Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I just got the shock of my life. My business partner, Linda, just called me and told me to sit down. She had been in Minnesota with her two teen aged kids, visiting her mom. While they were gone, her husband checked into a hotel and killed himself. I’ve met Stan a number of times and never in a million years would I have imagined he would do anything like this. They had been struggling with money problems, but he’d just gotten a new job and right before Linda fly to her mom’s they had a birthday party for him. He seemed just fine when they left.
I read about circumstances like these all the time, but it never seemed real. Honestly, it still doesn’t. I just can’t believe it. How can a 45 year old man with a loving, supportive wife and two children kill himself just as it seemed there was hope for the future? It seems like if it could happen to him, it could happen to ANYONE. It’s frightening.
Do you have any understanding of this at all?
Ultimately there is no understanding of suicide. No one can know what is in another’s mind.
Science talks of low serotonin levels but there are other factors that might also be in the history of people who have committed suicide.
There can be a genetic predisposition; in some cases multiple family members over many generations have killed themselves. There can also be a perceptual predisposition in some suicidal personalities such that they are very literal, black and white individuals. They tend to be all or nothing- things are either great or horrible. They are inflexible in their thinking.
Sometimes there is a larger story that isn’t apparent at the time of suicide but later becomes known. A person who has a codependent predilection can feel that they are unburdening their family and loved ones by their exit. Of course this is never true, especially since they didn’t ask or communicate these issues with anyone.
There can often be mental health issues or substance abuse issues. Occasionally suicidal feelings are a reaction to medication or are medically caused by a brain tumor or other condition. A great number of diseases first present themselves as depression.
The fact that your friend’s husband went to a hotel to kill himself indicates that he probably felt he was doing his family a favor is some skewed way. In his mind, he was being unselfish via his sacrifice. In reality suicide is the most selfish act there is. It increases the risk of one’s kids committing suicide by 50%. People who commit suicide never ask anyone else’s opinion as to whether they would be better off without them. They make assumptions and remain in control to the end.
I feel for your friend,
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Medically assisted suicide where the whole family is involved, it’s done with dignity and compassion and the big picture is actually considered, is a different story. This should be a person’s right.
Granny says: I have known a number of people who committed suicide and the only thing I can pretend to understand about it is the effect it has on the people left behind. Going by my own standards and beliefs, I could judge suicides as the most selfish people on earth. But I also have to acknowledge that a person has got to be in an incredible amount of pain and anguish, untempered by any sort of hope, in order to take their own life.
I am not so sure that people who kill themselves are always unwilling to reach out for help. I know one woman with depression and other problems who tried to get help over and over again and her condition only worsened. She finally gave up and decided that if she had to continue as she was, she could not bear to continue.
In Inuit tribes of old, the weakest members were considered to be honorable if they crawled off into the barren tundra and died. It meant that the others had a better chance to survive. Because it was culturally acceptable, it did not bring the same pain and stigma that suicide does to our society members today. I do not think that the judgments society makes are of any help in preventing future suicides.
Your business partner and her children are facing a difficult road. My heart goes out to them.