Why is it that in all western countries suicide is considered either as a crime or that the person concerned is mentally deranged? Suicide is the result of a choice someone has made. Now I am neither promoting suicide, nor do I personally agree that is ever necessary to take your own life – but then I have never found myself in a situation which would lead me to believe that continued living was not worth while. I have never been in a situation where I had to make a choice between possibly stark alternatives; living under what are perceived to be intolerable conditions or taking my own life. Maybe if I was I would think differently.
Regardless, however, of a person’s views on life, why is suicide considered a crime or as the result of a mental problem? First up I believe many Christians will say it is selfish and against God’s will. How do they know this for a fact? Didn’t God give us free will? Free will, as I understand it, means that we can make up our own minds. Surely God would not, on one hand, give us free will and then on the other hand restrict our free will by ‘saying’ that we can’t do this or that? That is being hypocritical and I cannot believe that God is a hypocrite.
Anyway, how do we know what God actually said? Or how he said it? I believe the religious argument goes something like this – God gave us life, it is therefore not up to us to end it as we can have no idea, in the big picture, of the consequences or outcomes of someone ‘prematurely’ taking their own life. We are not supposed to try to double guess God’s plan.
I would counter this argument by saying that, if it is agreed that God did give us free will, is it not possible that someone’s suicide may be part of His plan? We just don’t know and I believe that continued discussion, based on religious ideals is fraught and likely never to be resolved.
Also it is a matter of degree, even semantics. I am not sure of the chapter or verse in the Bible, but somewhere it says (more or less), “Greater love hath no man than this; that he should lay down his life for another”. In English folk lore the self-sacrifice of Capt. ‘Titus’ Oates (a member of Capt Scott’s ill-fated1912 Antarctic expedition), when he walked out into a blizzard after uttering the famous words, ‘I may be some time’, is considered a ‘noble’, selfless act. He laid down his life so that the others might have a better chance of surviving. It may have been a ‘noble’ act yet it was still suicide!
And then how about those who cannot face life and get drunk every night, to hide their pain and anguish, thus drinking themselves to death. Their death might take 10 or 20 years to accomplish, so it is slow – but surely this is still suicide? This slow death is tolerated by our society even though those concerned (rather obviously) may have no real desire to live.
Then there is the argument that those who either attempt suicide or are actually successful must be mentally deranged. Those who follow this line of thought suggest that anyone who cannot appreciate the beauty of the world and cannot see their individual purpose in the great scheme of things must be mentally unstable. Well I have news for them! The last figures I saw, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, suggest that about 1 in 5 Australians (19% actually) suffers some degree of mental instability sometime in their life. These figures are similar to those for most Western, developed countries.
So either the diagnosis of ‘mental’ problems is suspect or there are a great many very unhappy people in the world. I suspect that the diagnosis of ‘mental’ problems is the ‘problem’. This is why I am studying psychology – I want to find out for myself where the ‘problem’ lies.
Of course there is another view (the sociological view) that goes something like this; that suicide represents a loosening of social bonding; that suicide is an indicator of society’s potential disintegration and therefore must be prevented, opposed and resisted at all costs. This where I believe the criminal element has come from.
To get back to my original proposition – that suicide is a choice – and no one, repeat, no one, can tell a person how they should react to an event or circumstance in their life. I personally don’t think I would ever commit suicide (famous last words!!) because I firmly believe that every problem has a solution; maybe not the solution, or outcome that is wished for or desired, but a solution none-the-less. To me someone who either commits suicide or tries to is neither a criminal nor mentally deranged, but just someone who is finding it difficult to cope with their present circumstances and is crying out for help.
All suicide is neither a criminal act nor is it the result of mental derangement and all ‘prevention’ efforts should be directed at alleviating and addressing this cry for help.