Is it ethical to talk someone out of suicide?

Chaosbandit

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I believe as long as you're not setting out to take others with you suicide is your decision and no one else's.

That said, if you're planning on doing it you shouldn't fault people for trying to talk you out of it.
 

Olhelm

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Thinking about it logically, talking someone out of suicide is selfish in most regards. Most family members, for example, would typically do it because they don't want to lose them. Their (the suicide-ee) existence has a continued benefit to the family, and the family would lose that, making they're desire to keep them selfish.

If one does it because they truly believe the suicider would be better off, that is not selfish. Ethically speaking, there is no issue, because ethics concerns a person and how they interact with a group of people. If a person takes their own life, they are only interacting with themselves. It could be considered ethical to talk TO someone suicidal about their feelings, but NOT ethical to force them into a decision. That's my take.
 

AnOminous

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Thinking about it logically, talking someone out of suicide is selfish in most regards. Most family members, for example, would typically do it because they don't want to lose them. Their (the suicide-ee) existence has a continued benefit to the family, and the family would lose that, making they're desire to keep them selfish.

This would only apply in the optimal situation where a suicide is an entirely rational decision made by someone facing an otherwise intolerable situation, like a painful, terminal illness. Even in most of those cases, family members who stand to inherit money from them will usually actually have a selfish motive to do nothing and allow them to die in order to collect immediately.

In many if not most cases, suicide is a decision made with an unsound mind by someone who would not make that choice if they were firing on all cylinders.

It is entirely ethical and in fact an ethical obligation to intervene in such a situation, just as one would pull back someone about to walk blindly off a cliff.
 

Cosmos

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This would only apply in the optimal situation where a suicide is an entirely rational decision made by someone facing an otherwise intolerable situation, like a painful, terminal illness. Even in most of those cases, family members who stand to inherit money from them will usually actually have a selfish motive to do nothing and allow them to die in order to collect immediately.

In many if not most cases, suicide is a decision made with an unsound mind by someone who would not make that choice if they were firing on all cylinders.

It is entirely ethical and in fact an ethical obligation to intervene in such a situation, just as one would pull back someone about to walk blindly off a cliff.

You basically said what I wanted to say. There's a huge difference between someone suffering from a horrible, incurable illness wanting to die on their own terms and with dignity instead of slowly rotting away, and someone who is suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness that has caused their perceptions to become warped. Many, many people who considered or attempted suicide at some point in their lives end up going on to feel extremely grateful that they survived.

Imo, we should work on treating and helping the mentally ill before helping them kill themselves.
 

Cave

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I've had this thought for awhile now and haven't been able to broach it with any of my friends but considering how many lolcows seem to make suicide threats, this might be an appropriate place for it.

Is it really ethical to talk someone out of suicide? Is it really appropriate to tell someone that their pain and suffering isn't great enough to want end their lives? If someone came to me saying they were suicidal I would try to talk them out of it, but honestly I don't think it's a great idea, philosophically. Maybe they should do it. I don't know what lies on the other side. Perhaps it's a pain and misery free world ("Heaven") or some sort of reincarnation. Or just eternal darkness. It's a roll of the dice but who am I to tell someone not to take the risk? I'm not suicidal myself but I just don't really see anything wrong with wanting to experience whatever comes next in the human experience. It seems arrogant to tell someone else not take the chance.

Christianity, for example, makes no explicit mention of suicide being a negative at all. If you, as a Christian, feel you've lived a pious life and are in terrible pain and expect to be for the rest of your life, isn't suicide the logical move?

Someone who wants to commit suicide is viewing it as relief. It's a way to stop the pain they are feeling. This means they are, at this point, of unsound mind and cannot--to me--make a rational decision. Someone who is so down on themselves needs another's voice to bring them back. They're not and cannot do it themselves. If you are in a position to save someone, then you must.

If someone is terminally ill, then that's different. It's their decision at that point. It may be better to die before any illness gets really bad, but I don't know.
 
