A Tough Call: Is Suicide an Act of Bravery or Cowardice?

Suicide - Bravery or Cowardice?
Some of us have very staunch views about suicide, and more often than not, the balance is tipped in view of it being wrong and cowardly. Those contemplating it are forced to think of others who are suffering more than they are. But who is to justify continuing living, when only they know why their decision to end their life is 'right'?
The decision to commit suicide is so personal that it cannot be judged. What goes on in the mind of someone contemplating suicide? How can you tell? Some people put on a brave face and live their lives, fooling us into believing that all is well with them. And suddenly they shock those around them by ending their lives. What went wrong? Is it possible to judge whether this act of giving up on life is an act of bravery or cowardice?
The Psychology of Suicide
It is known that suicidal people are overcome by emotion. They tend to develop what is known as tunnel vision, where they believe suicide is the 'only way out'. They feel helpless, hopeless, and assume that in death they will be free from this despair. While the causes for such feelings may differ from case to case, studies reveal that at the very core of a suicidal tendency is depression and unhappiness.
Suicidal girl
When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. 'This is my last experiment,' wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. 'If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I'll have to be shown.'
-Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide
Because of the societal stigma associated with it, some psychologists believe that suicide has been misrepresented as 'abnormal' in psychology textbooks. These psychologists believe that suicide is not abnormal, but merely a culmination of (unfortunate) events that lead an individual to think that ending his life will ease the pain or end it altogether.

Research has revealed that most suicidal people are ambivalent about ending their lives. They want to die, but also want to be saved. Most of these individuals give out cues (verbal or non-verbal) about their intentions, and hope that someone will talk to them about their impending plans.
The Perception of Suicide
Suicide has been discussed in the philosophical and religious context, and again, it is rarely viewed favorably.
Suicidal man hand
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest - whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories - comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer [the questions of suicide].
- The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus
Philosopher plato
Plato, the Greek philosopher, considered suicide to be for delicate individuals who were incapable of dealing with life as it is. In his work (Laws), while he shunned suicide, Plato presented four cases where suicide may be considered acceptable.
● When one's mind is morally corrupted and one's character can therefore not be salvaged (Laws IX 854a3-5),

● When the self-killing is done by judicial order,

● When the self-killing is compelled by extreme and unavoidable personal misfortune, and

● When the self-killing results from shame at having participated in grossly unjust actions (Laws IX 873c-d).
Most religions believe suicide to be a sin, so the question of bravery or cowardice does not come into play. It is plain wrong to want to end your life, because it is believed to be something that has been bestowed upon us by God, and it is something only God can take away. Hinduism accepts the concept of 'fasting unto death' to end one's life, only if one has fulfilled his responsibilities towards his family and himself.
When We Attempt to Judge it
Arthur schopenhauer
They tell us that suicide is the greatest act of cowardice... that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.
- Arthur Schopenhauer in his essay 'On Suicide'
Some consider suicide to be extremely brave, because it takes a fair amount of courage to be able to end your own life. On the other hand, some consider it to be cowardly because it takes a fair amount of courage to overcome traumatic situations, face life anyway, and start afresh. But the act of suicide is a personal issue, and as outsiders, no matter how close we are to the individual who is contemplating it or has committed it, it is difficult to understand what has driven the person to give up his life or think about it. Given below is a list of certain situations that have driven people toward suicide. Take a look and decide whether it is easy to categorize each as brave, cowardly, or another term that seems to aptly define this act.

Some consider suicide to be extremely brave, because it takes a fair amount of courage to be able to end your own life. On the other hand, some consider it to be cowardly because it takes a fair amount of courage to overcome traumatic situations, face life anyway, and start afresh. But the act of suicide is a personal issue, and as outsiders, no matter how close we are to the individual who is contemplating it or has committed it, it is difficult to understand what has driven the person to give up his life or think about it. Given below is a list of certain situations that have driven people toward suicide. Take a look and decide whether it is easy to categorize each as brave, cowardly, or another term that seems to aptly define this act.
Situation 1: A girl has been raped, and cannot cope with the trauma that it has brought along. Moving out and starting afresh is not an option for her. She is tormented by her people who think she is responsible for having attracted the rapist. To escape all this, she decides to commit suicide.

Situation 2: A student is a victim of harsh bullying in school/college. The extent: he has been defamed on the Internet as well. The incident has reached such levels that no one can redress the situation. This student decides to end his life to escape the shame.

Situation 3: An individual is disabled/old and feels like a burden on the family. The family subtly or overtly drops hints about the huge effort they are making to support this individual. The regular taunts as well as the feeling of being unable to contribute to the situation in any positive way are unbearable. This person (if capable of doing so) decides to reduce the burden on his family by killing himself.

Situation 4: A person in love has been jilted, or his love has not been reciprocated. He believes he will never meet another such individual whom he can love wholeheartedly, the way he loved this person. He believes life is not worth living if that person is not a part of his life. He thus, decides to commit suicide.

Situation 5: A student fails an important exam. The pressure by his parents, school and society to perform well and be an over-achiever was immense. He feels he has let down everyone by not doing well in this exam. He fears his parents' reaction to this event. To avoid facing the backlash, he finds the thought of ending his life easier.

Situation 6: A person has attained spiritual advancement and has learned that letting go of everything is the way to achieve enlightenment. He thus believes that living this life has no meaning as there will always be some form of attachment to deal with. He believes that in death he will attain freedom from all of life's evils. Thus, he decides to let go of life as he knows it.

Situation 7: An individual thinks he has achieved everything he needs in life. There is nothing else that he can or wants to achieve. He feels if he tries any harder, he may get stuck in a rut or will lose the sense of achievement he has now. He has realized his definition of happiness. There is nothing more he wants from life, and thinks that ending his life at this point would be the perfect end to a happy story.

Situation 8: An individual feels he is not being given his dues for doing something for someone, like his partner or family. He thinks he ought to be appreciated more for the effort he is taking to ensure a happy relationship. He decides to end his life to teach the family a lesson, so that they know what it is like not to have him in their life, and to make them feel guilty for not noticing his effort.

Situation 9: A person is trapped in flames in his office or apartment, in a high-rise. The thought of burning to death is scary and overwhelming. He considers it easier to jump out of the window to escape the flames, and he does it.

Situation 10: A person is depressed. Nothing seems to be going right for him, or so he feels. He thinks that he has no worth in this world, because he thinks he is unable to do anything right, for himself or for those around him. He thinks the world will be a better place without him, and decides to commit suicide.
As mentioned earlier, it has been found that most people on the verge of committing suicide suggest subtly that they are going to do so. They give out cues to seek help, to get someone to tell them that life is worth living, to get someone to stop them from giving up on life. How we interpret these cues may differ from person to person.
These are just some situations that have been brought into the limelight, because of which they have been mentioned here. There are a million reasons why one would want to end their life, and we can only speculate their thought process, that led them to think killing themselves is easier than living on. Even while considering the aforementioned situations, it is difficult to categorize the act in such strong terms such as bravery or cowardice. There are so many 'ifs and buts' that come into play while assessing them. So are we in a position to judge whether their act was brave or cowardly? I think not.
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