The Freedom of Taking Your Own Life

by Bramantyo Indirawan

Suicide stories surround me everywhere – my colleague, two sisters in Bandung, a broken hearted man who filmed it live, a local social media celebrity, to international artists that surprises the whole world. They all made the choice to take their own life.

So what makes people take their own life? What goes on inside our heads when we get to the point of no return and ultimately kill ourselves?

People have their own reasons and explanations, sometimes from a suicide note, sometimes their families or friends speak for them, but they can also leave the world in silence. Creating confusion and shock, helter skelter.

In general, dr. Alex Lickerman M.D. from ImagineMD explains that the causes of suicide are depression, psychosis such as schizophrenia, being impulsive that can be related to drug and alcohol use, a cry for help, or a mistake they made such as the people who flirt with oxygen deprivation.

Maybe one of the controversial causes of suicide is the desire to die, that is often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists. A courtesy of taking your own life by trying to cheat time gets approval from certain countries.

England, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, United States, and some other countries give their people the freedom of suicide. These countries made laws to support suicide, exclusive to those who suffer from terminal illness, thus euthanasia or suicide assistance exists.

On the other side, there are countries that ban suicide assistance such as China, Denmark, France, Japan, and Indonesia. Countries like Hungary, Singapore, and India even imprison people who attempt to end their own lives.

Perspective sheds light on suicide, with government laws that act as an instrument to determine whether we can or can’t take our own lives. But if we take a closer look into ourselves, the courtesy is still exclusive to our actions. After all, we are the ones who will close the final curtain of life in suicide.

A Philosophical Problem

On the edge of a balcony in an apartment at South Jakarta, I looked down towards the distance from the seventh floor and asked myself how a man can jump, ultimately making the choice of taking their own life.

When we talk about and look into ourselves, the urge to find meaning in one’s existence will appear. Philosophical questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “What is my significance in this world?” will haunt us as an existentialism problem.

In Le Mythe de Sisyphus (1942), Albert Camus opens his essay with a statement that suicide is the one truly serious philosophical problem. “Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy,” wrote the French author.

Philosophers argue about the nature of suicide, for instance Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) said that the ability to commit suicide was “the greatest advantage” God has given to humankind. The Roman scholar saw suicide as human power over his own existence.

If we reject religion altogether, then life seems has no meaning. Neither God nor afterlife, so why should we keep on living? Well, existentialism answers this question by helping us find our personal meaning in life, create meaning in the meaninglessness. After all, Jean Paul Sartre said that existentialism is optimistic, we don’t choose our own existence but are responsible for it.

Born to this world we then try to find worth when we slowly grow, both physically and mentally. The external world can be rough; work, love, and other life problems can make us think twice about our significance.

To live or to die, people has their own problems. An artist can just commit suicide because of depression that fame has brought upon them; on the other hand, people can survive a rough life of famine or war and still live on without ever thinking of taking their own life.

Suicide is not a simple thing because life has a broad spectrum, from psychology, sociology, to philosophy, and from personal to societal view and values.

Having an open mind, empathy, and being unprejudiced are essential in understanding this phenomenon, otherwise we tend to be judgmental when it comes to those who willingly end their life.

Into the Absurd

We can see life as an absurdity, a struggle to find meanings and/or one’s existence. When having this kind of angst, we have options that we can choose; embrace a religion, commit suicide, or as Camus said,”Accept the absurd and continue life as usual”.

Religion gives us a set of rules to follow and we use faith to make sense of it all. We can find our purpose in this world and its meaning depending on what religion that we choose. This doesn’t include the nonpracticing ones, and no, certainly not the “Islam KTP” – a term in Indonesia for those who claim to have a religion simply because it is stated in the ID card.

Most popular religion such as Christianity and Muslim ban suicide. To cheat life is a sin and hell is promised for those who abandon hope.

When there’s no religion to guide us through, does that mean we can succumb easily when facing some existentialist crisis? Well, I think not.

To still live a life and choose personal or alternative meanings in one’s significance is another option that we can choose.

There are times when we can’t find any meaning in our own lives. At this moment we can keep trying and finally find or accept it as an endless struggle in absurdity.

Everyone will be lifeless eventually, may it be because of sickness, accident, homicide, or other reasons. So, one thing for sure, death will come to us.

When committing suicide, people seem to choose the time. Some hang themselves in the morning, other blow their heads off with a shotgun in the afternoon, or doze off for eternity with pills at night.

In my opinion, suicide is a form a self escapism that doesn’t solve anything. If we try to find meaning then what does taking our life achieve? Acceptance and struggle for meaning is surely better than that.

But in the end, nobody can take away anyone’s freedom of suicide. Yes, like it or not, it is still an option for us to reflect upon.


Source:

Mentalhealthdaily.com, Psychologytoday.com, Philosophytalk.org, Le Mythe de Sisyphus (1942),  A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine (Critical Issues in World and International History) (2005).