Through my feed reader, I follow a fair amount of mental health blogs. I don’t follow any of the mainstream media and I don’t watch or read the news frequently. I did hear of Robin Williams’ suicide through the mianstream news, but anything more in depth has come to me through blogs.
I see a lot of discussiono n suicide and its reasons. “Reason” is really the wrong word, as Bill Brenner of The OCD Diaries points out that suicide isn’t a rational act. Brenner writes about the differences between long-term depression leading to suicide and a “spur of the moment” suicide when someone kills themself after a disaster, such as the 1929 economic meltdown..
I myself have experienced a mixture of the two when I’ve been suicidal. In 2007, I had the worst suicidal ideation I’ve ever had three months into living independently. My crisis appears like a “spur of the moment” crisis, and in a way, it was. I wasn’t diagnosable with depression at the time, or ever for that matter. I was labeled with adjustment disorder for lack of a better diagnosis.
This is probably too what the people killing themselves in 1929, that Brenner refers to, could’ve been diagnosed with. Adjustment disorder refers to a maladaptive response to an identifiable stressor, where the response (depressive mood, anxiety, disturbance of conduct, etc.) is grossly out of proportion to the stressor and/or causes significant distress or impairment in functioning. The condition can only be diagnosed if other mental health conditions, such as clinical depression, have been ruled out, but it is a mental disorder nonetheless.
Another condition which can come with apparent “spur of the moment” suicide is my current diagnosis, borderline personality disorder. Unlike adjustment disorder, this is considered a severe and usually lifelong mental illness, yet people with this condition who attempt suicide, especially if they don’t succeed, are even more often seen as selfish or manipulative. People with BPD are seen as attempting suicide over the tiniest thing, yet their suffering is severe and chronic, like the suffering of people diagnosed with clinical depression.
In none of the above cases, suicide is a rational act. People with BPD are overwhelemd by intense emotional turmoil. People with adjustment disorder cannot see a life beyond the stressor affecting them at the time. People with clinical depression, the ones who are given the most sympathy when suicidal, are, of course, overcome with depression and hopelessness. These are different emotions and thought processes overcoming different people, but the bottom line remains the same: suicide is not a rational act.
I remember during my suicidal crisis in 2007 being told that I was selfish. In a way, I was, but not out of malice. I was unable to think of other people due to being consumed with intense emotion. Being told I was selfish only worsened my depressed mood.
Remember, people who are suicidal, are in pain. They need support, not judgment. They don’t choose to burden you with the consequences of their death – and yes, I was actually told that. Guilt trips, if they do anything, make the suicidality worse. What someone needs in an urgently suicidal state, is to be kept safe and to be loved. They may understand your point of view once they’ve climbed out of the depths of their suffering. If a person is at the stage of comtemplating suicide, supportive talking can help. If they’re acutely suicidal, all you can do is call emergency services and make sure they’re kept safe and sit by them until they hopefully get out of this state. It’s as sad as that.