To be perfectly clear, before we start, I am not suicidal. This is just a thinky. Not a secret cry for help or anything. I am not now, nor have I ever been suicidal. I chose the least alarming title I could think of, but this is a 'hot' topic, so I'm just trying to clear that up from the start.
I also feel the need to add that, especially in the comments on Lisa's post, there is discussion of methods of committing suicide, and well, I need people to be responsible about their own triggers and issues. Do *not* read if any of this is going to upset you. No one is advocating suicide, but there is frank discussion of it.
So, on a far more serious point than my last post...
Lisa's post on the anniversary of her Grandmother's death brought the topic up, and there was a little, let's call it a kerfuffle over there about whether or not all suicide, in Islam, was automatically a one way ticket to hellfire. Someone seemed to say that it was, others argued against it, a little back and forth. To be honest I'm not sure where the final word came down over there, or even if it has. It *seems* that the majority of opinion over there believes that mental illness, diminished capacity, etc. removes some degree of responsibility/culpability for a persons actions, including suicide. Seeing as how I am not Muslim, it's not of burning importance to me.
What do I think?
Well, suicide is, according to the dictionary - 1) the intentional taking of ones own life, 3) a person who intentionally takes their own life - also known as self-annihilation, self-destruction, self-murder.
I mean, it's a fairly simple term, on the face of it. Suicide is killing ones self. Self-murder. Methods vary, I mean, we're a very creative race. If a thing can be done, a determined person will find a way to do it. Murder, very, very basically, can be defined as the intentional killing of a human being by a human being. In a sense, killing yourself is committing murder, hence the term 'self-murder'. And, murder is an acknowledged evil.
It's condemned in the Bible - Wilful murder was distinguished from accidental homicide, and was invariably visited with capital punishment (Num. 35:16, 18, 21, 31; Lev. 24:17). This law in its principle is founded on the fact of man's having been made in the likeness of God (Gen. 9:5, 6; John 8:44; 1 John 3:12, 15). The Mosaic law prohibited any compensation for murder or the reprieve of the murderer (Ex. 21:12, 14; Deut. 19:11, 13; 2 Sam. 17:25; 20:10). Two witnesses were required in any capital case (Num. 35:19-30; Deut. 17:6-12). If the murderer could not be discovered, the city nearest the scene of the murder was required to make expiation for the crime committed (Deut. 21:1-9). But, I think that the underlying concept for this condemnation was always that the murderer was of sound mind and body. No, the ancients may not have defined it that way, and they really didn't have a very good way of determining who was a psychopath, sociopath, what have you. Their best bet was to kill anyone who was found guilty of murder. They didn't really have a concept of mental illness, as we do today. People were 'possessed'.
Okay, so what does the Catechism say about suicide? I reference the Catechism because I'm Catholic, so your mileage will vary.
2280 - Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for His honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
2281 - Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends the love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
2282 - If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
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.
Emphasis mine, above. So, I read, from this, that those suffering from a mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia, or of diminished mental capacity for one reason or another (drugged/drunk person jumping from a bridge, comes to mind), is held *less* responsible for their actions than one who is in full control. Also, for example, those who jumped from the Twin Towers. Did they, *technically* take their own lives? I'd say yes. Were they under stresses and strains that no one else understands? Most definitely. They had an untenable choice. Die by fire, smoke, explosion, building collapse, or jump. I cannot imagine what I would do in that situation, and neither can anyone else. Can we justifiably also say that they were murdered? Of course we can. They would never have been in that position but for the actions of the hijackers, who are nothing more than murderers.
Now, how can you tell if a person is diminished at the time they killed themselves? Unless they have a history of suicide attempts, depression, other mental illness, I think it's almost impossible. So, I believe we must make the assumption that all suicides are acting under a certain level of diminished mental responsibility, and therefore condemning them for their manner of death is unkind and unwarranted.
The end point is, as with everyone else, we *do not know* the final state of their soul. And making assumptions just burdens us with the illusion that we do know something that we have no knowledge of.
So, I say, we mourn them like everyone else, we pray for them, and we leave the rest to God. He, as always, knows best.
And, though it may be hard, even impossible, we have to do the best to not condemn ourselves for 'not seeing it', not saying 'just the right thing', not 'getting them help'. No one, on seeing a friend or loved one in pain, does anything but their utmost to help. Unfortunately, sometimes the illness is stronger than us. Sometimes, there are no signs. Sometimes, there's nothing to be done. And we need to forgive ourselves for that. For being helpless, because you have to know that you tried. If you could have saved them, you would have.