The Ultimate Escape: Suicide
By Dr. Raju Hajela
Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about. Often people see it as an intentional ending of one’s life because of depression or the loss of all hope; or it may be considered a failure on the part of the person, their family, their doctor(s) or society as a whole. Have you considered though that even when someone apparently appears to have been the cause of their own death, it is not intentional?
Suicide is the ultimate escape from the reality of one’s existence on planet earth. If you consider that Addiction is a disease of shame, isolation and escape, then it would not be a stretch at all to appreciate that suicide is an addiction-related death. The two most common factors that are associated with a completed suicide are the loss of relationship(s), usually because the fantasy of what the relationship ‘should’ be rather than what it is; and having a plan, which in recovery language is called a ‘secret’ or ‘stash’. A stash usually means having a plan and/or secretly hoarding drugs for relief if the going gets too tough or reality is too painful to deal with. In recovery circles, one often hears this being referred to as ‘we are only as sick as our secrets’. The relationship piece could involve a fantasy about oneself, as one ‘should’ be or others – how they ‘should’ be. Addictive thinking related to these issues and failure to deal with the feelings connected to this make the mind irrational and the ultimate escape looks like the only option, when in reality, there are always a lot of options. In recovery, one of the hardest things is to draw boundaries with those one loves yet the recognition emerges that it would be impossible to get better while remaining enmeshed in these relationships. That awareness is a turning point – if one chooses recovery and health, then the support of one’s Higher Power and others in recovery helps to deal with whatever may happen; if one does not actively choose recovery and draw boundaries, then suicide offers the ultimate escape.
One further point to appreciate though is that end-of-life care that may involve family, friends or physician assisted death is not assisted suicide. The key difference is the healthy dialogue that happens amongst caring people who come to a joint decision about a course of action that may involve palliative care or assisted death.
It is essential for family, friends, care providers and physicians to know that neither suicide or assisted deaths are failures. Acceptance of both means accepting powerlessness over the disease of Addiction and/or another terminal disease that is causing suffering that has reached a certain limit. From the perspective of prevention and dealing with the aftermath, we can and need to promote recovery, which means not enabling, dealing with enmeshment, drawing boundaries, and looking after our own bio-psycho-social-spiritual health so that we can have a strong foundation from which we can truly help and support others to survive!
Remember, when travelling on a plane the message is – in case of sudden depressurization, when oxygen masks drop down, it is essential to put on your own mask before helping another individual, especially when travelling with someone who may require assistance.
If you are concerned that a loved one may be suicidal, it is best to ask them directly if this is the case and call 911 if they are at immediate risk. If there is not immediate risk, it is important to encourage self-care and accessing support, both peer and professional.