[ExI] Right to Suicide

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun Sep 25 10:19:56 UTC 2016

On 2016-09-24 23:48, Chris Hibbert wrote:
>  Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>> It's not as simple as that. Most people who try to suicide do it as a
>> result of a situational crisis or a depressive illness, which we know 
>> will
>> pass even with no intervention beyond keeping them from killing 
>> themselves
>> during the worst moments.
> Can you point to evidence of that? Maybe it's the phrase "try to do 
> suicide". I'd be surprised to find out that people with "depressive 
> illness" can get their shit together well enough to successfully kill 
> themselves. I don't have as much doubt that they "try". Is there 
> evidence that most successful suicides are also the result of 
> transitory situations?

This is basically what I learned in Psychology 101. People in deep 
depression are too inert to do much, but sadly when antidepressants 
start working they sometimes get enough energy to suicide. There is also 
a lot of suicides due to other mental illness such as schizophrenia, 
anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and anorexia nervosa. But a lot of 
attempted suicides are part of signalling patterns rather than intended 
to actually end life; this is where you get more of the personality 


Overall, people often tend to think that suicide is usually a somewhat 
rational response to unbearable suffering. But while this happens and 
should be defended, the bulk of suicides happen among people with 
problems that can be treated (even if they do not see it that way) or 
when people try to send strong signals and miscalculate.

(A relative once said to my mother over the phone: "Now I will grab my 
knife and go into the forest." She responded with relief: "Yes, *please* 
do." A risky strategy, but he is still alive.)

Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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