My pommy mate Kahless mentions in her comment on the last post about suicide pacts. A suicide pact is a thing which most people find a really bizarre thing for people to do. Indeed that is one of the reasons why it gets the press coverage it does as my good friend Kahless directs us to here.
But as with so many things like this in psychology if you take a closer look it is not all that weird. It ends up being just a slight modification of normal human behaviour.
I refer to a thing called the suicide relationship. In one instance this can be a relationship where two people make a plan to suicide together and thus we end with what is commonly known as a suicide pact. However there are derivatives of this.
One of the ‘protective’ factors in suicide risk is if the individual has family or other close attachments in their life. Such as person is seen to be at less risk of suicide than the person who has no close relationships. Having close attachments makes for a more psychologically robust person.
However this can be very misleading and when making a suicide risk assessment one needs to enquire deeper into the nature of such relationships. For some people suicide is seen as every persons right to choose. Every person has a right to die when and how they want to. And this view can put up a substantive argument to support itself and it is a view held by a section of the community.
If a suicidal individual has a close attachment with a person who thinks like this then the protective factor in the relationship is not protective at all. In essence you have a suicide pact between two people where only one is suicidal but the psychology of the relationship is not all that different to a suicide pact where both are suicidal.
Now I am not suggesting that this non suicidal party in the relationship is an evil and uncaring person. They may have great affection and love for the suicidal individual. They may have seen their suicidal ‘partner’ go through great angst over a long period of time and there is an argument for the view that people have the right to choose when to die. Ongoing physical pain is no different than ongoing psychological pain.
There is indeed a further variant of this suicide pact relationship. In the relationship just described the non suicidal party ‘advocates’ suicide for the relief of the other. Under some circumstances the non suicidal party advocates suicide for the other so as to gain relief for self. This may seem abhorrent to some and a very selfish act but it is just natural human psychology.
For instance living with a suicidal person is a very emotionally taxing thing to do. It is a very stressful set of circumstances to live under. If a husband has been living with as suicidal wife for a couple of years and he can see that this is not going to change in the near future his own Free Child will want the stress to end and the only realistic way that is going to happen is if she dies. Thus in this way he has entered into a suicide pact with her as one part of his personality will ‘advocate’ for her suicide.
Now before you go away thinking how terrible this all is just ask yourself how you felt when a close loved one to you had a terminal illness and hung on and on for a long period of time. As the time extends the Free Child in everybody gets more and more vocal in wanting the other party to die because it wants the relief. Indeed even with the mother of a terminally ill child has a Free Child ego state that is wanting the child to die so it can have relief. It’s just human nature. How much that want is and how it is expressed consciously or unconsciously will vary from person to person but it will be there.
In doing a suicide risk assessment of someone who has been suicidal for some time then you know their close loved ones to some degree want the person to complete the suicide they keep talking about. Their Free Child has entered into a suicide pact relationship with the suicidal person. All of a sudden the protective nature of the close loved one is not so protective at all!
As we can see the psychology behind the suicide pact is not as weird as it initially seems as is so often the case with these things. Thank you my good friend Kahless for raising this issue.