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  1. #1

    schizophrenia and suicide

    My 30-year old schizophrenic brother died last Sunday, and he may have killed himself. I'm hoping someone here might have some insight into the schizophrenic mind and be able to help shed some light on whether he really intended to die or not. He lived at home with my parents, and our mother had been sick for a few months, and was finally diagnosed with terminal lung cancer about a month before both she and my brother died on the same day. We were so caught up in caring for my mom, we didn't pay enough attention to Ray. Mom was in the hospital for about 7-8 weeks before she died, and we were staying with her around the clock. There were plenty of people staying at the house, too, but no one seemed to notice any problems with Ray.

    Ray visited Mom in the hospital one night that week, can't remember which one. He apparently, around the same time, walked to the store and purchased a carton of cigarettes and seven bottles of St. Joseph's childrens aspirin, all the stock the store had left. We found it all, including the receipt, in his room the day after he died, three of the bottles empty. Someone heard him using a blender late at night, not unusual, maybe making a smoothie. The next day, he was having difficulty breathing and complaining of chest pains, but refused to see a doctor. The next morning, he was worse, and the social workers helped convince him to go to the emergency room. Dad was with him in the ER when mom died. My two sisters stayed with him the rest of the day.

    He wasn't happy about being in the hospital. Had a lot of fears of hospitals after being committed too many tiimes. He was a difficult patient, but accepted treatment after some coaxing. They thought he had a pulmonary embolism at first, and gave him heparin. Then they diagnosed pneumonia, and gave him breathing treatments and IV antibiotics. He kept getting worse. He accepted the annointing of the sick from our parish priest. When asked by my sister if he had taken any other medicines, even Sudafed, he said no. When the doctor finallly wanted to put him on a respirator, he acquiesced, but expressed concern about how he was going to be able to eat while on a respirator. His meds had made him extremely hungry and gain a lot of weight over the last 18 months.

    They gave him paralyzing drugs, and went to suction muccus from his traches, and he started bleeding like crazy from the suction machine. They tried to get the tube down, but blood started coming from everywhere. He finally went into cardiac arrest from lack of oxygen. They tried a tracheotomy, but again blood everywhere. They couldn't revive him. He died that night, about 10 hours after my mother.

    Do you think he purposely killed himself? He had made only one other suicide attempt, about two years ago when he was in a mental institution for about a year, and refusing medication. He grabbed a bottle of bleach off the housekeeping cart and tried to swallow some. He didn't get enough to do any damage.

    Could it be that he was trying to treat himself for the chest pains, and overdid the aspirin to that extent? I looked on his computer, and he hadn't gone to any medical or suicide websites. Why would he have chosen this method to kill himself? It seems like an awful way to go. By accepting treatment, could he have maybe changed his mind? But then, why not disclose that he had taken so much aspirin?

    The doctor said that the aspirin would explain his symptoms, but that he didn't test positive for acidosis. After his death, his lungs were almost completely full of serum. Could he have just done something completely impulsive because of the schizophrenia, not meaning to kill himself? I know we can't really know what went on in his mind, but I need some insight. I can't let it rest. I know we would have been alert to suicidal impulses after mom passed, but we never expected him to do something like that before she passed.

    Thanks for putting up with this long post.

  2. #2

    schizophrenia and suicide

    Could he have just done something completely impulsive because of the schizophrenia, not meaning to kill himself?
    Generally speaking, I would think it's certainly possible.

    Of course, since suicide is usually an impulsive act, there is a wide range of possiblity regarding the seriousness of the intent. On the other hand, the desire for suicide is almost inherent with severe mental distress/illness.

    I hope you can avoid the "what-if" thinking as much as possible. Usually, suicide is based on a genetic tendency and a lifetime of experience, not a particular event. It is impossible to avoid "triggering events" because there are an endless supply of them in this world.
    Last edited by Daniel; December 2nd, 2008 at 11:46 PM.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. #3

    schizophrenia and suicide

    Oh Jacie,

    I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of both your mother and brother.

    I agree with Daniel, that it is very possible that it was an accident. Without your brother showing obvious signs of suicide there is nothing you could have done to prevent it anyway.

    May you find peace and rest over the next few months.

    Hugs for you, Jacie.

