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DrasticDreamer's avatar

Is suicide a conscious decision?

Asked by DrasticDreamer (23991points) December 1st, 2010

Do you think people who actively struggle with moderate/severe depression make the choice to kill themselves? Or does something snap one day, and they do it without even thinking about it?

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34 Answers

phoebusg's avatar

I think it requires an overwhelming feeling that things will always be “this bad”, or will never improve. And a feeling of being in a bad place and having a really bad quality of life in the first place. Unless the person does, and he/she can’t get out of it.

I’d say more often than not, it seems like a way out when it really isn’t. Sometimes though, if quality of life cannot be improved, it can be a conscious choice. (Terminal patients, not being allowed assisted suicide, etc.) Although I’m using conscious as a decision taken with a clearer mind. The issue with mental illness is that often you’re not thinking rationally, or perceiving and in the end deciding in at least a well thought of manner.

squirbel's avatar

I believe some go through an arduous decision process, while others just snap. People differ in their thinking patterns and how quickly they make their decisions, so I strongly believe this concept of thought is strongly related.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think it can be both. I think some people do finally snap and just do whatever they can to end it, but I know that some others come up with a full plan and even start giving things away ahead of time.

josie's avatar

If someone kills themself, who else makes the decision? That’s the difference between suicide and murder.

squirbel's avatar

@josie I don’t think the question was “who” was doing the conscious thinking.

john65pennington's avatar

Personally, i think a lot of thought goes into committing suicide, before it actually occurs.

I was in National Guard with this man, who was my friend. he was an older person and everyone knew he was an alcoholic. he never discussed his personal life with any of his fellow guardsmen.

One Sunday afternoon, i was given a suicide call. as i arrived at the location, i thought i recognized an automobile sitting in the driveway of the call. as i walked into the front door, a woman met me and said her husband had just killed himself. i walked into the bedroom and saw my National Guard friend dead on the bed. a .38 cal. revolver was in his right hand. the smell of alochol was very strong. i noticed one bullit wound to his chest. i felt for a pulse. he was dead. his wife told me that he had been talking about suicide for two weeks. i wonder why she never called a doctor, the police or a family member? i will never know.

Yes, i was shocked, but i must admit that i was not surprised. at our last guard meeting, he showed signs of a depressed person. he would not talk to any of us. we tried.

Point here is this: to me, this was not a spur of the moment decision for my friend. he left behind all the important life insurance papers and burial policies in his auto with a note of explanation. he had planned his suicide for a long time.

Some suicidal people are planners, others are not.

filmfann's avatar

I think it is often an impulse, and not a thought out choice.

marinelife's avatar

I think it is a conscious decision. but one that is made from a bad state of mind.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think it can go either way but more often is carefully deliberated. And it often appears to be an act of rage rather than depression, although I have often heard it said that depression is usually the manifestation of repressed anger. It is often the ultimate “fuck you” or “I’ll show you.”

Also it seems once a member of a family or one person within a circle of friends does it, the act itself is no longer just an intellectual concept, it becomes a viable alternative to a situation. Often seems one will set off a series for just this reason.

Supacase's avatar

“Snap” implies a frenzied impulse to me. Instead, I think it is the desperate termination of a downward spiral. I guess I think of it more as a break than a snap. The thought may be conscious, but it is irrational simply because their mind is not functioning properly.

Those who plan it for terminal illness or other similar situations are an entirely different situation, IMO. They are making a rational decision with a clear mind.

@rooeytoo I recently learned from a Dr. in an inpatient psychiatric facility that there is a greater risk of suicide for family members of those who have committed suicide.

tranquilsea's avatar

It is a conscious decision and one that it obsessed over. It happens when your emotions are so painful and overwhelming that you can’t think of anything that may help alleviate them. It is not a rational decision though.

wundayatta's avatar

It is almost universally a conscious decision. It is something that people decide on gradually over a period of time, and then they spend time planning it. Even if it is a snap decision, it is still a conscious one. I mean, how could it not be conscious?

