Thoughts of Suicide

With the recent death of comedian Robin Williams, many people are thinking about suicide — not necessarily for themselves as an option to end their lives, but more about the mystery of how and why people do it. We have many judgments about why people do it; some call it a “selfish decision” because it affects anyone who ever cared about the person. Others call it “cowardly” or “the easy way out.” I am inclined to think that these judgments come from frustration, ignorance and a desperate desire to have control over the uncontrollable: another person’s moods and behaviors. It is a tragic decision and action, and yet unless we ourselves have walked in the shoes of a deeply depressed, desperate individual, we cannot know what it’s like to live with that kind of pain and emptiness day in and day out. It is indeed painful to be in that spot, and it’s also horrific for the loved ones left behind. People can blame themselves, wondering whether they could have done anything to prevent it or if they might have inadvertently caused it. Sometimes people also feel guilty that they survived and the other person perished. Of course, there is also anger about being abandoned, but I think that ultimately it’s just incredibly sad for most folks.

Interestingly, there has been a new study talking about identification of a genetic mutation test that could possibly predict suicide risk. What a fascinating phenomenon! The link for the study is as follows:

What are the implications for this test, I wonder (if it becomes FDA-approved for widespread use in American society). Would you want to know if you or a loved one were at risk for suicide? How could a genetic mutation predict such a thing? I hope that we can use this new technology and information for good and not for discrimination, as can happen when it falls into the wrong hands. However, I am glad that the scientists at John Hopkins University and NIMH are working on identification of such genetic mutations and I’m hopeful that we can learn about how to help people at the lowest nadir of their existence, climb out of it.

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