I had a close friend who took his life many years ago. A first Gulf War veteran. A man whom I had know since childhood. He was suffering with PTSD which included recurring nightmares to the point where he couldnt sleep for more than two hour spurts at a time; and numerous other health complications, including being in almost chronic pain from back injuries sustained from a helicopter crash. He had also seen the breakdown of his marriage, lost his job and had been forced onto living on disability. His quality of life was zero. I knew he was severy depressed, perhpas even more so than usual, during the last and final time we spoke when we met up for beers, and as I sat there sympathetically inquiring about medications, and wether or not they were working, and as he described then his suffering in more and more succinct detail, I suddenly felt a wave of upset come over me at the realisation that I was utterly powerless to help my friend.
Bill hung himslef one early October day in 1994. I believe it was a Tuesday. About three weeks after we last met.
His apartment's maintanence manager discovered his body some two weeks later when some of the other residents complained about a stench in the hallway......
It really is a damn shame that you, and that other teenager (I assume you are of similar age and maturity), were not there to give that him pep talk. I'm sure that you, with your enduring and wordly insights, could have convinced him to man up and 'channel it right'. It's also a shame you also couldn't of given your opinion to his family, or some of the members from his old unit. I'm sure the choice words of your generalisation would have gone down well with them.
Understand, suicide, like most other facets of human behaviour, is staggering complex. Perhaps, it would seem, too complex for your average American.
With this in mind, simplisitc and infantile chastisisms like - "It's a selfish act", "It's the cowards way out", "How could they do that to their family", "It it never an option" - demonstrate not only a grand failure in logic and perspective, but also a thouroughly self-serving, and therefore illegitimate deduction.
If any of you who so readily demonize suicidality would actually have the perspectivity to go beyond your socially conditioned prejudices and do some reading into the biology, psychology and sociology of the subject, you might find yourself with a slightly more encompassing and empathetic viewpoint.
Also understand, and this is the most salient point I wish to get across, suicide is rarely chosen, nor often do the suicide wish to really die. It primarily a result of when aggreagated pains exceed available coping resources. The suicidal want to negate that pain, and when coping resources on offer in their social sphere fail to deliever, then cessation of mortality and consciousness, (and therefore suffering) becomes a viable option.
Sometimes it is indeed a failure of rationalism and perspective on their part, to see the real, viable alternatives, and a mistaken view of permanace to their current circumstances. These are the more tragic cases where adequate counsel and a realistic inventory of problems could have led to mitigation of the feelings of powerlessness that permeate suicidal thinking. Other times it is the end of result of cold, relaisation that life is indeed not worth living, becasue there will only be more misery and pain, and that misery and pain will outstrip the capaacity to feel or recieve any joy.
It is our great American cultural myth, that one has and should be able to draw upon limitless amounts of stoicism, and that one always has the personal volition to change one's circumstances for the better, if only they are motivated enough. Anyone who has experienced the more sinister side of life or visited some darker corners of the globe knows that life is far more random and cruel that we would ever like to admit. Some people truly get dealt a shitty deck even in a materially opulant sociey such as ours; and whilst certainly due to genetics, upbrining and social resources, some are better at dealing with the arrows that our inevitabley slung at us in life, none of us are invincible. There is a breaking point for all of us, some reach it earlier than others. That's why the "his/her problems werent that bad" (the ones that were of been apparent to you, the onlooler, at least) becomes redundant. Everyone has a breaking under accrued weight, and what broke the camels back was just that - the final blow. That breakup, job loss or something as innocuous as a broken fan belt was just part of a long line of accrued and (more than likely) silent miseries, so for blaming a suicide on a persons lack of will in respoinse to an apparent circumstnace, is incredibly short-sighted.
I miss Bill.
Before things got bad for him - before Saddam invaded Kuwait, before that chopper suffered a rudder failure and crashed, before his wife couldnt deal with him waking up screaming in the middle of the night, before it hurt Bill too much climb a step-ladder to repair a light fitting - he was warm, optimistic a pleasure to be around. The type of friend you could count on at a moments notice to help you out. I would very much like to him again. I'd like to drink some Sam Adams on my back porch with him, or go lift as we we did in our first forays into the weightroom in high school, or just cruise around in my car like we did as teenagers checking out the girls.
I also know that my friend was suffering physically and mentally in such a way that I feel no human should have to go through. He had endured enough bad luck and misfortune as far as any realisitc person would agree with.
It was dissapointment after dissapointment as one medication would improve one symptom for his complications but give him two extra side effects. The guy couldn't get a fucking break. Am I upset that my freind committed suicde? Yes, to this day. Did I, along with his family members, feel such terrible greif, anger and guilt when he passed? Yes, also to this day. I am in the back of my mind, also relieved that he is no longer suffering, that he no longer has to go through the agony of another day?, that is also an unequivocal yes too.