Dionis Liaw


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Is talking someone out of suicide more of caring or more of a selfish act?

Isn't talking someone out a suicide more of a selfish act because you don't want to lose the person that wants to die? Aren't you doing it out of your own self interest because you're doing it when the person that wants to suicide is already embedded so deep into their pain(both physical and mental)?

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    May 1 2012: I dont think we can actually talk someone out from commiting suicide because if someone has really set their mind to doing that,its usually hard to change their mind by just trying to talk them out of it.I think what should be done is question how much we actually know this person, how much pain they are in and whether we know or not whats causing the pain....My point is that we should not focus on the ending result(suicide) but the beginning(whats causing them the pain) and talk to them about the ways on how to lessen/cope with the pain and most importantly let them know that we are here for them ,not because we dont want to lose them,but because we actually do care and understand them.I dont think the question should be whether or not if talking someone out is selfish or even if suicide itself is a selfish act,because the people on both ends of the story will have their own reasons,which cannot be divided as selfish/not selfish because emotions are involved in both parts and since emotions are an aspect of being human,how can we draw a clear line between the terms selfish and not selfish?The question should be is what should be done in the beginning to let both persons have a choice on a different ending?
  • Apr 27 2012: Selfish has two sides.

    It isn't only a negative quality, behavior or state.
    If you don't chew your food, who will?

    I can't tell another human being how to live so I sure as hell cannot tell them how to die.
    They, everyone, has the right to take their own life if they deem that is the only thing left for them to do.
    It is called, "taking one's life" because they are still trying to "take it" and make it work, somehow, in someway, that will make sense to them or have life make sense in a way that is meaningful and resolvable.

    I always try and remember never to minimize their pain, truths or other conditions, such as the many ways they may have already tried and failed, to in some way guilt them, shame them or attach such negativity to them as I have heard others do in my life.

    I let them know they have that right and being clear-eyed, clear-headed and calm is the best way to do it. For example, in San Francisco, there is a wonderful jumping off place called the Golden Gate Bridge, which claims at least one jumper a month. Better to take a relaxing leap than being uptight about it. For the most part, I support them but will always listen and speak with my intent to help them through their pain, their hopelessness and find a desire to go on, rather than to die. But I have known many who have jumped, blown their heads off, taken drugs to die and I knew their pain. I wished I could have helped them but I will never judge them and I continue to stand up for them and who they were, still.
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    Apr 26 2012: I think trying to talk somebody out of suicide isn't selfish at all. I say trying, because in the end that's all you can do. The final decision is not up to you.

    Sometimes that's just what the person needs, somebody to talk to, who will understand or atleast listen to what they're going through. There's a lot of different situations where one would want to commit suicide, from ongoing depressions to terminal illness, and they all have their own pains. Giving a listening ear helps a lot, as does giving them courage to go on, with your help they might be pulled from their position of hopelessness and given a new life.
    But if you don't succeed, don't blame yourself, atleast you tried. You were one of the people giving them a little relief while they prepared to go.

    Whatever you do, don't speak out of anger and don't make them feel guilty. This will only increase the suffering.
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    Apr 24 2012: I tend to have an Orson Scott Card / Ender Wiggin philosophy on this... What matters, is the intent. If you think the person is temporarily and acutely miserable, but they will get over it, and you try to talk them down for their own good, that is a caring act.

    If on the other hand, you've known this person for years, and they've always been miserable... If they simply think that all human beings are lazy and evil, and life isn't worth it. If they've never been happy, and only felt pain... To try to make them continue to experience that pain, to lessen your own, is selfish.
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      Apr 24 2012: I agree with you David...what matters, is intent.

      I don't agree that the best intent is "talking people out of suicide", because then we are imposing our own thoughts, feelings and preferences. In the years I volunteered at a shelter for women/children, and family center, there were many occasions to talk with people who wanted to end his/her life. When a person is contemplating ending his/her life, s/he is disempowered, with very low self confidence. The best thing we can do is try to empower them with information that may help with their challenges. Many times, simply knowing that someone cared enough to offer some alternatives was enough to support them in the life experience.

      I have 2 brothers who face terminal dis-eases. One brother is enthusiastic, willing and able to face the callenge. The other brother often says "this is not living....I want to end it". With BOTH brothers, I continually let them know that I support them with whatever their choice is. If he wants to go through the threatment, and do his part to live as much longer as he can, I am with him in that quest. If he wants to end it, I let it be known that I will not assist the process, but I will make sure that he is as comfortable and pain free as possible if he chooses to reject certain treatments.The best thing we can do, is try to empower people so they may feel like continuing the life journey, and that often means suggesting alternatives, rather than the action after which there are NO alternatives.