    Judy

  4. #4

    schizophrenia and suicide

    I guess I can't rest without knowing if he's at rest. Being very Catholic, I believe that suicide usually separates you permanently from God. I realize that God is merciful and the state of mind of a schizophrenic or other mentally ill person calls for exceptions to the rule, but the problem is I can't be sure of Ray's state of mind. I remember a psychologist that had a few sessions with him early on in the disease told me not to worry too much about Ray being suicidal, because Ray, like me, firmly believed that suicide was a mortal sin that would result in eternal suffering. He said that statistically, people who believe that almost never commit suicide. Ray spent the night before he entered the hospital listening to Christian music. He had several religious books on his dresser, accompanied by some other stuff that indicated an interest in the occult. He had done some crazy things like purchased a $50 "magic wand" over the internet. If he did intend to kill himself, did he then change his mind and want to live after being admitted to the hospital? If so, why didn't he tell the doctor about the aspirin? Was it his voices telling him to do this, or did he just want to end his suffering? I don't want anyone to sugarcoat their answers, I'm looking to face the cold, hard truth and deal with it. I'm also hoping anyone reading this and considering suicide will then consider the mental torture it will put their loved ones through, as well as the possibility of eternal torture for them. Too many people think killing themselves will end their suffering. They need to know that it's long been commonly accepted religious thinking that it will only make their suffering worse and permanent. I guess I am afraid to discuss this with other family members for fear the thought will torture them, too.

  5. #5

    schizophrenia and suicide

    I am not Catholic, but even if it was suicide, doesn't the Catholic religion have an "innocent by reason of insanity" kind of precept? I can't imagine a popular religion saying that someone would go to hell because they are mentally ill. Something like 90% of suicides occur as a result of mental illness, not because of a lack of faith or a selfish disregard for others. For example, jumping out of a burning building is not an act of "free will," but more like a knee-jerk reaction to escape pain. The same can be true with suicide.

    Frankly, the opinions of Thomas Aquinas and other religious figures are painfully outdated because Aquinas was clueless about the predominant role of mental illness in suicide. The religious philosopher David Hume, in his essay "On Suicide," did a fair job countering Aquinas' traditional Catholic position.

    Anyway, I would argue that your brother's death was not a suicide, at least in the traditional, religious understanding of suicide.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  6. #6

    schizophrenia and suicide

    I am not Catholic, but even if it was suicide, doesn't the Catholic religion have an "innocent by reason of insanity" kind of precept?
    I would say yes, Daniel. :~}

    Jacie,

    Your brother is at rest. That is what happens when we die, no matter what the cause of death.

    The only hard cold truth that I know is:
    ...that it is very possible that it was an accident. Without your brother showing obvious signs of suicide there is nothing you could have done to prevent it anyway.
    Here are some sites that I hope you find helpful and that you will find others who have the same questions and could answer your questions more to your satisfaction than I would be able to.

    http://www.journeyofhearts.org/jofh

    http://www.rivendell.org/support/sg2.html

    http://www.bereavedfamilies.net/

    http://www.groww.org/


    Hugs
    Judy

  7. #7

    schizophrenia and suicide

    If you re-read what I said, you'll see that I acknowledge exceptions for severe mental illness. The issue I'm grappling with is his state of mind at the time - whether he fully intended and pre-meditated killing himself and maintained that intention all the way through his treatment that day until his death.

    A schizophrenic is not necessarily insane. He was taking his meds, although he still sat around a good bit of the time laughing and talking to himself. I just need myself to get a better handle on what happened. Why aspirin? Is that a commonly known method of suicide? Seems like a horrible way to go. Is it likely that a schizophrenic would simply overdo that much aspirin in an attempt to self-treat the chest pains out of fear of going to the hospital, or is that wishful thinking on my part? They advertise St. Joseph's childrens aspirin all the time on TV. Could he have latched on to that somehow? Otherwise, why that brand? My Dad kept a bottle of it on top of the fridge and took one a day himself. I'm just looking for insight into how the schizophrenic mind might think about these things.

  8. #8

    schizophrenia and suicide

    "There is at least a touch of schizophrenia or insanity in every suicide in the sense that, in suicide, there is some disconnection between thoughts and feelings...In the suicidal person, the death-laden thoughts are so singularly dangerous because they lack the gyroscopic balance of sufficient positive emotions." --pg 58-59, The Suicidal Mind

    "Approximately 30% to 40% of people with schizophrenia attempt suicide at some point in their lifetime."
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  9. #9

    schizophrenia and suicide

    Jacie, the sad fact is that you will never know for certain what was in your brother's mind that day. While aspirin is not a common method of suicide, people who attempt suicide by overdosing often take large quantities of unusual things -- anything from prescription medications to over-the-counter painkillers to birth control pills.

    Could he have done this intentionally in an effort to die? Yes. Although three bottles of children's aspirin in a grown man seems like a very haphazard method to use -- why wouldn't he have purchased adult aspirin, even extra strength adult aspirin, if that was his intent?

    Could it have been an accident, the result of confusion about how much medication he had taken, or even what he was taking? Yes. This explanation seems somewhat more likely than the alternative to me.

    But those may be the only answers you get. Sometimes, that's simply the way it is -- there is no certainty, no 100% answer, just a best guess.

  10. #10

    schizophrenia and suicide

    I'm so sorry for your loss, jacie. I'm afraid that David is right in saying that you will never know the meaning behind the events that led up to his death. I wish there were something I could do to help you. <hugs>

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