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Letters: Hit 'pause' on thoughts of suicide

Robin Williams performs his stand-up show,

Robin Williams performs his stand-up show, "Weapons of Self Destruction," at Town Hall in Manhattan on Nov. 23, 2009. Credit: AP / Dave Allocca

As someone who has worked on suicide prevention for many years, I felt compelled to weigh in on Lane Filler's column "Sometimes suicide deserves respect" [Opinion, Sept. 3].

Yes, I agree with him that we are all experts on our own lives -- and that expertise should be respected. No one else can truly know our unique subjective experience of pain or happiness. And, it is also true that, on a certain level, we all deal with the existential question of life or death everyday; we are all mortal. However, for most of us, we ponder how best to live each day, rather than whether to live or die.

For those struggling with the intense psychic pain that would drive them to contemplate suicide, I would urge postponement of that decision, for two main reasons. First, we often make decisions in our daily lives that we later regret. If you take action to end your life, you eliminate all other possibilities.

Second, thoughts, feelings and urges change over time. They may strengthen or weaken, but they will change. Usually, an abatement in intensity is reported. Sometimes, we may have to white-knuckle it through painful feelings before we can let go of some of that pain and feel a release.

For those who see no relief in sight, who may feel alone, misunderstood or disconnected, please reach out to your local crisis hotline.

Meryl Cassidy, Stony Brook

Editor's note: The writer is the co-chairwoman of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Long Island.

I'm an advocate for euthanasia for adults and possibly children who are suffering pain from a terminal disease. I also believe that people who are on life support and have no hope of regaining any quality of life should be "let go," and as many organs as possible should be donated.

However, I disagree with the idea that mature adults should be trusted to know their own limits. I have multiple sclerosis, and there are many times that someone else might throw in the towel. I don't. I think it's dangerous and irresponsible to tell people it's OK to quit.

Mary McCarthy, Eastport

Lane Filler's column is totally off base. With rare exceptions, suicide is an irrational act that leaves family and friends forever bereft and guilt-ridden, because they didn't know the depth of the victim's pain and hopelessness to intervene in time.

There is always hope that things can turn around. I remember some years ago reading of the suicide of a famous actress who had every material success. A few pages later was the story of a poverty-stricken, illiterate African teenager who was born with the lower part of his body deformed. He knew he would spend his life in a wheeled device. When asked why he would endure such suffering, he answered, "I want to live."

Joseph D. Policano, East Hampton

The question that is often asked by family members who have lost a loved one to suicide is: What was going on in someone's mind to go so far as to kill himself?

Whether detected or not at the time, in almost every case, at least one warning sign preceded the incident. What many people don't know is that most people who commit suicide really don't want to die; they simply want the mental suffering to go away.

If you see a loved one or friend post online or talk about death or hopelessness, or show sadness or depression, it must be taken seriously. It's critical to know the warnings signs, which also include pulling away from friends and family and activities once enjoyed.

The warning signs are most often there.

Sadly, suicide and mental illness are misunderstood in our society, but, there are things you can do to help someone who is suicidal. Pay attention to the warning signs, approach the person, listen and show empathy. Try to offer hope and get him or her help.

Karen Boorshtein, Huntington

Editor's note: The writer is the president of the Family Service League, a Huntington social services agency.