In a recent Body Aware Grieving article called: Suicide Reduction or Suicide Prevention? I wrote about the possible benefits of differentiating between various forms of what we refer to as “suicide”. Our hope is that if we can define more accurately the various reasons why people take their own lives, we will become skillful in reducing the number of times we find these deaths to be “tragic”.
Here are a few examples of different circumstances that could potentially lead a person to take their own life. Can you help think of other categories I have left out?
**Situational despondency and depression: For some of us, going through tough situations like losing a loved one, financial problems or heart break can challenge our “will-to-live”. Depending on our personal constitution, the level of support we have, and how long or complicated our life stress has become, we may turn to thoughts of suicide unless we get the care we need.
**End-of-life choice due to medical diagnosis or critical injury: When faced with a debilitating injury, illness deemed ‘terminal’ or incapacitation due to advanced old age questions arise about which types of treatments should be used to extend life. If the quality of daily living involves a level of pain or suffering that an individual no longer wants to tolerate, many legal and moral questions arise. A very complicated topic common in medical and palliative care communities.
**Passive Suicide: In these circumstances a person may not directly kill themselves, but pursue life-threatening situations in other ways. This could include: extreme health abuses in drinking, food, drugs, ignoring known allergens or high sugar levels if one is diabetic. Overtly reckless choices (sharing needles, dangerous driving especially while drunk or high), adventure sports (skydiving, surfing during storm conditions, drag racing etc.) could be in this category depending on why they are chosen and how they are accomplished. As the dangerous Hurricane Irene approached recently I was following Tweets and one young man sadly wrote, “I hope the hurricane comes and kills me.”
**Martyrdom: The most famous of these actions is suicide bombings and terrorist attacks where the assailant knows they are supposed to die for the mission to be ‘successfully’ completed. Other examples would be a captured soldier who finds a way to kill him or her self to avoid sharing sensitive information upon interrogation and feel they are better serving their troops in that manner. There are cases where civilians have found it more ‘honorable’ to die at their own hands instead of waiting to be taken over during times of war.
**Forced Suicide: Historically certain cultures have pressured their military or business leaders to take their own lives after damaging failures. Torture and blackmail can involve making threats that can be avoided upon willfully taking ones own life. In many parts of the world, women are shamed or directly told to kill themselves if they were perceived to have committed sexual “misconduct”.
**Mental illness and chemical imbalances: Many people are at higher risk of causing harm to themselves or others due to psychological conditions. Others are more vulnerable after being exposed to trauma or violence as a result of crime, war or physical/sexual abuse. Even situations considered temporary like: post-partum depression, low blood sugar, or premenstrual tension can make it harder to remain emotionally stable and optimistic about life.
Each of these reasons a person may consider taking their own life, would be best addressed by very different courses of action. If we can determine why we are at risk, we can get to better solutions more easily. Do you agree?
Thanks for being willing to discuss the challenging topic of suicide.