Thursday, May 9, 2013




The issue of suicide tends to be relegated to psychiatric publications, films, and fiction. Interestingly enough, it has recently attracted the interest of statisticians. Still, there does not seem to be full awareness that it involves real people, and that neither those who are grappling with the idea nor those who have put it into practice are insane. The only undeniable truth is that they suffer.

   I do realize how disturbing it may be to think of suicide as yet another fact of life. Ever since our species was Judeo-christianized, even those of us who have embraced agnosticism keep a salutary? dread of  death. Call it what you will: the unpalatable thought that the end is definitive, the grief of our beloved ones, the feeling that it cannot be that easy to just let go. If  this is what we experience when confronted with ‘natural’ death, the notion of becoming our own executioners is beyond endurance. Thus we segregate suicides and potential suicides to the pages of the DSM IV and move on without further consideration, as it would really be in bad taste to bring up the subject in the course of a conversation, don’t you think?

   In 1940, Albert Camus, one of the most lucid thinkers of the times, reflected upon suicide in The Myth of Sisyphus, although this was not the central point he intended to address.

According to Camus, suicide is the only serious philosophical problem, one that is inextricably attached to the question about whether life is worth living. All other questions take second place. Apparently, since many people die because they do not believe that life is worth living, while others get themselves killed for the opposite reason, it would seem as if a good reason for living might be an equally good reason for dying.

   In his view, the most obvious causes of suicide are not necessarily the most powerful ones, and it is practically impossible to determine what triggers the decision.

   Taking the argument one step forward, perhaps it would be best to define ‘life’. Apart from the obvious biological implications, we humans make extraordinary efforts at keeping some kind of balance between external circumstances and our inner world. The everyday events outside find their way into our psyche, and are sometimes blown out of proportion by the unconscious areas of the apparatus. The ways in which we perceive the world are necessarily subjective, modify our perception of ourselves in the world, and may lead us to conclude that life –such as we perceive it –is not worth living.

   Two popular theories have preyed on the minds of the non-suicides or anti-suicides. One is that, unable to direct her rage and/or frustration to the one/ones whom she blames for her despair, she turns to suicide as a means to ‘punish’ the would-be culprits, anticipating their regret for wrongs real or imaginary, and haunting them for the rest of their lives. This punitive analysis in fact relieves those ‘others’ of whatever guilty feelings, as they usually deny the list of wrongs attributed to them. And they are right. Even if they have actively contributed to the suicide’s unhappiness, a different process by another apparatus would have led to another decision.

   The second theory dubs the suicide an egoist. She should go through hell on earth to spare others distress. One could wonder on whose side egoism lies.

   Then there is the ‘bravery v. cowardice’ version. Some non-suicides acknowledge that bravery is indeed needed to take the leap into death, while others insist that anyone who opts for the ‘easy way’ (!!) is shunning the daily struggle they themselves fearlessly engage in.

   All in all, everyone passes judgment, but few make the effort to understand, though paradoxically enough, the whys keep going on  forever.

   Having said this much, perhaps I should warn the reader that I am not advocating suicide, but simply defending free will as well as trying to convey the notion that suicide is not taken lightly by the victim-executioner, nor is it carried out on an impulse. It takes an unimaginable accumulation of suffering over time, and a slow but steady disattachment from all things dear. Make no mistake about it: a suicide has not been drained of love, but she cannot bear the burden of life such as it is processed in her inner self.

   Can suicides be stopped? Sometimes. Yet before the resolve is made, they tend to go through phases of depression and despair that those around them are not willing or ready to live. They have their own problems to attend to. One day, they are greatly relieved to find that the one who has been oozing bitterness and expressing a death wish in word and action has ‘calmed down’. The phase is over, they think. It is, for sure. The inner struggle in the devastated battlefield of the mind is over, because the decision has been made.
   So much for suicide that is clearly read as such


  1. Always interesting to read your offerings, Marta. This subject is one close to my soul for many reasons, among them, that in the 1980s I was an AIDS Buddy. At a time when hospitals and even coroners could refuse to deal with AIDS victims, I was assisting them to live or die as well as they could.

    Suicide and I were very close for a time. In fact, we spent a week in a coma together after imbibing in several bottles of pills with soda pop chasers. It seems that I have developed an extreme sensitivity to individuals contemplating this issue. That sensitivity has heavily influenced the trajectory of my life and the formation of my goals.

    Thank you for what you give to us.

    1. Dear TJ, I can understand and empathize, although it would be a lie to say that such sentiments amount to the possibility of standing in other people's shoes.We can get a glimpse of such suffering, no more than that.
      However, I knew what I was in for when I wrote the novel. Sometimes literature is a more palatable way to broach issues that are rejected by many.
      Thank you for sharing your experience here, and for attesting that dying is not that easy, for it's a popular myth that it's a matter of seconds.
      I'm so glad that you are here with us, helping others through your sensitivity and experience.
      With much sisterly love,

  2. Marta,
    The topic of suicide is a fascinating one indeed, one that takes an enormous amount of study. Even then I'm not so sure anyone ever understands, much less accepts.

