Sunday, March 2, 2008
It seems obvious to me that I could not have a blog like this and not discuss suicide as a choice that some people make. Surprisingly, as I look back, I’ve had to deal with other’s suicides on a personal level as much as on a professional one and I was a mental health worker for 11 years. In 1993, one of my good friends decided to kill himself in Texas when he was facing a divorce and dishonorable discharge from the army. In 1986, while I worked at a psychiatric hospital in Hartford, CT, a coworker decided to kill himself. So, it has hit close to home at times. And of course, suicide sparks a huge amount of philosophical debate. Everyone from The Hemlock Society to the Catholic Church to insurance companies have a stated opinion about the value of human life and the morals (or lack thereof) of suicide. I could not hope to aptly contrast all those loaded and hopelessly divergent points of view. Suffice to say that I think everyone has an opinion (or an algorithm) about suicide and its impact. And it is very difficult to cull out one’s personal feelings and give a sanitized and absolute opinion on the subject because the circumstances around every suicide vary. When I read about a parent killing themselves and leaving the other parent with children to raise, I am confused as to why they didn’t feel like those children were their reason to continue living. When I read about another parent who ends up killing their children before themselves, I am angry that they couldn’t have just ended their own life. When I read about a person facing years of undignified existence at the hands of a degenerative disease committing suicide, I understand it. Ultimately, despite how unsavory a topic we may consider it, committing suicide is a choice that everyone has. I don’t see the point in moralizing it and regard the moral debates as a waste of time. If anyone has the misfortune to have someone close to them commit suicide, it’s important they understand that it is so personal and secretive a choice that to search for clues in this concretized world that that person left behind probably won’t bring much relief. As with any death, the best thing you can do is try to make sure those around you, those you care about, know how much you love them and remember the person who left in their best of days.