even when we are at our blackest point there is hope: we just often do not see it.

    Respectfully,

    Dr. Schwartz

    Re: the human condition - Lee - Dec 9th 2008

    you state the following: "In reality, all problems have solutions and all emotions, no matter how painful, lessen and become bearable with time."

     From a scientific standpoint, such a claim is absolutely ludicrous. I would love to hear any sort of proof to your so-called knowledge of reality. Perhaps all of your problems have had solutions and all of your emotions have become bearable with time. 

    I see it as a great feat to truly understand oneself--perhaps even more an ideal than something ever reached. To understand others--that may in fact simply be impossible. Yes we have 99% the same DNA, but the complex series of experiences, the thoughts in our head, the soul (if you believe in one) that we are infused with, all of that makes everyone unique. Of course we can say we relate to others in situations similar to ours--but the fact is the situation is only similar, and may in the way it affects the person going through it be very different. 

     I too cannot conceive of any reason in day to day life that suicide would be preferable over living. I imagine that even if my child died, I would not kill myself. However, that is because of how I value the life that was given to me--if I do not have a claim-right to my own life, than who does? the government? Nay, I think people do own their own lives, and when treated with respect as autonomous beings (see Immanuel Kant) they have the ability to use that right. The right to life is really the right to end one's own life too; if you cannot abstain from your right, thenyou really do not possess it. 

     No one should be able to make your decision for you, so long as you are not trampling on anyone else's rights (see John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty").  Killing oneself in a way that does not harm others, so not suicide bombing, does not appear to trample on anyone's rights, unless, and I would agree with this, there is a parent who has a dependent. To commit suicide there is to endanger the child--having the child is a contract in which the right to commit suicide is "waived" in order to fulfill a duty to raise the child, which corresponds with a right of the child to be looked after by his/her parents. 

    To sum it up, your optimism with regards to problems or emotions is inspiring but completely unfounded or at least unbacked by any fact or substance. No study can prove this and this speculation is really intolerable if you wish to be taken seriously, PhD or no PhD. You do not understand everyone, you never will, and when people who are otherwise not criminals commit suicide, while it is often a sad occurrence, I do not think you should judge them as criminals, for they have done you or other civilians no harm. You want to call them cowards, well that is plain ignorance as perhaps the coward is he who is afraid to kill himself, for fear he will be judged by all of the presumptuous PhD's and the media and organized religion. The coward is the man who says, "it says in this rule book that I should do this, or I am in trouble. I better do this" That sounds more cowardly than making your own independent decision to do what feels right for you, even if it is leaving this world. Perhaps there is a calling for this person on another universe or in a different reincarnation--I do not know and I do not pretend to know. Allan Schwartz, and well probably the editor who is going to not like this because it does not make your article look good--see now we can talk about free speech--that should be a right, but let's just censor to only get comments supporting your insulting article. I say insulting because it insults the intelligence of those who kill themselves; maybe some of them are not insane, and you can diagnose them with some syndrome you came up with, but all you are doing is categorizing that which you cannot understand. Reality is not your reality, it is something which no human actually has access to; your very being subverts any attempt at true objectivity. I know that makes it hard to say much of anything, but better to say less and observe more than to make overstated conclusions about a very sensitive topic like this one. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I do hope you post it, despite my strong opinion.

     

    Lee

    My life with C-PTSD, Major Depresive Disorder & Frontal Lobe Syndrome - Francesca - Dec 7th 2008

    www.francescaowens.com and www.saskworld.com/bodymindspirit/edition23/modiglini.html

    Hi Doc,

    I am mixed on this topic but just existed a 2 year battle suffering from suicidal idealization. Please read the 2ND above link and you will get my history better as the 1st half of my story was published with my art. I am currently working on the 2ND half of this exhibition and actually wanted to hook up with a professional who wants to write about this... think about it. At the moment I am dedicating my life to a new art exhibition and C-PTSD, illness, sickness, trauma, tragedy and outright SUFFERING of 39 famous artists... I will be the 40 in the group. Numerous committed suicide and some did not. I have to say the ones who got through it, ended up with a better life. They really helped others get through it. So that is where I am.

