12. How does suicide affect friends and family members?
Suicide is often extremely traumatic for the friends and family members that remain (the survivors), even though people that attempt suicide often think that no-one cares about them. In addition to the feelings of grief normally associated with a person’s death, there may be guilt, anger, resentment, remorse, confusion and great distress over unresolved issues. The stigma surrounding suicide can make it extremely difficult for survivors to deal with their grief and can cause them also to feel terribly isolated.
Survivors often find that people relate differently to them after the suicide, and may be very reluctant to talk about what has happened for fear of condemnation. They often feel like a failure because someone they cared so much about has chosen to suicide, and may also be fearful of forming any new relationships because of the intense pain they have experienced through the relationship with the person who has completed suicide.
People who have experienced the suicide of someone they cared deeply about can benefit from “survivor groups”, where they can relate to people who have been through a similar experience, and know they will be accepted without being judged or condemned. Most counselling services should be able to refer people to groups in their local area. Survivor groups, counselling and other appropriate help can be of tremendous assistance in easing the intense burden of unresolved feelings that suicide survivors often carry.
The suicide-survivors mailing list provides such a group via electronic mail.
13. Hang on; isn’t it illegal though? Doesn’t that stop people?
Whether it is legal or not makes no difference to someone who is in such distress that they are trying to kill themselves. You can’t legislate against emotional pain so making it illegal doesn’t stop people in distress from feeling suicidal. It is likely to merely isolate them further, particularly since the vast majority of attempts are unsuccessful, leaving the person who is attempting suicide in a worse state than before if they’re now a criminal as well. In some countries and states it is still illegal, in other places it’s not.
14. But don’t people have the right to kill themselves if they want to?
Each of us is responsible for our own actions and life choices. In a sense then, an individual may have the right to do as they wish with their life, including to end it if they so desire. Western societies in particular tend to emphasize individual rights over communal rights and responsibilities.
However, every person exists as part of a larger network of relationships of various types which set the context in which an individual’s rights and responsibilities exist. People who feel lonely, isolated, distressed and hopeless about their future can find it extremely difficult to recognize supportive relationships which may exist around them. This often causes them to grossly underestimate both the degree of support which could be gained from those around them, and the impact that their suicide would have should they complete it.
Discussions regarding rights can become emotive, particularly when there is a conflict between individual and communal rights and responsibilities. For example, people who have been emotionally devastated by the suicide of someone close to them could equally assert their right to not devastated by someone else’s suicide. It should be reiterated however that a person contemplating suicide is more likely to need understanding than a lecture on their responsibilities to other people.
Ultimately, helping people to deal with their problems better, see their options more clearly, make better choices for themselves and avoid choices that they would otherwise regret empowers people with their rights rather than taking their rights away.
From the USENET Suicide FAQ
Psych Central. (2007). Frequently Asked Questions about Suicide. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/frequently-asked-questions-about-suicide/0001101
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.