Suicide Is Not a Rational Act

by Bill Brenner on August 15, 2014

As this week has gone on, we’ve seen discussion continue about suicide and depression as more details about Robin Williams‘ death are made public.

Two conversations in particular highlight an important fact.

Mood music:

The first is a comment someone made regarding my post on Shepard Smith calling Williams’ suicide a cowardly act. Bert Knabe wote:

Looking at his words, I don’t think [Smith] was calling Williams a coward, he was saying one of those two things happens and you kill yourself. He’s probably right. In some cases it probably is a cowardly act – but those aren’t depression suicides. Those are ‘death is better than facing the consequences’ suicides – like when people leapt out of windows because of the stock market crash in 1929. Most of those are spur of the moment reactions without thought.

That’s an important point. There are spur-of-the-moment suicides instigated by shock and fear so intense that they overwhelm the person. There’s an inability to see life on the other side of the fresh calamity, 1929 being a pretty good example.

Suicide that comes at the end of a long struggle with depression is different. The depression is like a cancer, eating away at the sufferers mental ability to process information and confront realities for what they are and simply sucking the life force out of them.

In my opinion, both cases deal with people who no longer have the ability to think and act rationally. Their tether to reality is sliced away.

Need to talk? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
You can talk to a trained counselor 24/7.

The other conversation started with something KISS bassist Gene Simmons said about depression. Simmons made this ridiculous comment:

For a putz 20-year-old kid to say, ‘I’m depressed. I live in Seattle.’ F– you, then kill yourself. I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says ‘Jump’ when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, ‘That’s it, I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to jump.’ Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it. Shut the f— up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowd. By the way, you walk up to the same guy on a ledge who threatens to jump and put a gun to his head, ‘I’m going to blow your f—in’ head off.’ He’ll go, ‘Please don’t.’ It’s true. He’s not that insane.

Mötley Crüe/SIXX AM bassist Nikki Sixx responded with his own story of addiction and depression:

It’s pretty moronic because [Gene] thinks everybody listens to him, that he is the god of thunder. He will tell you he is the greatest man on earth, and to be honest with you, I like Gene. But in this situation, I don’t like Gene. I don’t like Gene’s words, because … there is a 20-year-old kid out there who is a KISS fan and reads this and goes, ‘You know what? He’s right. I should just kill myself.’

Good on you, Nikki.

I like KISS and have a lot of respect for you, Gene. But all too often, you’re an asshole.

Suicide isn’t a rational choice, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on people who are suicidal.

Nikki Sixx and Gene Simmons

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Branden August 15, 2014 at 11:25 am

I have struggled with depression for years. I have been fortunate because I have had success with medication (when needed), success with therapy, a great support structure, and faith in Jesus.
Your article does a great job of explaining the differences between choice with thought and lack of reasoning due to a physical imbalance caused by clinical depression.
Keep up the great writing.

fredt August 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

but even the irrational can be a rational act in an irrational situations. This is my first and only time through life, and the inevitable end is death. Why not on my terms?

Consider Socrates.

Modern life in the fast lane is not much different. The purpose has been achieved. Consider George Eastman. We have, as a population, have been engulfed in hedonistic adaptation. So what is the purpose now?

Jone August 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

I’m thinking now, after hearing his diagnosis of Parkinsons, that it was a rational act. Did he not leave wrist cuts to make sure everyone knew it was suicide and not an accidental sexual hanging such as “grasshopper” did (his name eludes me). His kids seem to be old enough and taken care of as his wife, so maybe it was a brave thing he did, not wanting to take what he might consider a long suffering battle and wanted to be remembered at his peak such as Hendrix, etc (and whom he mentioned all in a standup gig). So maybe it was a rational, “brave” act and he did leave on his own terms, as fredt said.

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