G

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I have a problem with how this question is phrased. Saying that someone were to "talk someone out of suicide" suggests that the act of talking was the reason why suicide did not happen, and it ignores the fact that the person considering suicide is ultimately the one making the judgment call. Someone can espouse a manipulated view of reality that would encourage someone else to see suicide as a less attractive choice, but ultimately, no matter how good the sales job the person pondering the action will make the call themselves on whether they kill themselves or not.

So is it ethical to talk, lie or manipulate facts to encourage someone to not kill themselves? It would depend on the ethical context we are considering the scenario, however as humans we are conditioned to believe that a natural death is most acceptable, save for response to threat. I would generally say, yes it is ethical.
 

Jaimas

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It's truly case-by-case. Most should be talked down, since most of the time it's people letting their own issues destroy them. Everyone has a breaking point, and you can do a lot to help someone realize that they're not alone out there, and that there's things worth giving a shit over.

Others are cases where you should let them. Someone in chronic pain or in a persistent vegetative state from which they won't recover or the like should have the right to die with dignity and in peace. Ditto people who are medically unable to live off life support if their living will or the like demands it.

And finally, suicide baiters like Phil should be encouraged to off themselves at every opportunity in the hopes that they actually do it and enrich us all with their loss.
 

Alex Krycek

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Every person I've ever known who committed suicide never gave me much of an opportunity to talk them down. They just let it fester and boil over with one or two exceptions, and those people I knew had legit issues going on anyway. I'd listen to them and give them feedback, try to talk them down.

The people who would suicide bait, I'd just walk away from or log off. To this day not one has done it.

So yeah, case by case basis. In the end though, if someone really wants to, I dunno how much good it does.
 

about:blank

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Suicide happens when pain exceeds the coping threshold. In my experience, people don't "want" to commit suicide, they want love, money, drugs, or some other form of temporary or permanent peace of mind, and when they don't get it, the pain becomes too hard to bear.
When I'm in the situation of seeing this pain and hearing those horrid thoughts of self-termination, my first response is always something like "Well let's go to the emergency room (after hours) or mental hospital (business hours) right now, I'll drive you." The answer has always been "No, no, I'll be okay," so I take that opportunity to find out what's really missing in their lives, and try to be as encouraging as I can to say that they can lead the life they want to lead and get what they want, or get off what they want (namely drugs or alcohol) if they put in the time and effort. I also always tell them to make an appointment with their primary care provider or psychiatrist if they have one.
If the cycle keeps repeating itself and it gets to the point where I've had too many hours-long chats with the same person that I become a broken record giving the same advice, I usually just wind up removing myself from their lives for my own personal mental health.
 

systemlord_baal

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Yes. Unless it's a more or less 100% deadly and extremely painful disease which is not treatable (e.g. AIDS is not curable, but if your country has a good healthcare system (*wink, wing, nudge, nudge*), you can get the treatment, which prolongs your life considerably compared to not taking this treatment), it doesn't solve problems, it just ends them (by making the person deader than a doornail).
 

AnOminous

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Yes. Unless it's a more or less 100% deadly and extremely painful disease which is not treatable (e.g. AIDS is not curable, but if your country has a good healthcare system (*wink, wing, nudge, nudge*), you can get the treatment, which prolongs your life considerably compared to not taking this treatment), it doesn't solve problems, it just ends them (by making the person deader than a doornail).

I'm sympathetic with people who kill themselves specifically because of an untreatable mental illness, though. Anyone who has ever experienced a deep clinical depression knows it is a mental state more painful than actually dying, but usually it's treatable. Imagine that you've gone through every possible treatment, though, and it responds to nothing. I believe it would be entirely rational to choose death over a permanent absolutely intolerable state.

The difficulty is that someone in that state will often, perversely, actively resist the very treatment that would save them.

Another problem is that philosophical justifications for despair are actually pretty convincing. I have yet to see them refuted. Well, unless you count Kierkegaard, but he has to have the most depressing argument against despair I've ever seen, c.f. The Sickness Unto Death.
 

WhoWhatWhere

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I'm sympathetic with people who kill themselves specifically because of an untreatable mental illness, though. Anyone who has ever experienced a deep clinical depression knows it is a mental state more painful than actually dying, but usually it's treatable. Imagine that you've gone through every possible treatment, though, and it responds to nothing. I believe it would be entirely rational to choose death over a permanent absolutely intolerable state.

