A Matter of Choice
son Keith was 29 years old when he decided to end his life. Keiths
death was a suicide. Suicide is a frightening word and it is not only
ignorance but fear and stigma that keep people from understanding why
someone would take their life. In a way it is easier to think that a person
made a "choice", freeing us from knowing the truth.
The word , "choice", continues to perpetuate the stigma of suicide.
The definition of "choice" is "the freedom in choosing,
both in the way one chooses and in the number of possibilities from which
to choose." In a presuicidal state an individual is overwhelmed in
a given situation. They suffer extreme mental anguish and a painful sense
of hopelessness. Their sense of judgment is distorted , and they do not
have the ability to make "choices" or options. They literally
want to kill the pain and not themselves.
may be unable to restrain themselves from acting on feelings or impulses.
This strong impulse to end the pain is because of the depletion of the
chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical within the brain that
helps restrain impulsive behavior.
is no suffering greater than that which drives people to suicide, suicide
defines the moment in which mental pain exceeds the human capacity to
bear it. It represents the abandonment of hope." John T. Maltsberger,
M.D., past president of the American Association of Suicidology, practicing
psychiatrist, and teacher at Harvard Medical School.
Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the USA and the second
leading cause of death for those ages 25-34. About 30,000 of the 650,000
Americans who attempt suicide each year die. Suicide is almost always
the result of an illness of the brain, depression.
Keith, died by suicide, and we can only imagine the horrible mental torture
he endured. Depression is one of the most terrible and pervasive illnesses
of our day. In 1999 the Surgeon General of the United States listed suicide
as a national public crisis. Having accurate information about depression
is critical. We live in a world where people hang on to old stereotypes,
and in order to stop future loss of lives by suicide, we must educate
and not let these stereotypes to persist.
Copyright Carol Loehr
"Obelisk", The Catholic Charities, Chicago, Illinois, November 2001
"News and Views" NAMI, Cleveland, Ohio, November-December 2001,p.14
"News Briefs" Vol. 20, No. 1 , NAMI Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, Winter 2002,