Sanctioning Suicide

Could all the efforts to prevent suicides represent a kind of reverse psychology, paradoxically encouraging suicide by some? If we reduced the stigma associated with suicide, might it actually reduce suicides or at least some of the damaging emotional fallout for survivors?

We tend to assume that only a “depressed” or mentally ill person would want to die. If they express intent to kill themselves we label them mentally ill and commit them to a psychiatric hospital where they remain until they express the requisite change of heart, get discharged, and, knowing better than to talk about it, often go on to kill themselves.

How might things change if we accepted suicide as a legitimate choice under certain circumstances? Without fear of ending up in a psychiatric ward, might such a person more likely talk about their plans with significant others? Would such open discussion reduce the negative emotional impact on survivors, allowing them to achieve some acceptance, perhaps feeling less need to blame themselves?

Could we establish criteria for allowing some non terminally ill individuals to take their own lives without government interference? In my opinion they should be 18 or older. Would a “cooling off period” discourage impulsive suicides? By agreeing to wait, say 10 days, authorities would have to leave you alone. During that time some sort of competency evaluation could prove that you understand the process and consequences, not just for yourself, but for those your death would affect. You might also have to demonstrate some understanding of the pros and cons of various methods and how to pursue them. We tend to assume too often that when a person who suffers from a mental illness wants to take their own life that the illness “causes” this “symptom,” but some who kill themselves clearly do not suffer from a mental illness, so that cannot always be true. Perhaps we would want to assure that the applicant with a mental illness understands what they might expect from treatment. The concept of a “right to refuse treatment” already exists.

What criteria would you propose? Could such changes reduce suicides or at least the resulting emotional damage?

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