      Each person will make his/her own choice, often based on information s/he has, so in my perception and experience, we can offer as much information as possible without judgement, and without imposing our personal preferences.
    • Apr 24 2012: This is probably going to 'rub a lot of people the wrong way', but here we go...:
      What is the difference between talking a "long-term miserable" person into living longer than they want to,
      and keeping an old, sick crippled pet around longer, just because 'you can't bear to put them down'?
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        Apr 25 2012: Vince,
        The topic discussion is suicide...defined as "the act of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally...".

        I believe to "put them down" would be considered murder? Seems to be quite a difference.
        • Apr 26 2012: I wished my first response to you could have gotten through, something went wrong with my connection. It was worded much better than this one:

          It's not murder, when they're on a ventilator & unconscious, comatose, etc... but someone else still decides for them,( at the critical moment) unless they had prior arrangements. And even then, the patient's wish to die could be over-ruled by a selfish family member.

          But the topic WAS NOT SUICIDE. it was SELFISHNESS.
          I empathise with your situation and your family. It must be terribly difficult to live with.

          In the case of someone who's life-situation is not known, in talking them down, you would be attempting to force YOUR will onto that person, in the same way you would for the animal from my example.

          If you prefer, rather than the phrase "put them down", you can substitute the words "let them go", if it makes you feel better.

          Also, so you can digest my position better, I belong to Mary M's group 1 and 2.

          Sometimes you have to resign yourself to accepting someone else's judgement for their own life.
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        Apr 26 2012: Hi Vince,
        That's why it's important to have a living will and/or health directives (prior arrangements, as you say) in the event we are unable to make our own decisions. If it is in writing, anyone who wants to challenge it will not get very far in our legal system.

        Thanks for your thoughts about my family. I wouldn't say it is "terribly difficult to live with". It is another life challenge, and we do the best we can. My brothers, sisters and I have all supported each other through many life and death challenges, and we will continue to do so.

        I don't believe in forcing my will on anyone. I listen, encourage and support people to make their own decisions. Actually, I do that with animals as well. My last three cats were elderly (21, 20 and 18). The 21 and 20 year olds had strokes, and although they were partially paralyzed, they were not in pain, so I took care of them until they died a natural death in my arms. The 18yo had kidney failure, and could be revived with injections of fluid, so we did that for a couple months. She also did not seem to be in pain, so I took care of her until she also died in my arms. Some of my friends advised me to "put them down" because it would be easier and more convenient for me. I wouldn't want anyone to treat ME like that, so I couldn't do that to my cat friends either.

        I don't have a problem letting go of people or animal friends, when they feel it is time for them to go. I wouldn't ever end their life for my own comfort or convenience. I think/feel that's where the difference is between someone choosing to end his/her life, and "putting them down". I ALWAYS accept someone else's judgement for their own life choices. Did you read my previous comment?
        • Apr 29 2012: Clearly, you've had experience with 'letting go' of loved ones, whether they're human or not.

          But in the case of a (potential) suicide, it NOT your choice.
          Whether you want to let them go (or not) is beyond your range of choices.

          I think that 'understanding' the other person's reasoning and accepting their choice to end their life is the beginning of truly 'caring' about them.

          A living will is only effective, it their wishes are respected.
          At any time, it can be contested, once the infirmed has deteriorated to the point that they can no longer speak for themselves. There are legal inpplications, of course, but we've all heard about court cases and judgements where attempts to change 'final wishes', are contested, all the time.

          There needs to be a balance somewhere, between our own level of discomfort with the situation, and the level of suffering these people (or animals) are experiencing.
          And the balance CANNOT be equal. It is THEIR lfe, not ours.

          Sometimes our amount of empathy is overridden by their level of suffering, and we must resign to accepting their imminent departure.
          Other times, we can extend their lives (and possibly, their degree of suffering),by our own options, but that simply shows a level of un-acceptance with their decisions, or lack of empathy with their circumstance.

          I agree, intent is the most important issue, in judging whether the act is selfish or caring.
          But you cannot deny that WE have intentions, as well as the afflicted.
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        Apr 29 2012: Hi Vince,
        Yes, I've "had experience with 'letting go' of loved ones, whether they're human or not". I mentioned my cat friends because you spoke about pets in the previous comment.

