September 10th is “World Suicide Prevention Day”. Well, at least it is safe to assume that this day was not conceived by the greeting cards industry, for once. Yet the question that first hit me when I heard about this day remains: Suicide Prevention Day? What for? Why would we want to prevent suicide?
I won’t argue that we should have a “World Suicide Day” or that suicide should be actively encouraged, but I do believe that the stigma of failure and despair has to be removed from suicide and from people who choose this option.
The comment that appalls me most after people have learnt of someone’s suicide is “How could he do that to us?” First of all, every person’s mind and heart is full of secrets, so any judgement should be withheld unless that person discloses their motives. Second, nobody has an obligation to live. As nobody asked us if we wanted to be born, we don’t even have an obligation towards our parents, let alone friends, colleagues or society. The only people that could argue that somebody contemplating suicide should have to think about them, are their children because after all one is responsible for having put them in this world. I would argue that such a responsibility in the strictest sense however does not even exist towards a partner; because surely any relationship can be terminated by leaving and what else is suicide than a very unambiguous goodbye?
A suicide is far too easily associated with failure, interpreted as an act of giving up. But many different reasons can be fathomed: a sense of having had a rich life with experiences that cannot be topped, curiosity about the act and a possible afterlife (something which should endear suicide to religious people), an exaggerated sense for adventure, or even to make a certain point.
But my main question is this: How can anybody associate suicide with failure unless one can explain what the meaning of life is? As long as there is no convincing argument about the meaning of life, leaving this life is no worse an option than staying.
A suicide also looks much less negative or frightening when we keep in mind that we are all going to die. No exception. Some of us will die in our sleep and we don’t even know if that is as peaceful as it is usually depicted, but others of us will have a terrible disease or will be hit by a truck and bleed to death, while others might drown or step on a landmine, burn in a fire or starve.
Please excuse the drama, but are you beginning to see that choosing one’s time, place and manner of death might be quite a sensible wish after all?
And if the social stigma of suicide was somehow removed or at least reduced, it could be done in an even more peaceful and controlled manner because then people might not resort to jumping in front of a train or blowing up their kitchen.
This leads us to the legal status of suicide because the whole affair would be much cleaner and less disruptive if it was legal to assist people in implementing their wish to end their life at their own choosing. I find it especially unfair and unethical that sick people are in many countries not allowed to use any assistance of this kind, while a healthy person can just grab a gun and shoot himself. This puts old and frail and sick people (whom the law purports to protect) at a significant disadvantage versus a young and healthy person.
Suicide is the one decision in life that you can be certain you won’t regret afterward. This can not be said about many things in life.
When I hear of somebody’s suicide, my first reaction is one of admiration. To admire their courage (because logical as it may be, it’s not easy) and the determination to make the ultimate decision in life oneself. We are arguing for so many personal freedoms; why should we exclude this ultimate freedom, the exercise of which harms no one else’s rights?
(This article was inspired by my cousin’s suicide. It also appeared in Medium.)