    In 1976, one of my beloved brothers, an extreme alcoholic, supposedly took his life. (I say supposedly because his death was under investigation for years). His pain was always so obvious and he fought it for a very long time, however never sought help. He was too proud to allow anyone into his private haunting. The family was devastated, my mother was never the same, his children are still to this day, a wreck and chose drugs and alcohol to deal with their father's ultimate decision. Still, I do not believe our pain, the pain he left us all with at age 42, could possibly compare to even one fraction of his private pain, and whatever caused him to take such drastic measures to escape.
    Although the family always knew he suffered, in our hearts, I think we felt he would overcome somehow. That is not to say, we did not care. No one knew nor understood the deep depression that caused him to experience such helplessness, hopelessness, defeat, paranoia, and self-loathing. We felt to say anything to him was interfering in his personal life.
    In 1993, at age thirteen, my youngest son was diagnosed with extreme Clinical depression after obsessing about the thoughts of suicide running through his crowded mind. He did not understand this behavior within himself as days before he was an incredibly happy child and had been since he was born. Now, sullen, hopeless, and crying for hours for no apparent reason, he retreated into his room. I thought he had been hurt by a girl in school or something liken to that. Soon, he bravely approached me and confessed his thoughts and feelings.
    Although I did not understand his predicament, I learned from my brother's death what was happening and contacted his doctor immediately.
    This one action saved his life as his doctor wasted no time, and committed him to a hospital. The doctor reminded us how much our son loved and trusted us to confide in us with his pain, that in most cases, it is rare for a teen to trust a parent with such a concept of weakness and dark pain within his/her mind.
    Twenty years later, he still deals with his depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, however, he is alive. I'm always so amazed with his bravery, still one never knows how it could still end, or if there is a trigger that will someday send him over the edge. That is when I pray and observe him more closely.
    That is what I learned from my brother's suicide.

    1. Dearest Pat, thank you for sharing such heartbreaking experiences. I'd like many people to read your comment, because it teaches a great lesson: prompt action on the part of those who care can save a life. Your son expected help when he confided in you. His message was clear: "I want to live, but cannot cope by myself." He got what he needed from loving parents, and I dare say that while he feels such support, he will be safe.

  3. Patricia, my heart goes out to you. You, especially, understand now how vital it is to communicate, appreciate and validate those you love, EVERY chance you get. Loving someone can be 'horrifically wonderful', can't it?

  4. Thank you for this post Marta. As you know, I'm coming on the 4 year anniversary of my mother's suicide, and am just now coming to grips with it enough to write a book about it, about her life and her tortured mind. I will say, of all the emotions I felt the moment I found her, and there were many, one of them was relief, a final, "It's over" - but that was not the prevailing emotion - more horror and saddness there, I'm afraid. But I have a lot to say about this and thank you for addressing it - I think your thoughts give validity to my own.

  5. Dear Lori, I'm more than grateful for your commenting on this post. I know what you've been through, and how difficult the mere thought of it is. Your book will help many people, as I'm told mine does, the difference being that you will be telling a true story, which will make it priceless. With love, always.

  6. Hi,

    Can suicides be stopped was the opening sentence in your fourth paragraph of this essay. When i think about that question I have to think about the condition of mankind. We have so little regard for life because we fail to have a purpose for living. If that were not so, we would think twice before we send men off to war, or kill a child or take another person's life. Too many people's purpose are defined by their political, sociological or philosophical beliefs that do not define the person within. It boils down to facing ourselves and discovering who we are. That this search for ourselves will throw us into a depression or a dark valley that we have to walk through is unavoidable. This is something we fear and try to run away from. This fear prevents us from examining ourselves and rising above the examination to acceptance.

    I don't think many people are willing to pay this price. It is a price we have to pay if we want serenity and peace within us but as Martin Buber and Viktor Frankl said and according to that what was written down in the Bible, you began to know yourself and discover your purpose for living, and in my own words, when you nail yourself to the cross. Your desires are tested, your beliefs go through the fire and you come in touch with who you really are.

    People who have done this and continue to face the fears hidden deep within themselves discover life and its meaning and they have no desire to commit suicide regardless of the circumstances.


    1. Dear Patti, thank you for your insight in this matter. You are right, no doubt, but not everybody has it in him to brave psychic storms. Hence, we cannot ban suicide from man's predicaments. The most we can do is try to help from our different fields of expertise.


    1. Arik shalom,
      I owe you big time. I haven't forgotten. I'm sure encyclopedias have much to say on this issue, but this is my take, and the one that triggered the book, besides other reasons.
      Thank you so much for your presence here!

  8. Marta, thank you for directing me to this site. I have been heartened by reading the article and the replies. My condolences to all you who've lost loved ones to suicide. A terrible grief.

    1. Veronica, thank you for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. The subject is rueful, but it's one of the subjects I deal with, so I wanted to share something of what triggered my first novel.

  9. Marta, thank you for an enlightening exposition on the myriad reasons why anyone would choose to kill themselves. One final thought to add to the mix is that many psychotic drugs for depression are causing people, especially under the age of 30 to kill themselves. My beautiful young niece, with a sunny disposition and job as a head anesthiolgy nurse, took her life after being placed on a new depression drug.This is a serious problem. Depression is often a natural part of life, We get down, sad, weepy and if we wait, one day the sunshine in our lives returns--without drugs. While it's true that bi-polar and manic depressives may need these drugs-it's difficult to really diagnose who is really going to be helped and who is going to be made worse. I was put on them once--prozac and it made me feel like I was out of my head. It's sad enough that we lose loved ones to suicide for many reasons, but it's not acceptable to lose them from the very drugs that were supposed to help the.

    1. Dearest Micki, I'm so sorry to hear about your niece. The thing is that many people, mental health professionals included, cannot tell between a state of depression, which is normal, and the disease named "depression", which is not. With the modern fad of prescribing drugs for everything before making an accurate diagnosis that could take very long -but no one seems to have the time- lots of people are on medication that they neither need nor profit from. You have brought up a very serious issue, that of the pharmaceutical industry urging physicians and psychiatrists to "sell" drugs irresponsibly, often on the basis of financial rewards. The Hippocratic oath?
      Gone, like many other ethical principles.