The difficulty is that someone in that state will often, perversely, actively resist the very treatment that would save them.

Another problem is that philosophical justifications for despair are actually pretty convincing. I have yet to see them refuted. Well, unless you count Kierkegaard, but he has to have the most depressing argument against despair I've ever seen, c.f. The Sickness Unto Death.


After reading the earlier posts in this thread I'm actually pretty grateful for your pointing out just how deep and dark depression really is. I generally try to remind myself that those who have never had to cope with it cannot possibly understand how hopeless and lonely true clinical depression can be.

I've noticed a few people here mentioning suicide is a permanent solution to a short term problem. The thing is knowing you will have to live with the very dark places in your mind the hopelessness and knowing you don't have the power to do a god damn thing about for the entirety of you life is haunting and will always be haunting. Hiding away until one day it rears it ugly head once and and the who cycle begins again. And it absolutely will begin again sooner or later. It really is a lifelong disease. It isn't short term in the slightest. It's something that has both frightened and comforted me for a very long time. And I guarantee it will continue in this manner up until the day I actually do croak.

Real depression doesn't just pass. There are medications and treatments and therapy but it's often a guessing game that can take years before finding a medicine that may or may not alleviate some of the pain. Often though, at least in my experience and the experience of family members they can only do so much. Treatment resistant depression is a real thing.

Deep clinical depression can completely decimate a persons ability to function. Often sleep or drugs (or both) feel like the only escape. But eventually you have to wake up again. It's cyclical. You'll have good days and they may even last for a good amount of time but being aware that sooner or later that darkness will come back and try to eat you alive if you are unable to escape it. That's the horrifying part. I hope it never comes to that. Particularly while those I love are still alive themselves. Having went through the experience of my best friend attempting and very nearly succeeding is an experience I never would want anyone to go through.

Robin Williams death was truly earth shattering when it happened. It was a prime example of how insidious the nature of this beast truly is. He dealt with mental health issues on and off for his entire life, but eventually the depression won out. That is a scary thought. I really do look at it as a cancer. Your own body and mind turning against you and removing the ability to appreciate and feel joy for all the things you once loved. Unable to convince yourself to bother with the most inane basic tasks. I think knowing you can't escape from it is often a deciding factor for those who go through with it. Life becomes empty and you basically just exist because you have to. Feeling nothing and everything all at once. Feeling empty, pointless, alone and defeated. And even feeling guilty because you know sooooo many people have it way worse than you so why can't you just suck it up and put your big girl panties on. But you can't. Its feeling broken with no end in sight.

This isn't me advocating hey suicide for everyone! It's merely trying to convey why and how someone deep into that state of mind may find it to be the final and almost logical way to escape the overwhelming and extremely deep abyss of ones own mind. When it starts to seem logical there's probably a reason why. Hopefully if you're capable of finding treatment it's something you can learn to cope with but sometimes it's a losing battle. I'm lucky enough to have finally found a great doctor as well as having a great support system and it's still a struggle. I've learned to cope with it as best I can but it will always been an uphill battle that occasionally will send me tumbling back down again. Being able to pick up the pieces when the fog slowly starts to lift is something that has taken over half my life to achieve. Many people do not have that support system or the means to find a mental health professional for a variety of reasons and that's a sad sad thing. That little counterproductive asshole that lives in your mind sometimes wins out over rationality.

I'm not even sure what point I'm trying to get at but my initial statement of gratitude stands. Those understanding and without judgement how hopeless and debilitating this sort of thing is are few and far between in my experience. Suicide when you're really suffering through your darkest and most painful moments can start to seem like a logical solution. It is not a state of mind I would ever wish upon another human being.

The funny thing is I have no answer as to whether talking someone down from the edge is ethical or not. That is a really tough call. However making yourself available to listen is worth the effort as long as you don't allow it to interfere with your own quality of life. I'd imagine it's at least a tiny reminder that you aren't totally alone. It's subjective I guess.

Hopefully this was written coherently enough to make sense. I know it turned into a bit of a rambling mini novel. It's just a topic that I can go on for days about and occasionally it's cathartic to discuss.

And I'm spent. :-)
 
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