How to Deal with Suicide and Euthenasia
By Corbin Wright
The following is a report that indicates how you might recognize suicidals, and how you might deal with them. But a warning: Suicide can be a very complex issue, and it might be better to have a professional deal with this issue if it comes up, but if this is very difficult to attain, this guide is a very good alternative to follow if you have no other solution to the problem.
CHOOSING TO LIVE by Dr. Thomas E. Ellis & Dr. Cory F.Newman
A suicidal person once said "It's like I want to be dead, but not forever:"
1) Suicide is an Ugly Word. - To help get rid of this stigma, you should think of suicide as a problem-solving situation. Basically there is no such thing as a rational suicide.
2)Who are the Suicidals? - Basically there are two types. They are either extremely depressed (mostly men), or they are extremely controlling (mostly women). The extremely depressed are interested in death (life is too painful) whereas the extremely controlling just want attention and are afraid of abandonment. One way in dealing with the extremely depressed, if you can eliminate the stigma in talking about suicide, is to set up two columns (one headed "advantages of living" and the other headed "advantages of dying") on a piece of paper, and have the potential Suicidal list the various advantages as he or she sees it. If the advantages of dying outweigh the advantages of living, the counselor has to work with the potential suicidal on the advantages of living. Some of the risk factors that one should look for in assessing whether one is suicidal or not are 1) has he or she tried it before, 2) has suicide been part of the family's history, 3) is the person deeply depressed or extremely withdrawn, 4) is there excessive substance abuse, and 5) is there a specific plan in place to commit suicide.
3)Who are the Suicidals - Continued - They are usually the people with strong negative backgrounds, either genetically or environmentally. And to help those with this heritage, it's good to continue encouraging those with these suicide tendencies to continue listing reasons for living on a piece of paper.
4) Should Suicidals be Changed? - No, but their decision-making skills have to be greatly improved, which means they have to see both sides of an issue in order to make an intelligent decision. This means they also have to see the advantages of suicide with their various downsides in order to make an intelligent choice. This should all be done on paper as well so that the potential suicidals can see it all written down before them.
5) Handling a Suicidal Impulse Crisis.- One should try to delay the suicidal impulse crisis, so that the crisis would no longer be so urgent to complete. And to do this you could encourage the Suicidal to sleep it off, talk to a trusted friend about their situation, (This is why the Suicide Prevention hotline is so important), or call 911 or any other emergency telephone number. A longer delaying tactic could be to have them reflect in writing on any unfinished business they would want to accomplish before they die, and encourage them to pursue these goals. Then they should start to enjoy living again. And a third possibility would be for the Suicidals to begin nurturing themselves by keeping themselves well groomed, listening to soothing music, enjoying good food, appreciating beautiful scenes or looking after their pets. But this will take some initial will power.
6) Thinking and Feeling -You feel what you think, whether consciously or unconsciously, but your thoughts are not necessarily facts.
7) How to Change One's Thinking - To change one's negative suicidal feelings, one has to change one's thinking. There are several ways in which to do this. There is the functional approach (after the negative thought surfaces, ask yourself where is it getting me), the logical/empirical approach (after the negative thought surfaces, ask yourself where is the evidence for such a thought), and the questioning approach (after the negative thought surfaces, ask yourself are there other possibilities for such a happening). You can try all these approaches and see what works best for you. Everyone is different. But always do this in writing because it stays with you much longer, and persevere in your efforts because it's only successful if you keep on trying. And if none of these methods work, try the behavior approach whereby do the opposite of what you're feeling, because eventually your behavior will start to effect and change your thinking.
8) Coping with Suicidal Feelings - There are also ways to accommodate your feelings while you're in the process of adjusting your thinking. This can be done by obtaining support from empathizers, ventilating your feelings appropriately, engaging in constructive distractions, or participating in enjoyable recreational activities, and practicing various relaxation techniques (ie, meditation).
9) Learning to Solve Problems - Suicidals actually believe that death is the solution to all problems, but suicide is really the problem to end all solutions. So if you want to solve problems, you have to forget about death. And if you're underestimating your ability to solve problems, you should look at your past experience in recalling if you solved other people's problems as well as your own.. If you did, it suggests that you still have the capability in solving problems. But what are the ingredients that you need in order to solve problems efficiently. There are actually 6. They are 1) that you have to have the problem-solving mind-set, 2) that you have to have the ability to define the problem, 3) that you have to have the ability to generate alternative ideas to solve problems (brainstorming), 4) that you have to evaluate these ideas and decide on a course of action, 5) that you then have to take this action and test the results, and 6) that you have to realize that the results don't have to be perfect.
