What are your thoughts on suicide?

A local farmer committed suicide recently and the news has caused me to consider the cultural shift in the American (Catholic) Church’s response to suicide.

I’ve heard (no references) that suicide was once taught to be a mortal sin, not just because it violates the Fifth Commandment, but also to deter others from considering it as an escape to suffering. I was told suicide occurred so much, somebody in the Church’s hierarchy deemed it a mortal sin to deter others from considering it (fear of hell is one good way to stop terrible actions).

Now, we’re very aware Catholics and many others no longer fear or maybe even don’t believe in hell. None of us want to hear someone who committed suicide is doomed to hell because the thought causes anguish for the living family and friends. We promote celebrations remembering a person’s life to combat the sorrow and pain of death and are often angered when one refers to the suicidal as going to hell.

What are your thoughts? I see the validity of both sides regarding suicide and hell: alleviating continued suffering for the living vs deterrent for the suicidal.

Someone who is driven to suicide definitely has mental issues going on so they may not be in full control of their actions. We can’t judge only God can.

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Suicide is a mortal sin (CCC 2280-2283, also see the Catechism of Trent on it, both put it under a sin against the 5th commandment). But whether someone is damned for it, only Christ knows. The CCC passage also says this:

[2283] We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

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I think we’ve learned much about suicide in the past several years. It was never talked about before, people kind of whispered, kept it quiet, etc. Now, we know that it can be the result of a mental illness such as depression. We also know the three requirements for mortal sin. My thought is to trust the soul to God and pray for all affected by such a tragedy.

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I can say that the understanding that one does not have the right to take one’s own life any more than one has the right to take anyone else’s life can help a person to resist even entertaining the thought of making a suicide attempt. A moral code can help a person to reject that as a possibility.

I can also say that this response to depression falls into the category that I call “flying on instruments.” In other words, a person who has suicidal ideation that comes from depression would be going against their deep emotional sense of the situation in order to follow what they intellectually know to be the right course of action. To resist the impulse to commit suicide because of the belief that it is a mortal sin can require a profound act of faith: that is, the person consenting to the sanctity of his or her own life doesn’t “see” it and yet can feel at the same time that no one else knows what they are convinced is their lack of worth.

I think people ought to be taught to regard thoughts of suicide as they do other serious symptoms, such as the feeling that you have the worst headache of your life or that an elephant is sitting on your chest. When you start thinking like that, you ought to know it is not just a moral question but also a medical condition. You ought to have the sense that you have a responsibility to seek help to protect yourself, just as you’d feel responsible to seek help for anyone else whose life is in danger, even if you didn’t think much of them.

“Flying on instruments”–that is, acting according to principles when your emotions are against your own self-preservation–is exhausting. I can hardly overstate how exhausting it is, yet I can say that a person can be that emotionally exhausted and not think it is as unusual as it is. It is very hard to explain.

By the way, the suicide rate in rural areas is going up at an alarming rate. The suicide rate of farmers in the United States is currently twice that of military veterans. Farming, fishing and forestry workers have the highest rates of any occupation.

People working in forestry and fishing also have high rates of suicide, both those who are independent or “management” or “owner” level and those who are employees on farms, fishing boats and in the forests. (Those groups are separated when doing the statistics, so it makes the numbers a bit murkier.)

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My understanding is that somebody who suicides, might not necessarily end up in Hell, there are some mitigating factors which could diminish the guilt (e.g. excruciating pain, mental disorder, etc), although it might not completely mean free from guilt.

I’ve tend to see it as a very negative thing, because God gave us Life and by committing suicide we are basically saying to God, we do not want what you gave me. Of course it is not charitable to say to friends and family of someone who suicides that he might end up in Hell, but it is still a possibility, because after all by taking our own life we are also going against God.

