Saturday, October 18, 2008

if suicide is the answer, what is the question?

Being manic-depressive myself, I was concerned today to read the very sad case of Kerrie Woolterton, who, having a history of mental health problems, swallowed weedkiller - not for the first time - and called an ambulance, handing staff a letter saying that she did not want life-saving treatment to be instigated.

This was covered by the Mental Capacity Act 2005, under which one can make an "advance statement" ("living will"), which means that, if the document is signed by another capable adult, health professionals may not apply life-giving treatment. I was disappointed to see that the act does not provide for negotiation if the person is mentally ill at the time they hand over their living will.

The poor woman, according to reports, was depressed, and decided that it was time to exit stage left. I wonder how far her treatment had progressed, and if there were any barriers to treatment erected by the organisation of mental health trusts?

Recently we've heard about multiple sclerosis (a terrible ilness which can cause depression and suicidal thoughts) sufferer Debbie Purdie challenging the High Court as to what charges might be laid against her husband should he help her to go to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to be assisted to die, and the police have been questioning people as to Daniel James' travelling to Switzerland to be helped to die after a rugby accident that left him paralysed and depressed.

Am I alone in seeing a theme here?

May God be with the departed and the left.


  1. When I was young, there were many, many times I wanted to die. More than I can count.

    30 years later, I'm mighty glad I didn't. Took a long time to get here, though.

    I still pray for those in their own hell-holes. Hope to give hope to a few of them, myself, in some small way.

  2. Thank God you're still here, Pam. Reading your comments makes my day.

    I've been suicidal in the past and I know that I will be again in the future - although, my meds having been tweaked, I pray that the thoughts will be more subdued.

    I'd like to spend 5 minutes alone in a room with one of these people who think that helping a depressed person to die is serving the human race. I would, at least, remove their carbon emissions...FD

  3. Last time I had any suicidal thoughts, it seemed like I was arguing with someone: for, or against. I asked whatever it was, why should I believe you? What do you have to offer, that I want? There was no answer, and the thoughts immediately vanished, and have never returned. I still feel down, rather often, in fact, but I always believe it won't last, which many people can't. Because the bad in This world often does seem to outnumber the good.

    Not saying this would "work" for everyone. Probably lots of causes and contributing factors towards suicidal tendencies. But I think it saved me, that I prefer to hope that what the Christian faith teaches is true, even when I can't perceive its truth at all. Nothing else has any lasting value for me. Praised be God in Heaven.

  4. I know what you mean about suicidal thoughts feeling like an argument or a dialogue, weighing up pros and cons, etc.

    When I was first diagnosed I told my psychiatrist that the only thing keeping me from doing the deed was fear of the possibility of hell, and he said "so you're that far gone, huh?"

    The wisest boss I ever worked for was an agnostic who said that a lot of people who make it through suicidal crises do so because of some degree of a religious belief.

    Thank God your thoughts have never returned - may He be praised.

  5. Sadly, when I am 'there', it is not my religious beliefs that keep me holding on, but my children. Although it is sometimes the feeling of 'bad mothering' that had put me there, I imagine how much worse it would be for them for me to leave them that way.
    As for God, it is the thought of having been abandoned by him in the first place that leaves me wanting to end it. I suppose that in that state of mind, my belief in hell is as vague as my belief in God.
    I thank HIM, when I am up, that His grace came through even if it was in the form of fear for my children.
    I can't imagine, now, desiring suicide in a rational state of mind.. enough to actually make an appointment and pay someone..... I would say that anyone who takes that offer is taking advantage of a hopeless mind.

  6. I think you'r right, the suicide industry is trying to make a point right now, I think, that there'a an exit door if you have the money - Daniel James probably hadn't had time to properly mourn the loss of his abilities. There's probably a population agenda there.

    I hear what you're saying about children - my experience of the "black dog", as Winston Churchill called it, is that it attacks where you are most vulnerable.

    What you say reminds me of Psalm 22, quoted by Jesus on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" My Bible subtitles this, "the sufferings and hopes of the upright". I think the answer to this is Ps 130, the "de Profundis".

  7. We never are able to relate to Jesus at those times because of the sight of our differences from Him. I can relate to the thoughts about the children (both ways). Been there.

    I think the main thing that kept me off, in the past, was the fear that after death might be a continuation (albeit an unceasing one) of the very darkness I wanted to flee. (i.e., Hell.) Guess I finally figured any possibility of an alternative to that, however unlikely it seemed, was worth it.

    Linda, you will call me, if you get to that point. You hear?

  8. I think you're right about the alternative being worth it Pam. The thing is, I've found psychological distress isn't always like physical illness, where you can sometimes see or feel a difference and judge how well or ill you are. Your mind is inside any process affecting it. I suppose it's like the tale my Mum used to tell me about the guy who planted his garden and checked every day, to no avail - but eventually, the plants flowered.

    I remember a mental health textbook with a wonderful poem in it about a wall that gets knocked over and is destroyed. Bit by bit it is built up, and eventually is a whole wall again - different, in some respects, but a wall again. I've been searching for it for years, i think it was called "the wall" (duh!) To me it said so much about time and healing. Please tell me if you ever come across it. - FD

  9. Well, I've looked for your poem but haven't found it yet. Not lots of time for going to libraries anymore, and Google was pretty unhelpful. (You probably tried that already anyway.) As an English literature major, you'd think I could do a bit of research. Will let you know if it turns up.

  10. Suicidal behaviors often occur in response to a situation that the person views as overwhelming, such as social isolation, death of a loved one, emotional trauma, serious physical illness, aging, unemployment or financial problems, guilty feelings, or dependence on alcohol or other drug and would say the behaviour is a part foolishness.
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  11. Hi Smithsan, thanks for the comment. I agree that suicidal behaviours can result from all of the following, but "foolishness" is possibly a judgemental word for such a general description.

    However, suicidal thoughts, as opposed to behaviours, occur more commonly than is often recognised, and indeed one might say that, before you start to consider illness etc, they are part of the human condition. Hopefully the dawn comes after the night - try reading Psalm 22 right through, then go on to PS 23. - FD


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