A “situational crisis” may lead a person to have “intense psychological pain.” As a result of this psychological pain, a person can begin to experience “distorted thinking” and/or may “abuse medication.”
1. Situational crises
These include financial problems, illness, bereavement, relational conflict, or public humiliation. Black notes that situational crises tend to act as a “catalyst to suicide,” driving the person to believe he or she has no other solutions to solve his or her problem(s).
2. Severe psychological pain
Black gets to the heart of suicide attempts:
“The goal of suicide is often simply to end that pain: ‘I just want the pain to go away.’ … ‘I just want to die’ most often means, ‘I want to stop feeling bad.’”
This, above all things, is the biggest reason behind a suicide attempt. If people felt like they had other options to their problems apart from suicide, most would take the alternate routes. In a suicidal moment – whether planned or not – the suicidal person is thinking about ending the “pain.” Death itself is not the goal; it’s an end to emotional pain. Death seems to serve as a means to that end.
3. Distorted Thoughts
Distorted thinking is a characteristic of suicides. Black writes:
“Problems may seems catastrophic when they are not. Predictions about the future can become arbitrary and unrealistic.”
While problems get unbearable and circumstances may seems bleak, instead of looking for assistance, those who are suicidal convince themselves that only death or loss of consciousness can release them from emotional pain.
4. Abuse of medication
A person who attempts to overdose on medication seeks one of two things: death or loss of consciousness. Abuse of medication that requires hospitalization provides a legitimate reason to “escape” the problems of life. Abusing medication is a person’s way of saying that he needs, as Black puts it, “an emotional vacation.” The person feels overwhelmed by the stressors of life and temporarily need to block out all distractions. At this point, it is safe to say a person is mentally ill. The need for escape from problems is the mind’s way of saying that it needs time to recover and become mentally healthy again. Abusing medication is the desperate way of doing this.
In 10 years of struggling with suicidal thoughts, I’m practically a “suicidal” expert. (I said "practically," not actually.) I know quite a bit about suicidal ideations and many of the thought processes behind them. Jeffrey Black lists more common features in suicidal thinking:
- Extreme psychological pain related to unmet psychological needs.
- A view of self that says she cannot tolerate such intense pain.
- An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, and the belief that she is helpless to solve problems.
- A sense of isolation or desertion accompanied by the belief that others cannot, should not, or do not want to offer support, nurture, or care.
Not all suicides are planned. I, for one, can attest to the fact that they can be impulsive. The combination of elements that Black identifies can seem to lead someone to a suicide attempt. Black’s pattern of identifying someone who possibly could have suicidal tendencies is as follows:
- Sense of hopelessness
- Pattern of poor coping skills
- Limited tolerance for pain
- Need to flee from help
All four are likely to be present to classify someone as suicidal. Two out of four does not a suicidal person make. Desperate, yes, but not undeniably suicidal.
“Hopelessness can be both a source of psychological pain and a result. A person’s belief in her inability to change things is probably bound up with her experience that the pain is intolerable.”
Here’s the equation for a suicidal mind, here is the equation:
problems + inability to change problems = intolerable pain.
If the equation becomes problem + inability to change problems + intolerable pain, then the only solution – as perceived – is suicide. Black breaks down the facets of suicide:
- The result of a continuous transaction between a person’s heart
- The symptoms of depression
- The kinds of stressors in the person’s environment
- The strategies a person uses to cope with depression and other life events
A person turns to suicide if he is suffering from severe depression; has poor coping strategies; feels that his stressors are too much to handle; and in his heart, has decided that as a result of these circumstances and feelings, he must end his life.
Black’s Common Features of Suicidal Thinking
- An unwillingness to forgive
- The “last word” in argument
- A way to punish someone
“Romans 1 suggests that a person – believer or unbeliever – who contemplates suicide must actively suppress the Spirit’s testimony that he is a creature made in the image of God, living in dependence on him.”
“Actively suppress” is a strong statement. If it means a person is aware of this suppression, then I’d disagree. Some people may be aware of this but that isn’t always the case. Black emphasizes suicidal believers are made in the image of God and insinuates that suicidal attempts are willful acts of disobedience:
“We want to demolish the idea that someone who takes his life is a sad, wounded, and weakened victim, and that suicide is a noble expression of his fragility and God’s failure to rescue him.”
While suicide is not a noble expression of fragility, suicide shows a suicidal person and those around him how weak he is. This is not “weak” that describes someone with a character flaw; those referred to as weak are those who need emotional help. Those who are emotionally stronger are able to encourage someone who is emotionally weak. A man who takes his life may have been sad, may have been wounded, and may have been weak – but God’s grace was not beyond him and what is perceived as God’s “failure” to rescue him was still within God’s control. (I won’t get into the fine details of why He allows some people to live and some to die in this post.)