General Question

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

If a person you didn't know told you they're killing themselves today would you try to stop them?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38935points) May 2nd, 2009

what are the reasons you would have for doing so? or would you not try to stop them? please don’t turn this into a ‘suicide is selfish’ spiel, as all of us are selfish at one point or another and therefore you’re no one’s judge…also i don’t believe in sin so this isn’t the time to discuss that either…the reason why I’m using a stranger instead of a loved one is so that that ‘because i love them’ is not a reason for you trying to talk them out of suicide…

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36 Answers

crisw's avatar

I think a lot of it would depend on the reasons that the person gave for this decision. There’s a difference between a suicidal teen mourning the loss of a boyfriend and an 85 year old man in constant pain from terminal cancer.

Dog's avatar

Yes- absolutely. Suicide is too permanent and is a last resort thus I would try to stop them to ensure that they were not being impulsive and that they had indeed exhausted all possible medical and emotional resources.

@crisw- I completely agree regarding those facing chronic pain or terminal illness.

wildflower's avatar

I would encourage them to consider alternatives, suggest it may not be the answer and alert the appropriate authorities.
That sounds cold, I know, but I do not want to get caught in the path of someone’s suicidal behavior (again).

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

It would depend on how much I believed they would actually do it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater
you’d have no idea if they’d do it
just that they might

augustlan's avatar

Assuming the individual is suicidal due to depression rather than terminal illness, I would absolutely try to talk them out of it. I’ve been there, too many times, and I know with all my heart: No matter how bad it is, it will always get better. Always. Wouldn’t you want to be here when it does?

Supacase's avatar

Yes, I would make an effort. Their reasons may prevail, but if I didn’t talk to them I would never know why they wanted to do it. This makes me the selfish one, but I would feel terrible thinking I may have been able to save someone but didn’t bother to take the time. I don’t want/need that on my conscience.

3or4monsters's avatar

My first inclination was to say, “Absolutely, it would be the least I could do for a stranger” but @crisw makes a good point about terminal illness.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir It would also depend on how they were telling me. Is it online? If I know how to stop them physically I would need to know at least something about them.. where they lived… something. If it’s just by talking them out of it.. of course I would.

If I really thought they were going to do it and did absolutely nothing.. that’s just pathetic and inhumane. Life is the best gift we’ve ever been given.. the best we’ll ever receive.

cak's avatar

Yes, I would try to talk them out of it – I would hope by talking , just continuing to talk, it would help.

On Askville yes, the dreaded other sight, there were a few times when people would mention suicide, two that the person said they were going to end their life. One of those times was late night and several of us continued to talk and talk and talk to the person. We posted the Suicide Hotline number, we tried to contact the “team” and ask for their help what a joke!, we tried figuring out where the person lived (state, county…something). None of it really worked, but the person came back the next day and said they she had sleep it off – she had a very bad night (suffers from clinical depression) and had taken a bad combination of things.

Whether or not you know whether the person means it or not – I think you have to do something. I think you have to try. I just can’t think of not doing something. It’s a human life and someone that needs help. Sure, it might be the “cry for help,” but damn. If that is what it is, them try to get them help.

I would do the same, in real life…along with a ride to the hospital, or an ambulance call. My family has gone through a suicide. There are so many unanswered questions. There are so many emotions. It’s so difficult. More often than not, there is no “note.” So the ones left behind – well, you’re left with questions. I’ve had that thought, before and not just a passing thought. Someone helped me, I could never turn my back on another person.

electricsky's avatar

It depends. I believe suicide should be a right, and that if someone feels that they can no longer live, then they should be able to kill themselves without anyone trying to talk them out of it or make them feel guilty for it. However, if it was over something that would end up being insignificant in the future, then I would try to at least make them wait a little while.

cwilbur's avatar

If I didn’t know them at all—such as, for instance, a person I didn’t know sending me a private message here on Fluther that he was going to commit suicide? I’d probably reply, suggesting that he talk to the Samaritans or some other counselor, but I wouldn’t invest too much more into it because there’s really nothing I can do to stop it, or really even to distinguish a truly suicidal person from someone playing a cruel prank.

Triiiple's avatar

Id tell them “it will get better” but thats it, if hes DEAD set on killing himself, let em.

dynamicduo's avatar

I would not try to talk them out of it. I have no obligations to that person, nor do I really care if they remain alive or dead. Then again, I would also not help them with their task. I guess you could say I would remain neutral.

justwannaknow's avatar

It would be the moral thing to do something even if all it was, was notifing the police.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@justwannaknow
why would it be a moral thing to do?

justwannaknow's avatar

We are all brothers and sisters on this planet and should look out for each other.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@justwannaknow
that’s just one view
i’m sure many people don’t hold that view
but thank you for giving me a reason, i appreciate it

cwilbur's avatar

If I knew enough about the person to call the police, sure. But remember, we’re talking about a stranger online. What am I supposed to do, call 911 and say that someone I’m talking to online—no, I don’t know his or her real name, no, I don’t know where he or she lives, yes, he or she could be anywhere in the world—is threatening to kill himself or herself?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@cwilbur
it doesn’t have to be a stranger online
what if they were sitting next to you on the train?

mattbrowne's avatar

Of course I would. Strangers are human beings. They need help and should get all the help there is. Professional help which I can’t provide. Maybe a simple phone call could be the first step, e.g.

http://suicidehotlines.com

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@mattbrowne
but what if the person you think is a human being shouldn’t really live at all
you don’t know anything about them
i’m just trying to be devil’s advocate here

cak's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I’m just curious about your statement – “really shouldn’t live at all.” Because I’m interested in this conversation and realize that you are just taking on the devil’s advocate role, I just want to understand what you mean.