10) Other Skills to Improve your Life - There are some other approaches you can use to lessen suicidal tendencies. Some of these are 1) learning how to become more assertive, 2) improving your relationship-enhancement skills by making your presence known to others, being responsive to kind words and invitations, making a point of treating others with consideration and respect, and learning relationship skills through how you associate with your pets, and 3) involving yourself strongly in helping other people.
11) Developing a Philosophy of Life - But behind all these techniques, one has to discover a new, but meaningful philosophy of life for these potential suicidals, so that they would CHOOSE TO LIVE a much more abundant life, as opposed to dying prematurely.
Appendix - Guide for Concerned Friends
Signs to Look for
1) The person talks about suicide.
2) The person makes final plans. (gives away prized possessions)
3) The person's behavior pattern changes in disturbing ways.
4) The person behaves in ways that are self-injurious or stem to invite danger or harm.
5) The person has experienced significant losses in a short period of time.
6) The person suffers from a chronic illness.
7) The person has suffered extreme social humiliation.
8) The person abuses mind-altering substances and has access to firearms or other instruments of self-destruction.
9) The person has tried it before.
10) Suicide seems to run in the family.
In any of these situations, don't overreact or under-react, take the middle ground and dialogue with the suicidal to see what's really going on with him or her in a very calm, and nonjudgmental way. But don't ever feel his or her feelings are your responsibility. They have to make the choice themselves whether they want to live or die.
Summary of the book by Corbin M. Wright
A Question on Internet: If a person is terminally ill, has excruciating pain that can't be relieved, and/or is so frustrated that they can't do anything for themselves anymore and desires to die, is mercy killing a viable option?
1) Corbin says: I personally don't feel that I can do this, but at the same time I feel it really would be a tough choice to make if a request like this were made.
2) Sandra says: A very sensitive subject indeed. However, life is precious to the Creator and his son so there really would be many things to consider. What really is mercy killing? My mother became ill with a terminal illness, and she had us sign a document not to use any artificial means to prolong her life. We did this and felt it was right, although I'm not sure you'd call this mercy killing.
3) Susan says: For one thing, I really don't think that anyone who hasn't first-hand experience with someone they love, dying in excruciating agony over a long/short term, can really understand the full-depth of this. My father died at the age of 48 after a long and excruciatingly painful illness, despite taking many painkillers. He was a strong Believer and did not ask anyone to relieve him of his suffering through mercy killing. I myself don't know whether I could stand the agony my father had to go through in his illness. Therefore I really think people should have this choice of assisted suicide. On the other hand, I know a couple who had a baby who doctors said had no chance of living a normal life, yet at the age of 4, this boy was living as normal alife as any normal 4 year old boy would.
4) Tom says: A number of people have asked me to help them die, but I couldn't do it. The only thing I did was to allow a person the blessing of release from this life.
5) Pamie says: My human self often feels the choice should be the individuals, my spiritual self feels God is giving the experience of this suffering for some purpose. I so wish the 2 selves would meet at times.
6) Sarah says: I think that there is a strong case for allowing people who are terminally ill and suffering dreadfully to die with dignity, and if they are unable to do it for themselves, I think that they should be allowed to be helped to die. It is almost certainly not according to Christian principles, but neither is forcing people to undergo appalling suffering and complete loss of dignity, not to mention the knowledge that their families and friends are also suffering watching them go through this. It really would be easier to ask a doctor to administer an overdose or whatever than to do it yourself. However, I believe that if I loved the sufferer very much I would be able and willing to do it. I cannot speak for anyone else. The problem then would be: Would I love the person enough to go to prison for it? That's hard. I don't know.
The names of the commentarians have been changed, except for myself, to protect the privacy of the Internet contributors, but their comments are accurate.
Corbin Melvin Wright was born in New York City in 1931, grew up on Long Island, graduated from Roanoke College in Virginia with a BA in Political Science, and from New York Theological Seminary with a Masters in Religious Education. Corbin became a committed Christian in 1958, and after a number of years became a committed Ecumenical Christian. Corbin worked as an accountant in various companies for about 25 years in New York City, then moved down to Argentina and worked for about 21 years as a Business English converstionalist teacher with some of the top managers. Corbin also became a Stephen Minister (trained counselor) while down here. He has been married twice (the last to an Argentine), widowed once, no children, one cat. If you wish to contact Corbin, you can write to him at (email@example.com).
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