I’m still moved by Vice President Joe Biden’s speech from just before Memorial Day weekend, during which he shared with all of us just how close he had come to taking his own life.
In commentary a few days later, Washington Post opinion writer Michael Gerson praised Biden’s display of empathy, the ability to identify others’ emotions.
That same weekend, I read a piece about psychological autopsies, a process that seeks to explain what happened in the days before a person died by suicide. Psychological autopsy interviews are conducted with family members and friends of the person who has died in order to, as this piece said, “reconstruct the mental state” of the person who has died.
This paragraph caught my eye:
“The suicides of women were largely portrayed in medical terms, as being so weakened by negative experiences that they were unable to prevent a decline into mental illness. The suicides of men, on the other hand, were barely ever described in terms of mental disorder. Male suicide was typically described either as the end result of having ‘gone off the rails,’ a self-directed descent into antisocial behaviour, or as a ‘heroic’ action, demonstrating a final defiant act against an unjust world.”