Because the only witness who knows everything about what happened is not available for interview. Think about it.
What we know about any suicide is by inference – in other words we’ve guessed at it. But even so we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
I don’t go with our influential French friend Emile Durkheim (1897/1952) from over a century ago. He reckoned that suicide was society’s fault. That’s where we get the nonsense of suicide rates from. Durkheim called them social suicide rates. Even though he knew every suicide was beyond complex, he wanted to look at the big picture. Durkheim concentrated, as sociology does, on placing suicidal events in a social context (Worsley et al., 1975: 20).
My interest is in an 'intensive psychological analysis of the suicidal mind' (Shneidman, 2004) that directed each victim's self-destruction. In other words, to investigate the facts that may shed light upon the unique pathway taken by each person who chooses deliberately and intentionally to kill her/himself, and who is accordingly responsible for their own death. For only in trying to understand, even to empathise with, the deceased's intense psychological pain [or psychache] can we begin to examine what if anything might have been done, by the person or by others, to save her/his tortured life.
I’m for individual responsibility – first for myself, then family, and then for my neighbour regardless of class, age, faith, status, man, woman or child.
So what else should we do about the complexity of suicide?
We should try to do better than guesswork.
Who should do it?
By education, by study, by research, by trying to understand.
At home. At school. At college. At university. In the community.
Above all, whenever we can, we should try to be compassionate towards folks bereaved by suicide.
Durkheim, E. (1897/1952) On suicide. London:Routledge
Shneidman, E.S.(2004) Autopsy of a Suicidal Mind. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.
Worsley, P., Fitzhenry, R., Clyde Mitchell, J., Morgan, D.H.J., Pons, V., Roberts, B.,Sharrock, W.W. and Ward, R. (1975) Introducing Sociology. Harmondsworth, Middx : Penguin Books Ltd.
Philip O’Keeffe PhD MSc Reg MBACP (Accred)©2018