Lessons Not Necessarily Wanted….

Emotional content alert. The recent death of celebrities brought the unsettling discussion of suicide and one of those things learned as part of being an Army Officer. I did not have to deal with a fatal suicide personally, although there were some in other units within my organization which meant I did help provide support to those commanders. The point is, each time there is a suicide, the professionals performed a “psychological autopsy” as part of the report. There are also often incidents that range from attempts, to gestures, to ideation; all of which are what they sound like. In the course of my career, I had several conversations about this range and came to understand, in lay terms, basically six categories. In a term I  use as “intensity”, there is suicide as euthanasia, which has of course been discussed at great length in the “right to die” movement. I’m not going to get into that subject.

There is literally suicide that borders on accidental. If an individual reaches the stage where he or she makes the decision, quite possibly on impulse, the situation may spiral beyond control. Sadly, we did have this with some military members. Certain over-the-counter pain relief medication will not out-and-out kill in a “drug overdose”, but it can do such severe kidney damage that death soon follows. The individual, when initially recovered, can determine things can be worked out, yet nothing can be done medically.

Individuals who find themselves in such a dark place, they can, and do, commit suicide can choose to leave a letter to at least try to help those who will grieve understand why they have done so. It may not seem to be something that helps with the loss, but it can bring some measure. In situations where there is no explanation, it can be even more devastating.

There is then, in my opinion, the cruelest which is the vengeful act. Other than in the situation of mutually agreed euthanasia, these are the cases of murder/suicide. In not doing physical harm, there is also the situation where an individual leaves a note/letter blaming a person or persons for the act. This may be accompanied by ensuring the individual/individuals being blamed find the deceased.

I generally have admiration for people who work with suicide hotlines because they can, and do help. Yes, there are highly emotional people who are “just seeking attention” which is another subject. But for the person who is genuinely reaching out, such a call may be the very thing that enables him or her to find a way back “from the brink”. Depression is not the same thing as “the blues” and if you do know someone who suffers from depression, I would urge you to know what local resources are available and/or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org


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