Event Theme: Suicide

Question: How do we think about self-determination?

Theme readings:

From: National Institute of Mental Health

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk for suicide. But people most at risk tend to share certain characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Incarceration, being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or media figures.

The risk for suicidal behavior is complex. Research suggests that people who attempt suicide differ from others in many aspects of how they think, react to events, and make decisions … These differences often occur along with disorders like depression, substance use, anxiety, and psychosis. Sometimes suicidal behavior is triggered by events such as personal loss or violence. In order to be able to detect those at risk and prevent suicide, it is crucial that we understand the role of both long-term factors—such as experiences in childhood—and more immediate factors like mental health and recent life events … Many people have some of these risk factors but do not attempt suicide.

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From: Psychology Today

Suicide is a tragic event with strong emotional repercussions for its survivors and for families of its victims. More than 36,000 people in the U.S. kill themselves every year, according to a 2010 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although most federally-funded suicide prevention programs focus on helping teenagers, recent years have seen a spike in rates among middle-aged people. Men seem to be especially at risk, and have nearly four times the suicide rate as women. There are also major disparities amongst ethnic and racial groups, with American Indian and Alaskan Natives being the highest risk groups.

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From: Santa Clara University, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Assisted Suicide: A Right or a Wrong?

Supporters of legislation legalizing assisted suicide claim that all persons have a moral right to choose freely what they will do with their lives as long as they inflict no harm on others. This right of free choice includes the right to end one’s life when we choose. For most people, the right to end one’s life is a right they can easily exercise But there are many who want to die, but whose disease, handicap, or condition renders them unable to end their lives in a dignified manner. When such people ask for assistance in exercising their right to die, their wishes should be respected.
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