        I have been a participant with a relative and a friend in the decision to prolong one's life with more treatment for a terminal disease, or end treatments and accept death sooner, rather than later. The decision made by the people with terminal disease, in both cases, was to suspend any more life saving treatments, and start hospice (end of life) care.

        I totally agree with you that "understanding the other person's reasoning and accepting their choice to end their life is truly caring about them".

        You are correct..."a living will is only effective if their wishes are respected". In my experience, a living will or Advance Medical Directive is respected and honored by all medical professionals, care givers, emergency response teams, clergy, and the courts here in the states. I see from your profile that you are in Canada. I googled Advance Medical Directives - Canada, and siimilar forms are available on-line. I don't know much about Canadian law, but I would guess it is similar to ours in this respect?

        You say..."once the infirmed has deteriorated to the point that they can no longer speak for themselves. There are legal implications, of course, but we've all heard about court cases and judgements where attempts to change 'final wishes', are contested, all the time".

        Idealy, it would be helpful for all of us to have advance medical directives BEFORE we become infirm. Since we have had living wills and advance medical directives, I don't hear about them being contested at all. As I said, medical professionals and the courts here, honor them consistantly.

        Balance is always good in any aspect of the life experience. I agree...we all have intentions, and hopefully they are all good:>)
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    Apr 23 2012: Very good question. The answer depends on your relationship to the person. Of course if you know them and love them, then you would want them to stay around because you selfishly want to enjoy their company as long as possible. My wife loves me and that's why she got me to quit smoking and take up jogging, because she says she wants to keep me around as long as possible. I want the same as her. We selfishly want to keep each other here.

    I have lost someone to suicide. Years ago, tried to talk her out of it. She did it anyway. Suicide is a much more selfish act than trying to keep someone alive, because it is the ultimate statement that the only thing a person is concerned about is their own pain. What truly makes us interconnected, I've found, is not so much our care about making others happy, but in howwe try to relieve others' pain. When we can no longer think about anybody's pain but our own, we are helpless.

    Now, of course, one can't paint everyone with the same broad brush. I noticethat you have tagged "euthenasia" which indicates a lingering extended medical condition in which the continued quality of life is extremely limited. I can not speak to that, but my experience is more with a middle aged person who quite frankly never had the skill sets to face their own demons.

    Again, good question, and I hope a lot of people come forward with various points of view, but I will say that, yes, all of you, I love you, and I selfishly want you to stay alive, even if I never get to meet you, I think the world is a better place with you in it, simply because we all, every day,have the opportunity to make it better.
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    Apr 23 2012: This debate will be interesting if the parties participating would be persons....(1) who have been talked out of suicide, (2) who have talked others out of suicide and succeeded (3) who have tried to talk someone out of suicide and failed.
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      Apr 25 2012: I am in category 3. For about a decade I prayed to God I could have been in category 2. But eventually I came to the conclusion that when are all respectful and loving to each other, we each become part of category 1 (even if we don't realise it!)
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        Apr 25 2012: Verble Gherulous.......I always enjoy your comments.

        But this comment, with it's honesty and insightful ending, is by far the one I have enjoyed reading the most.

        I am so sorry for your loss, I read your entry below. And yes, we may sometimes, by our acts and words of kindness literally save another life. I have been a witness to this fact.

        Thank you Verble.....thank you!!
  • Apr 23 2012: You're attempting a debate on a highly personal issue, to a lot of people. BRAVO.
    I hope you get enough respondants to have a good earful !

    I would say that "talking someone down" is mostly a pre-emptive action against a future loss.
    I guess that makes it selfish, on the side of the 'happy' person.

    When a 'suicidal person' talks it out with someone, ( I think), they are looking to hear acceptance of their decision to die.
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    Apr 27 2012: i don't agree, actually this happen to me a week ago.. and I'm doing it because i know this person can have a better life if he will just let me help.. I'm not doing it for myself.. but i can't separate what i'm doing from my emotion so it's more like 99% for that Person and 1% for myself.
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    Apr 25 2012: People can attempt suicide for the silliest of reasons aswel,the usual attempt that stops most is the aspirin overdose which requires a stomach pump but can be damaging to them if not attended to immediately.It's those that keep trying as they build up to the five no resets that eventually succeed.

    Sometimes it can be right in your face and you won't pick up on it til you're away from them.

    For me it's the kids that breaks my heart.13,16,17,not even starting life.

    I've only been involved just after a failed attempt.