We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Mental-health practitioners whose clients kill themselves can face stigma from their colleagues, lawsuits, and a toll on their own psyches—making them less likely to take on suicidal patients who need their help.
Unlike most other medical specialties, where deaths are routine, suicide is imagined to be preventable. Very often it is not, any more than death from most cancers can be prevented. If all suicides were caused by simple depressions curable by a pill, that would be different. However, it's not like that. Intractable, relentless emotional pain is only one of many paths to suicide.
Like most Psychiatrists, I have had a number of them in my practice. It happens if you take on difficult cases or cover ERs. Despite all I know about suicide, it still does shake one's confidence and excites the ambulance-chasers. Most suicides, of course, never seek any help from physicians, and some who do, lie.
When the thought of suicide sings its siren song, it can be very hard to intercede successfully for long. Of course counseling can help, but only sometimes. You can prescribe medication, but that doesn't guarantee that the patient will actually take it.
Blessings on you for trying.
I have seen it touch the lives of friends, I have read about it (in circumstances heroic, pathetic, tragic), I have reported on it (one of my very first assignments as a young newspaperman was a shotgun suicide in a family ktchen) and I have many times tried to fathom the pain, desperation and, often, madness behind it. I still believe, whatever the circumstances, it remains perhaps the single most selfish act of which a human being is capable.
Ralph Kinney Bennett
Have you ever seen what people do to their alleged loved ones when those loved ones can no longer speak for themselves as they die? Torture is to nice a word.
People need the right and the assistance to push the plunger as they slip away and be protected from selfish loved ones who can't accept death.
I cannot speak to suicide's impact on the larger community of mental heath providers, only to that of my late wife's Psychiatrist. Even though the good Dr. and I knew suicide was ultimately inevitable, when it occurred Dr. X was heartbroken. During the course of the 18 years of my wife’s illness, we ran through all possible treatment options; medication, therapy, hypnosis, and involuntary institutionalizations. Nothing worked for longer than a short period.
I occasionally run into Dr. X in the grocery store. We chat and catch up and reaffirm that all three of us (my late wife included) did all we possibly could to stave off the inevitable. I’m confident we did. All thinking people accept that not all sick people get better.
As to the ‘selfishness’ of my wife’s act, I will reprint her suicide note for your consideration, in its entirety:
I did not intend my earlier comment to be either hard or cold or dismissive. Suicide, by the very definition of the word implies selfishness. But is it not possible to be heroically selfish? Pragmatically selfish? Or even, odd as it may first sound, selflessly selfish? Whatever the case (and the three cited do not cover the spectrum by any means) suicide remains an exquisite interface of (self) will and action. Question for others -- to deep for me -- What exactly does "assisted suicide" do to the equation.
Ralph Kinney Bennett