Perhaps you are asking whether it is a considered decision? Then for the most part yes, except for those who suddenly can’t take it any more and take a bunch of pills. Even then, it is an attempt to ask for someone to save them. They don’t know how to stop the pain and they don’t know how to ask for help, and that’s why most people who give up try suicide.

I know when I was considering it, I talked it over with one person in much depth, and a number of other people, including my therapist. I got closest to it one night in my house. But I didn’t get to the point of planning it, just to the point of trying to figure out an acceptable way to do it.

Believe it or not, it became a humorous thing, discussing it with the person I hoped would do it with me. That’s what saved us. It’s just so absurd to think of killing yourself, and then to sit around discussing how to do it. Makes existentialism look like a burlesque show.

hey—not a bad line, don’t you think?

Even people who make “snap” decisions have been working on it inside their heads for a long time. At least, almost all of them. In a few cases, like a financier who jumps out the window the day after his bank collapses, it’s not something he’s really thought about or talked to anyone about.

It’s interesting. Women try a lot more often, but men succeed more often. I wonder what that means.

Jeruba's avatar

I knew someone who planned it slowly, carefully, deliberately, and very intellectually and then carried out the plan.

She was an intelligent and highly educated woman, a Ph.D. with a high degree of expertise in her field. She was unable to find work in her field and chose not to follow another path.

BarnacleBill's avatar

There is also a genetic predisposition to suicide, which is interesting.

perspicacious's avatar

In some cases it is very deliberate and conscious; much planning ahead of time. Of these I am definitely aware. I do not know for sure if anyone carries through with it on a whim.

BarnacleBill's avatar

The analysis of no way out can be varied. For my father, it was a chronic dibilitating illness from which there would be no improvlement. For a friend’s son, it was the realization that at 20, he had screwed his life up so badly that he was looking at 20 years in prison. For a friend’s nephew, it was constantly being told that he was a major f#ck-up and would never amount to anything; he truly believed he was unlovable.

With my father, he talked about quality of life for months, and when he called that morning I knew he was going to do it. He sounded so sad, and was nicer to me than he had been in years. I don’t talk about it except to strangers; I don’t want my daughters to know. With the young man facing prison, he shot someone during a drug deal. He came from a very well-to-do family, and his father was a risk-taker, encouraging an above-the-law attitude. With the later, the parents had unrealistic expectations for their son. He was not terribly bright, and they pushed him to excel in ways that didn’t fit his temprament or ability. The dressing-down by his father took away any shred of self-worth he had left.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Okay, so if the majority of people believe that others plan out their suicides… How does someone decide, “Today is the day”? I guess that’s what I meant when I said “snapped”. Even if they have thought about killing themselves, and plan to do it, what makes them decide on a specific day?

I don’t know why I’m asking. I probably won’t be satisfied with answers, anyway. And I don’t mean that your answers haven’t been good or that I don’t appreciate them. But it’s just one of those things, I guess.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I think it’s different for each person, because the tipping point for what it takes to want to loosen your grip on life is different for each person. It could be one more big thing, it could be yet another of a series of little things, or it could just be the wearing grind of the burden.

Imagine yourself wrestling with a heavy backpack full of textbooks – 50 lbs of books. You get used to the weight of the backpack, and for a long time, you manage to get from point A to point B with the weight. But then people start handing your more things to carry, and the bus breaks down, and you have to walk 12 miles with the backpack. The pain in your knees and back is excruciating. But it never occurs to you to call for a ride, or to trash some of the stuff you’re carrying, or to just leave the whole backpack somewhere, because it’s been with you for so long.

I think the factor of genetic disposition to suicide is important, because it governs what you do with the burden, whether you keep carrying it, or say enough and get help, or whether you let it collapse you. If you’re not predisposed, the idea of getting help comes to you immediately. The temporariness of the situation is apparent, the idea that things can and will improve makes sense. However, some people just cannot see it being any way other than what it is.