It also means the person doing something like that, willfully, basically has no hope whatsoever, and it is also seen as the “easy” choice to make to deal with our problems. However, reading at the life of Saints, you would hardly meet people who most of the time where so joyful and full of energy, despite dealing with the same issues as most of us do. Clearly they had found God, and if you truly have him, despite also encountering hardships, you will be able to overcome them and live joyfully even if things do not always go your way.

St. Francis de Sales said that “A sad saint would be a sorry saint.” Doing good and God’s will is the only thing that will give us true peace and happiness both on Earth and once we reach Heaven.

However, too often money, power, lust, gluttony, fame, pride and self-interests take over our life and we believe those things will bring us peace and happiness, but they cannot, they’ll just leave you empty at the end.

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This is rational thinking. Suicidal ideation is not rational. Someone with depression can develop a warped sense of not just their self-worth but an irrational sense of their existence placing only a burden and a hardshop on those they love. They can see themselves as utterly unlovable by anyone, even by God, and unworthy of continuing existence. They lose their understanding that they contribute anything positive to anybody. They can come to believe that their eternal destination has to be doom and failure, no matter what they do, and an end to their life just being bringing about the inevitable.

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My take on suicide is that I agree with someone (I wish I could remember his name) who wrote some years ago that it is the ultimate irrational act. This would require some further study, but if suicide is irrational, then it should probably be removed from the list of mortal sins. If suicide is irrational, then the victim is not in control of his/her decisions, and that removes one of the three legs of the mortal-sin stool.

D

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I think the word you’re looking for here is grave sin. Not mortal – which requires a subjective analysis – but grave (which can be either mortal or venial).

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People can commit suicide for reasons that are spiteful, impulsive, defiant, or with motives other than irrational depression. They can have a callous disregard for their own lives just as a murderer can have a callous disregard for the life of another, without being depressed.

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This is such a good point! And I wonder if the traditional view of Catholics socially toward what they called at the time mortal sin might not have acted as such a brake, since people would understand it as a temptation to be fought against (along with a number of other things).

Not saying that therapy is not needed, but that seeing certain thoughts as sinful, taking sin seriously, and believing that “most” people go to Hell would perhaps cause people to take action.

Wow, the rate of suicide among vets is at an all-time high (I think), and yet the suicide rates of people in the country is higher? Altho it is very hard in general and these days has particular problens.

We are? :thinking:
We pray for the dead…for their souls, not their method of demise.

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@DaveBj

In one of the older threads about suicide, one poster commented that in Rome at the time of the early Church, many people would commit suicide as a matter of honor, as did the Japanese military men if they failed.

Now in Western society, we do not really have those particular social pressures to commit suicide, so often suicide is a result of depression or other serious difficulty.

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And don’t forget the rise in state sanctioned euthanasia…

Unless we have been in their shoes and gone through what they have gone through I will never judge someone in that frame of mind. To get to that point a person has to be very desperate and truly not thinking clearly and may even forget their faith.

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I did have a temporary condition which doctors were fearing was an incredibly painful permanent condition.

I totally understood why some who had the permanent condition would kill themselves. I had the grace of God, but if they didn’t have that help… the pain was extreme.

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Suicide rates among adults are going up generally in the United States, but especially in rural counties.

https://www.psychcongress.com/article/rural-america-hit-hard-recent-increase-suicide-rates

I am very close with someone who is suicidal. He was in the hospital last Thanksgiving for it and was getting pretty close to it again this Thanksgiving. There really is a LOT going on in their mind that isn’t rational and their pain is really deep. I in no way will judge them for something going on in the brains that distorts their perception of reality.

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Yes those who don’t have Faith or who do but are in a very bad place of despair can only be judged by God. They may be going through their own dark night of the soul and if they don’t know to turn to God they may do the only thing they feel they can. What is so sad are the loved ones left behind. For them there is very seldom closure and always the thought “why”.

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Absolutely. God can see into their hearts and understands more fully than any human understanding each iota of where the person was at that time.

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