Why we need to think again about suicide since Robin Williams’ death

Taking your own life is not easy. I know I’ve tried, and obviously failed. When you commit suicide you haven’t lost a battle with depression or illness or whatever it maybe. No, you have won – you have taken the final step away from an insoluble problem.

Richard Butchins, an award winning documentary maker and author, tells his painful story of suicide

Taking your own life is not easy. I know I’ve tried, and obviously failed. When you commit suicide you haven’t lost a battle with depression or illness or whatever it maybe. No, you have won – you have taken the final step away from an insoluble problem.

One day, I’ll take my own life and that’s ok. It’s mine to take (unless I were to hurt others in the process). I am a disabled man with little if anything to look forward to in life; apart from increasing ill health and poverty in a society that’s shown itself to be virulently anti old-age.

My lover took her own life last year, she, like Robin Williams, hung herself. She left no note but I found out from reading her diaries that she felt that life had come to a full stop for her. That there was in her words “No way out”  and that she did what she did out of bravery not cowardice or desperation but a reasoned and logical, albeit a bleak logic, choice.

I have no information around Mr William’s death other than what’s already in the public domain but I suspect he knew all to well what having Parkinson’s disease entails and perhaps that factored into his choice.

People do not commit suicide in the depths of despair. There is not enough energy down inside that trench. It’s on the way out of the despair when you can see things more objectively that you have the energy to take action.

Once I wrote a lengthy suicide note that, in a twist of irony, caused me to carry on living. It became my novel on the futility of existence – Pavement. It’s no surprise to me that many suicides do not leave letters of intent. That much thought often hinders action. I ended up needing to know what would happen in the story my own suicide note had become. I suspect that many more people consider suicide than is commonly known about but the primitive survival instinct inside each of us is hard to overcome. I once attempted suicide by hurling myself from a bridge fully clothed but it’s harder to drown than you might think – if you can swim and you are conscious then you will.

I am not sure why our society has such a sanction on suicide when we seem happy enough to cause and create societal death on a huge scale. Perhaps the freedom inherent in the decision to take your own life is subconsciously felt as a threat to the cohesion of society – what if everyone realised his or her life is ultimately pointless?  I also question the sanction that the religious have against self inflicted death, surely if there is a paradise then we should all promptly top ourselves and hop on the stairway to heaven, but nope, it’s a surefire way to Hell if we kill ourselves. Personally I don’t believe all this nonsense.

When you die it’s over and that’s a thing to be thankful for, I know I will be.

Richard Butchins is an award winning documentary maker and author – his first novel Pavement is out this year. You can buy it here

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