Paradox's avatar

I think it depends on each person. I knew a happy-go-lucky guy I used to work with around 9 years ago and he was always in a great mood, always joking, always had a smile on his face, had a divorce but still with two kids that adored him and a caring girlfriend he was living with at the time. He got to see his kids on a regular basis. Everyone that knew him outside of work and from even being at his house never observed anything out of the ordinary. I remember telling him “Happy Thanksgiving” the Wednesday before the 4 day weekend we all had off and him telling me to have a nice holiday myself and he would catch me again on Monday. I come in Monday to learn that he blew his head off with his shotgun but his kids or girlfriend wern’t there at the time. Until this day even those closest to him don’t know why he did it. No notes or nothing.

I knew of others who showed clear signs like slitting their wrists, attempting overdoses on pills and outright threatening to kill themselves in front of other people to have a few of these people eventually follow through and finally kill themselves. No simple answers here, I think it depends on each persons individual circumstances, mindset and personality.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I think it can be either. I’ve known people that planned it out very carefully and others that did it on a whim, for lack of a better term.

kbugRN's avatar

i think people that have been suicidal for years and that may have created plans don’t act on them until there is a catalyst or to them the “last straw”. Or perhaps it was a matter of courage to complete the act of suicide and they finally found the courage. my aunt committed suicide, she had been battling depression for years.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@kbugRN Found the courage? Doesn’t it take more courage to confront the tough things in life and go on, rather than ending it and leaving others to deal with the results? Not judging, just asking.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t think courage has anything to do with it, either way. I think that once you are convinced that your depression will never end; that you can never get any relief; you start thinking about it. The longer you remain depressed, the more you think it will never end. At some point you can’t imagine living like this forever, and the suicidal thinking and planning start happening in earnest.

I think that the sudden suicides are probably due to some sudden pain that the person can’t imagine living with for the rest of their life.

I firmly believe that no one wants to commit suicide. They just see no other way of ending the pain they are in. Depression is physical. It feels like a crushing weight that never lets up. It is emotional. You know you are worse than nothing. Everybody hates you. You know this. You’re worthless, anyway.

You don’t want to commit suicide, but Jesus, if you hurt worse than any physical pain, and are worthless and no one else wants you alive (this has nothing to do with reality), and you finally get tired of feeling these things, you might opt to end the pain. Maybe it takes courage to want to live with incredible pain all the time, and maybe it’s stupid. Stupidity is often labeled courage when others benefit from it.

GladysMensch's avatar

I think the term depression is too often associated with sorrow. Clinically depressed people may feel sorrow, pain, worthlessness, or absolutely nothing at all. The one commonality is hopelessness; an inability to see any way out of your depression. And it’s the seemingly never-ending lack of hope that leads many to contemplate suicide. A clinically depressed person may be logical in all other aspects of their life. So, a meticulous person with depression will likely plan out the suicide as well. A more impulsive person my just do it without much advanced planning. Either way, I believe that no clinically depressed person does it without thinking about it beforehand.

cheebdragon's avatar

They must be conscious on some level, i don’t think many people have committed suicide while sleeping,(perhaps that would be considered an accident), but I’m going to research that now because that’s actually quite interesting.

everephebe's avatar

As someone with moderate/severe depression who has in the past committed suicide, (yes I was in fact medically dead for a short time), I’d like to say yes – it was a choice.


This was now almost five years ago, and I’m good, don’t worry about me other-fluthers. It had been bouncing around for years in my conscious and subconscious, and the decision was made in a clear state of mind, on a rather nice day actually. There weren’t other factors, I calmly researched the best methods and decided that cutting my wrists was lame, emo, and not going to work that well, so I took another option. I choose how, when, and why deliberately. Surprising? Well it shouldn’t be. Personally, I find this question to be stupid, but maybe I just mean offensive. It isn’t a choice between which hummus you get at the store, it’s a major life decision.

