“Suicide,” goes the popular expression, “is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
While the question, “Is suicide ever a rational choice?” comes up frequently.
The ethical question boils down to this:
Is this state of despair, temporary or permanent?
There can be times when suicide is rational. It is a decision made under free will. In the absence of any diagnozable mental illness it is attempted with full appreciation for the potential consequences.
When someone is facing a painful terminal condition, self -destruction might become a rational thinking. We can agree that a person suffering from such condition, begin to think of ways to end that awful pain.
Does existence of rational suicide make it right?
Arguments against rational suicide states that our bodies and lives do not belong to us. This does not really convince philosophers or the broad public. Scientific assumption that all suicide is due to mental illness is unproven.
The fact is we do not understand suicide very well. We really don’t know why people take their own lives, unless they express their intentions. We also don’t know how to stop them.
When others examine the alleged ‘reasons’ for an irrational suicide, they usually do not agree that death was the best option. For instance, people who want to kill themselves because of the collapse of ‘love’ are temporarily out of touch with reality. They falsely believe their lives are over because someone has rejected them.
Yet, in the popular discourse, suicide remains undoubtedly linked with psychological faults. The concept of self-destruction feels inherently disturbing to people who haven’t experienced it. Also because adding the language of diagnosis often helps us feel like we are solving problems.
And as a statement of the bleeding obvious, we all are born with a right to die. And it that cannot be infringed. Only the suffering associated with our dying can be changed.
Measure all the happiness a life might contain. Discount it by the cost of achieving that happiness. And if the net present joy of living is less than zero, suicide could seem to be a viable option. Well, that’s a very “Economist” way of calculating the value of a life, the same way we value companies.
But is it true that suicide is an economic boon?
Once you attempt to end yourself, you suddenly have access to lots of resources. Medical care, psychiatric attention, familial love and concern—that were previously expensive or unavailable. I.e., the supply to your demands increases.
Studies have demonstrated that psychological and familial resources become “cheaper” after a suicide attempt. It is difficult to find free medical care when you are sad. But once you try to kill yourself, it is forced on you.
On the flip side, you most certainly might be considered weak and highly undependable when people know you had attempted to self-harm yourself. On a long run, you could end up being looked down upon and might not get the due credits you deserve for your achievements. Hence attempting suicide for mere attention will likely have it’s own costs that you ought to pay.
Economics of suicide
Getting back on the basic principle of economics, it assumes that humans are rational beings.
But ironically doesn’t suicide seem to be an irrational behavior?
While it may appear irrational to end one’s life, the argument can be provided that individuals evaluate the benefits and costs associated with staying alive and opt for death. This occurs when the derived benefit of living into future periods falls below the expected costs of committing suicide.
To make it a ‘rational decision’, frameworks can be applied to the suicide decision in order to derive some of the underlying reasons why individuals choose to commit suicide.
Potential benefits arises from the act of suicide include escape from pain — either mentally or physically. Post the idea that following the suicide, survivors feel a sense of guilt, regret, or deep sadness. In some cases, those who commit suicide feel a sort of adrenaline rush from self-inflicted pain, so the thought of ending it all by their own hand gets appealing.
While the costs associated with committing suicide include the time and money to obtain the knowledge and equipment to commit the act itself — the difficult process of mentally preparing to kill oneself—the anticipated punishment in the afterlife associated with ending one’s own life on Earth as predicted by almost all major religions.
In other words, the opportunity cost of no longer being alive, which includes anything that may happen in the many years foregone by cutting life short. Another potential cost includes the possibility of failing to completely eradicate one’s own life, and the social and physical effects that could be faced as a result.
The cost and benefit analysis
A person will follow the act of suicide if he believes that the additional benefits of suicide outweigh the additional costs. Hence,the suicide rate could be lowered by either decreasing the benefits, or increasing the costs of ‘the act’.
There are many options for increasing the costs of committing suicide.
Though it would be difficult to increase the monetary cost, since there are many ways and instruments. However, the power appears to rest in the opportunity cost associated with ending one’s life. On helping a person understand that there are other coping mechanisms, and educating everything they would be missing out on by ending life early, the cost of suicide would increase.
Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss – F.Scott Fitzgerald
This approach shall also help suicidologistsby bringing this issue to the forefront. This helps educate policymakers by assessing the viability of current suicide prevention techniques and suggesting new approaches to deal with the suicide phenomenon.
To decrease the benefits, mental health agencies could provide counselling, medication, and other emergency services in order to find new ways for individuals to cope with their pain from past experiences.
Unfortunately pop culture has glorified suicide in some regard with television programs. Which in-turn normalized the behavior or showing self-harm as a solution.
Now we all have a role to play in reducing the impact of suicide in our communities. From keeping an eye out for the people in our lives; to direct methods of support and raising awareness of the issue; to raising our voice in support of government action. Perhaps most important of all, we need to get informed and talk about it to increase understanding. This could help reduce the stigma that compounds the impact of suicide.
We can all make a difference.
Disclaimer: This is not to draw comparison between human life and economics or business strategies. Human life is priceless and nothing gets more important than our own lives. Also this is NOT to encourage suicide or self harm in any way.
To connect with support and resources in case of suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please refer, http://icallhelpline.org/ or call at 91-9152987821