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A useful survey of attitudes towards suicide from the stoics in Ancient Greece to twentieth century existentialists, Stay does not make a compelling case for an "adamant prohibition" against suicide or an argument that is likely to "nudge" desperate individuals to bet on their future selves. Read More

I have to wonder if Hecht has

I have to wonder if Hecht has actually been suicidal. As someone who has been, I don't get the impression she truly understands the agony that goes through the mind of a suicidal person. While I ended up not taking my life, and have found medications that make me functional and more or less happy, not everyone does. If I did not have these medications, or if something happened and I could no longer have access to them, there is nothing Hecht or anyone else could say that would change my mind. The kind of torment that goes on in the mind of a suicidal person can not be rationalized or talked away anymore than you can talk away diabetes or heart disease. And while a person may say they are not referring to suicide of the mentally ill, the only people I've personally known who committed suicide were depressed to the point of being considered mentally ill. I would be curious to find out data on how many people who committed suicide were diagnosed as mentally ill, and how many showed symptoms of it but were not diagnosed. It is hard for me to imagine a mentally healthy person making the choice to commit suicide. But if there were data to back it up, I guess I would have no choice but to consider it then.

Encyclopedic solutions

The trouble with whacking blindly through history with a machete is that one seldom has the skill or intelligence necessary to wield the tool in such a way as to accomplish anything.

Here is the fatal conundrum: we die whether we will or no. The question is of a choice between an active or a passive approach. Given enough pages, Hecht could have thrown in the opinions of Thomas Aquinas and Barbara Bush and Rush Limbaugh, one supposes, and still ended up with nothing to say.

The fact is society doesn't like it when people do things on their own. It is the nature of society to want to control, and the nature of the psychologist to want to manipulate, the will of the individual.

I happen not to be interested in suicide for myself, and I am not much interested in what psychologists--or philosophers--or English majors, for that matter--think or have thought about suicide. But it does interest me that "intervention" seems so necessary. We go through the same garbage cans every Christmas, watching as if it were holy writ It's a Wonderful Life and sixty-seven different versions of A Christmas Carol. Let's talk about Bruno Bettelheim's ultimate personal decision instead: he always seemed to me from his writings a very life-affirming individual, as thank God from what I have subsequently read I never knew him in person. Maybe, after all, the individual will choose to act, and it will prove to have been NO ONE ELSE'S BUSINESS. Although undoubtedly it will continue to be the subject of the doctoral dissertation of countless future pseudchologists.

Yes

Douglas, I loved your comment.

I currently am not interested in suicide either, but, remembering my feelings years ago while suffering depression - I would never rule it out as a future viable option. I get why people do it.

The optimal in living a high quality of life, for me, is the freedom to decide when enough is enough.

Options

Although it is empowering to have one's comments loved, I must admit that to some my immediate response might seem callous, and anyone might reasonably say "Oh, who would NOT want to intervene?" And on an individual basis one can hardly avoid doing so--as social animals, we really don't want others to be unhappy, and suicide is usually a sign of unhappiness in some dimension.

My real concern is that too many books are being published for no good reason, that they are then being reviewed for no good reason (although Dr. Altschuler seems to seems to have taken the pulse of this one and diagnosed it correctly, he is horribly polite in his manner condemning it as another crack-brain tree-sacrificing production headed for the remainders table of yet another formerly nominally respectable university press), and that both books and reviews are being read for no good reason. If it be true that time is money, there are plenty of ways for modern man--and woman--to waste time and money, and these are of them. It is long overdue in my opinion that this harvest of 100% chaff get burned rather than winnowed. Come down hard the first time, and perhaps even a sentimental English professor could learn a thing or two--at least not to do it again. Or perhaps not. One might well say in this case as well, "The optimal in living a high quality of life, for me, is the freedom to decide when enough is enough." And for me, another "useful survey" is more than enough.

Options

Although it is empowering to have one's comments loved, I must admit that to some my immediate response might seem callous, and anyone might reasonably say "Oh, who would NOT want to intervene?" And on an individual basis one can hardly avoid doing so--as social animals, we really don't want others to be unhappy, and suicide is usually a sign of unhappiness in some dimension.

My real concern is that too many books are being published for no good reason, that they are then being reviewed for no good reason (although Dr. Altschuler seems to have taken the pulse of this one and diagnosed it correctly, he is horribly polite in his manner of condemning it, as it should be identified forthrightly as another crack-brain tree-sacrificing production headed for the remainders table of yet another formerly nominally respectable university press), and that both books and reviews are then being read for no good reason. If it be true that time is money, there are plenty of ways for modern man--and woman--to waste time and money, and these are of them. It is long overdue in my opinion that this harvest of 100% chaff get burned rather than winnowed. Come down hard the first time, and perhaps even a sentimental English professor could learn a thing or two--at least not to do it again. Or perhaps not. One might well say in this case as well, "The optimal in living a high quality of life, for me, is the freedom to decide when enough is enough." And for me, another "useful survey" is more than enough.

Options

Although it is empowering to have one's comments loved, I must admit that to some my immediate response might seem callous, and anyone might reasonably say "Oh, who would NOT want to intervene?" And on an individual basis one can hardly avoid doing so--as social animals, we really don't want others to be unhappy, and suicide is usually a sign of unhappiness in some dimension.

My real concern is that too many books are being published for no good reason, that they are then being reviewed for no good reason (although Dr. Altschuler seems to have taken the pulse of this one and diagnosed it correctly, he is horribly polite in his manner of condemning it, as it should be identified forthrightly as another crack-brain tree-sacrificing production headed for the remainders table of yet another formerly nominally respectable university press), and that both books and reviews are then being read for no good reason. If it be true that time is money, there are plenty of ways for modern man--and woman--to waste time and money, and these are of them. It is long overdue in my opinion that this harvest of 100% chaff get burned rather than winnowed. Come down hard the first time, and perhaps even a sentimental English professor could learn a thing or two--at least not to do it again. Or perhaps not. One might well say in this case as well, "The optimal in living a high quality of life, for me, is the freedom to decide when enough is enough." And for me, another "useful survey" is more than enough.

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Glenn C. Altschuler, Ph.D., is the Dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, and The Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University.

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