Yes, of course it’s a fucking conscious decision! You might snap one day and get a haircut, but not before thinking about it for a while before and then just doing it one day. Maybe you’re really spontaneous but I don’t think suicide is ever a truly spontaneous decision. It’s a pretty major deal. I mean you don’t accidentally aim a gun at your head and think, well what would it be like to be dead, hmmm let’s see, unless life really sucks for you. I don’t think this is a case of curiosity kills the cat.

While I am sure that some people “just snap” I doubt it takes place over one day. And while some people make snap choices, it usually is after a good deal of thought beforehand.

The real question is, are people who are medicated for depression making their own choices if they are chemically altered and decide to off themselves? The chemically altered question is much more valid, and drugs including alcohol can be the catalyst.

Another good question would be: Is life a conscious decision? Now that’s more like it.

everephebe's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe It takes courage to jump out of an airplane with a parachute right? Try doing so without one. That takes real courage.

Death the unknown country, one way ticket, no return.

What if you do believe in heaven and hell? Aren’t you risking hell? Courage. If you think that there is nothing, and there is no afterlife. That takes courage. This is a bold move, suicide. There’s an awful amount of personal risk in it.

It takes far less courage to “confront” the tough things in life and go on, everyone is capable of that. And yeah you might be leaving behind people but you don’t see it like that, you see it as sparing people the burden of you. Suicide can be a selfish thing, yes but it still takes courage. Courage that isn’t effectively being channeled into something actually productive.

It’s a shame really.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@everephebe My best friend committed suicide and the one year anniversary for that date is approaching quickly. God forbid people try to understand – especially those of us who have actually lost someone to suicide and managed to survive it.

I think your answer, not my question, is what is stupid and offensive.

Edit: I apologize, I suppose, for saying “fuck you”. I snapped when you called my question stupid and offensive without knowing why I was asking the question or where I was coming from.

everephebe's avatar

After reading this: “Oh, I feel silly for sending you a personal message just now.”

everephebe's avatar

I think “managing to survive” is truly an absurd victim mentality statement. Yes, someone you love made a bad choice, and it affects you massively. But they probably didn’t do it to affect you. They didn’t do it to you, I mean, their suicide. I am sorry you lost someone, I feel bad for you, but get over yourself. And forgive them when you can.

The reason I said I personally felt your question was stupid and offensive was that your questions seems to assume that people who are depressed have no choices. They do. Your friend made choice. Sorry that it hurts you so much. I’m sure they’d be sorry too.

Feel free to channel your anger at them, at me, all you want.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

It’s absurd? Absurd to love someone so much that it kills you when they’re gone? Get over myself? Get over yourself. Don’t talk to me about assuming anything, or like I don’t personally know what it’s like to be depressed. You also don’t need to tell me that my best friend didn’t do it to personally affect me – after all, I knew him, you didn’t.

Your statements are coming from a position where you’re trying to justify suicide. And you know what? I’m not going to argue with you about that particular stance, because I myself have done it, and even still do it sometimes. Would I call you stupid for it though, especially without knowing your personal history and feelings? No. Would I call you stupid for calling me stupid, especially not knowing where I was coming from? You’re damn right.

everephebe's avatar


I am not trying to justify suicide, but I thought you wanted people to explain it. I wouldn’t ever justify it, or condone it most cases.

No, it isn’t absurd to love someone so much that it “kills” you that they’re gone. But yes get over yourself, and over them, move on, life is still worth living. I don’t mean that in a mean way, I say that only in kindness, truly.

Your best friend probably didn’t do it out of spite towards you, and even if he did, it still wasn’t and isn’t your fault. A persons actions are their own. I am not saying that they have no recourse, or affect. I am saying the negative crap of it, isn’t yours to keep unless you want to. Keep the good stuff from your friend.

You’re right I don’t know him or you and I really am trying to assume nothing but that you want help answering this, unanswerable question of why.

At this point, and I hope you take no offense, I am going to recommend that you seek some form of counseling about this- find someone or people to talk to about this. I hope you understand that I am not trying to upset you or offend you, I’m just trying to help. If I’m not please choose to ignore me or let me know that I am not helping.