    Suffering from PTSD my whole life, somewhere converting to Complex PTSD along the way I stand here coming out of a 2 year nervous breakdown extensive with Suicidal Idealisation for 18 months, wondering about my life and how it got here.

    I made up a theory called the SINKING BUBBLE THEORY. When pouring beer from a tap, at first the bubbles appear to sink. After a while, the bubbles rise, maybe when you don't want too. I bubbled wrapped all my trauma incident by incident, to my sheer amazement and stupidity, they all burst simultaneously against my will in the ICU unit the day of open heart surgery with the newest trauma occurred vomiting while on a breathing VENTILATOR...! That day and my "dissociative" life skill threat did not work, it did not kick in during my body's weakness. Basically the shit hit the fan! Though this may not be all their stories, but it is mine.

    I have been exiting the major depression for about 5 months now and I see myself cycling. I am out on extended duration unit disability full time. I left the USA with my small daughter and live in Italy as my shoulder are no longer strong. I do believe in the long run I will have a better, more honest life. Honest with myself as I can now handle all that I saw and experienced... that one should never have to know, it is all part of me now...

    All I dreamed of was killing myself for 2 years. After 1 year of flashbacks, then 6 months of intense night terrors recalling and recovering the murdered bodies, the violent car accidents, the lost of a friend from hanging and an abortion without meds, to being at Columbine Public Library that dreadful day helping them in the lock down of the surviving students, and the list goes on to open heart surgery, followed by 3 ministrokes as complications of the surgery... I stand here as an ex-stockbroker, ex-international artists, ex-politician of 9 years in CO, community servant writing winning grants, single mother of 2 girls out on full time disability from frontal lobe damage and C-PTSD... currently I am glad I did not do "it". I am glad I only start cutting myself through getting professional tattoos on one arm... I could NOT see the light at the end of the tunnel. Actually I could NOT the light went out, I wasn't seeing there was a light missing... I was shocked at the first glow and them realized there had been no light....

    I have changed countries... I have given up my stockbroker business, public office position, my possessions and my country. I live with my little on in a small Umbrian village on a modest disability pension. I have met a wonderful man who believed in me, my art and my story. I am just begging to return to life. I must go slow but I am glad I am hear for my 2 daughters, one 22 and the other 7, I am now 47 this next month.

    In a final note... during the six months of violent flashback and night terrors no one could tell me life was worth it. If they had no broke and just continued... I might have to side with the one suffering. Luckily for me the last moment arrived just before they broke open and lifted...

    I see a pattern in these artist's lives... they did not have good medicine through drugs, therapist, support, and time. Other than the ones with fateful illness (which I understand their choices) the one who got through it made amazing art to help us in the future get through it.

    Ciao, Francesca

    This too shall pass - Kath - Dec 7th 2008
    Having had many people in my life suicide, I've also thought about following them.  My mantra has always been "this too shall pass" and it does.  You don't forget, or are able to forgive completely, but you can learn to live. I always think about the impact suicide has on those left and I discuss some of those issues here http://www.suicidesurvivalguide.com.  It is my way of making sense of senseless death and hope it helps others who have experienced suicide in their life.

    Hope - Deb L - Dec 6th 2008

    IMHO, where there is life there is hope. I've been through serious depressions throughout my life, and have lived through some tragic events. Everytime I felt hopeless and was ready to "end the suffering" I somehow pulled through and was glad to be alive. Time heals, people come out of depression, situations improve, and you can be happy again. Life is a gift. We're all going to be dead a lot longer than we are alive, so why be in such a hurry? Focus on what is good in your life- a friend, a child who needs you, a family member who loves you, eating your favorite food, watching a beautiful sunset. Get the help and support you need so you don't have to go through this alone. Trust me, the pain and suffering is temporary, and the depression is preventing you from thinking clearly. As for having the right to commit suicide, I hate to think of all the people, especially young people who are so impulsive, gone from this world because we made it so easy for them to lose their lives.

    Deb L

    wrong idea - sadgirl95 - Dec 6th 2008
    if that's the way u think, den i must say u are wrong. everone has the right to whether they want to take their life or not. why must u think on the opposite?? i juz don't understand. lives are theirs, they have the right to whether u want to end it or not. its not for us or anyone to decide...its theirs.

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