Is it that they might be sick? Really depressed? Or, a bad person in life?

again, not picking an argument – just curious!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@cak
does it matter which it is?
I suppose I meant the latest one

casheroo's avatar

I would get them the help they need. (we’re talking mental illness, correct?)
I would either take them to an ER to get evaluated, or tell the persons family.
If it’s someone who is very elderly, then it’d be different. I believe in letting people who are physically sick to choose when they want to let go.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@casheroo
hmm, i don’t know
i certainly wasn’t talking about mental illness
why do you think everyone that’s suicidal has a mental illness

casheroo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Because when a person wants to kill themselves, I believe something is wrong with them, that they aren’t wired properly. They may be depressed and cannot cope with the depression and feel that suicide is the only way out. Or they just have really bad coping skills in general.
I see you mention people who are bad people…I don’t think it should make a difference if they’re a bad person or not. Suicide isn’t the right route.

But, I am for assisted suicide for the sick.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I have been told (barring a terminal illness) that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I think that is an apt analogy, and I would use that as I tried to convince them that suicide isn’t the best response to life’s little tragedies.

Nimis's avatar

I think I would try to gauge why the person was telling me.
Are they asking for help or is it merely a statement of fact?

If they were asking for help, I would alert the proper authorities.
I don’t think I’d be the most qualified person to be dealing with this.

If it is merely a statement of fact.
Meaning they’re rather at peace with their decision
and they seem to be making this decision with a sound mind;
I’d try to keep them company and/or help them find
whatever it is they’re looking for in their remaining time.

In this situation, the company of another human being
is probably more beneficial than a professional.

cak's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – Well, kinda – if I was going to reply. I was just finding it interesting and also appreciating the devil’s advocate point of view.

I must admit, if I knew someone was a repeat offender – let’s say child molester, I wouldn’t rush to his or her side to prevent them from killing themselves; however, that puts me in a position of being judge, jury and executioner – (accessory, at least). That part would be a huge struggle for me.

cwilbur's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: my investment in a person sitting next to me on the train would probably end at recommending to them that they get counseling, and getting them to a transit policeman.

This is someone I don’t know—it’s part of the premise. I have no way of evaluating whether the person really means it or whether getting a stranger on a train to overreact is how he gets his jollies. If he’s telling me as part of a cry for help, I’ll shove him in the right direction, but his life is his life.

wundayatta's avatar

If I’m driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, and I see someone on the railing and it looks like they’re gonna jump, then I’d like to think I would stop and try to talk them down.

Once when I was coming back from a therapy appointment—this was back when I had just been diagnosed and was really pretty depressed still—I saw a bunch of papers (business size) strewn around on the street, and a number of people standing around looking up. I looked up, and I think I saw an open window with someone looking out of it. I don’t know if I remember this correctly, but I think some guy yelled “Do it!” Maybe someone else copied him.

It was too much for me, so I hurried down the subway entrance. It was too hard thinking about this person jumping, if that was what they were going to do. It was too hard because that was what I thought about far too much. Even now, it’s hard for me to remember. I remember thinking that maybe it was a student who was under too much pressure. The papers reminded me of notes, although I didn’t get a close look at them.

I don’t really think this is an analogous situation. Maybe I could have waded in and tried to make the jerks understand what they were doing. But there was no way to talk to the guy that far up. Maybe I could have said, “Hold on, buddy, I’m gonna join you.” No. I might have thought that, but I would never have said that.

I don’t know. In the end, I think it would depend on so many things—was I feeling strong or weak; was I in a hurry; whether I saw what I thought I saw. If I was next to someone on the train, I certainly would try to help them. I always do that. But if they were about to do it, I don’t know if I could take the responsibility. If they succeeded, I would feel so guilty, I don’t know if I could stand it. And the image of them jumping, or whatever, would burn in my mind forever.

Although, come to think of it, if someone announces they are going to do it, then they don’t really want to. They just want help. If you really want to do it, you do it in private.

augustlan's avatar

@daloon Agreed. Announcing it is a call for help. However, if they don’t get it, that fact alone could be what pushes them over the edge from thought to action.

wundayatta's avatar

@augustlan: I agree. That’s why it’s important to respond to people who announce it.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – Why not encourage them to talk to a professional first? Worst case the suicide gets delayed. But some might reconsider. I think the hotlines are a great idea.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I have no problem with either of those things
as I said I just wanted to know why people would stop other people from suicide

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