“I’m not going to argue with you about that particular stance, because I myself have done it, and even still do it sometimes.” Are you saying here you have attempted suicide yourself? If you have you should have some insight into this matter. And of course from the outside of it with your best friend.

This is a hard thing to understand. And you won’t get all the answers, but if you can find your own sense of peace about this, and life too, you’ll have it made. I don’t think everybody’s there yet, I’m not saying I have got it figured out certainly.

I want to be clear here, when I said your question was stupid, I didn’t mean to infer the you were. I am sorry that it came across this way. I hope you can accept this apology, and a GA for your trouble. I don’t know where you are coming from or what you want. I am coming from the position of trying to help answer you question. __When I say stupid question: I mean square peg doesn’t fit in round hole. I mean your question isn’t your real question.__

You’re right I don’t understand your situation. I was answering in a general fashion, with my first answer there. The only context I had was my personal one. I’m going to shut up now on this discussion, unless you or someone else explicitly asks me to comment. __I am at @DrasticDreamer your disposal (a carefully picked word) in personal messages on this topic on fluther.__

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@everephebe Forget it. I lashed out. It’s a bad time of year for me. I also apologize. And no, I haven’t attempted it. I meant I’d thought about it before.

wundayatta's avatar

For me, I think of suicide when my emotional pain is starting to mount. I know I’ve been through this thought process before, which means I know the choice I made before and why I made that choice and the consequences of that choice.

When I think about it now, I understand it as a sign of severe pain, but not as something I could actually do, even if I start thinking about how I would do it. I always come up with objections to the plan. At least, so far I have.

At this time of year, it’s easy to go after myself. Easy to feel like I fucked up and I will always fuck up and so what’s the point, really? Then I get into the worthlessness script. Then the idea that everyone would be better off without me. Finally the where to get a gun script.

Only I know it’s a sham. I know I’m indulging myself. I know it’s because I hurt so much and I can’t talk about it, except for one person, but it was my choice to stop talking to that person. I think. In the end, it’s just pain.

It feels like a months worth of pain each hour. Surviving one day seems like a miracle. But I’m at fault for bringing this pain on me. I’m ashamed. One more reason to consider it.

So round and round they go, chipmunks on a wheel, spinning off its axis. I talk to no one, hoping someone will figure it out. I think upside down and reverse, and the more I do that, the closer I get to thinking maybe I should put my money where my mouth is.

Pull that trigger (where? Work?) and consciousness (hopefully) will end and that will be that, and there will be nothing else, not even the knowledge of nothing else and it won’t matter what impact it will have on others. I won’t know. Ever. It’s the one-stop shop for all problems.

But life is a gift and once gone, you never get it back. It is an incredible gift, and didn’t you always say (talking to myself) that it was worth any amount of pain? Any amount? Maybe I was crazy when I said that. Maybe I’m crazy now. My psychiatrist always said to not make any major decisions while depressed. Just put them off for three months. It’s a trick. But it works. It gives you an excuse not to act, because you always could act in three months, if you still want to. Of course, I have violated that rule and only made things worse. But just like with death, in life there are no do-overs.

I’m definitely depressed. I don’t even want help. My wife is worried. I’ve not been sleeping. I must want to be like this since I’m not doing anything about it. But it’s my choice which means I don’t deserve help, either. Oh goody. No one better try because I’ll fight them off. Oh shit. Asking for attention by saying you won’t take it? Old trick. Haven’t learned to stop it yet.


Anyway, that’s how it goes. At least with me. I can tie myself up in mental knots. It’s definitely a conscious thing. I kind of suspect it must be for everyone. I think the thinking of someone thinking about suicide is seriously out of whack, whatever that means. But everyone knows that. What is difficult is understanding how you get there—from the point where the pain becomes overwhelming to the point where you actually have the implement to do it with.

What is the difference between someone who does it and someone who doesn’t? What’s that final little push over the hump to where you become eager to have it be over? Why is it so hard to turn it around and go back home. All it takes is one little thought. One little thought either way. You could be happy in the next hour. You could be dead.

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