book reviews, mental health

Repost: A review of Suicide: the Forever Decision

Here’s a reposted review of Paul G. Quinnett’s book, Suicide: the Forever Decision.  I found it helpful reading back when I was suffering from clinical depression.  Fortunately, I haven’t needed to read this book in a very long time.  I am reposting the review so it doesn’t get lost and, perhaps, to help anyone reading this blog who might need help. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This review was originally posted for on October 2, 2003.

Suicide is a solution.

Does my review’s title shock you? Well, if it does, I’m sorry, but I write the truth. If you think about it, suicide is a solution for the the person who commits the act. It creates all sorts of problems, however, for the people he or she leaves behind. I learned that tidbit of wisdom in the 1997 edition of Paul G. Quinnett’s book Suicide: the Forever Decision. I read this book quite often during my own depression back in 1998-99 and I found it to be quite helpful. Quinnett comes across as a very wise counselor. He doesn’t write a lot of trite, mushy “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you” stuff that depressed people have heard a billion times before. Quinnett writes the truth. And despite what I wrote at the beginning of this review, he doesn’t condone suicide. After all, I’m still here, aren’t I?

The first chapter of this book is entitled “You Don’t Have To Be Crazy”. What a fitting way to start off a book about suicide prevention! Depression is a lonely, painful state of mind and people who are thinking about suicide often think they’re crazy to want to end it all, or other people think they’re crazy to want to kill themselves. In reality, the act of suicide is usually more often a case of frustration and desperation, rather than genuine craziness. Besides, most people have had at least a fleeting thought of suicide.

In the second chapter, Quinnett challenges readers to remember where they got the idea to kill themselves. Did someone in their family kill themselves? Did a friend commit suicide? Did they get the idea from a famous person? People have been committing suicide for as long as there have been people– it’s very likely that someone somewhere gave the reader the idea to commit suicide. Quinnett cites statistics that show that when someone famous kills themselves, the suicide rate rises. It seems to be a contagious phenomenon.

To the question “Don’t I have the right to die?” Quinnett’s frank reply is that he doesn’t have a very good answer to that question. But his final answer is, “No. You don’t have an absolute right to kill yourself.” At least not from a legal standpoint. He explains that there are laws against attempting suicide and if readers try it, sometimes unpleasant legal consequences may follow. He also explains that as a psychologist, he is trained to save lives, not help people end them. But if all of this information comes across as harsh, it’s also very honest. Quinnett explains that there are a couple of schools of thought about a person’s right to die– some people believe that everyone has the inalienable right to die whenever they want to and others believe that people should be kept alive at all costs– until every last breath of life is beaten out of them. An interesting discussion about this topic ensues. But then he also offers a reassuring pledge that while there are people out there, even some mental health professionals, who don’t care if readers live or die, there are other people who do. They will be the ones who won’t sit on their hands and do nothing when they see a person who is obviously suffering.

Quinnett then asks his readers once more if they are absolutely sure this is the decision they want to make. He makes an interesting comparison of a depressed, suicidal person to a bug in a cup. We can see around the insides of our cup (ie; depression), but we can’t see over the lip. Moreover, a suicidal person generally doesn’t have all the information he or she needs to make a wise decision about whether or not they should end their lives. The suicidal person may not know that their depression is time limited and that they will feel much better in a matter of weeks or months– probably even sooner with treatment.

Quinnett also addresses anger, loneliness, and stress and provides methods on how to deal with them. One of the chapters in the book is entitled “They Won’t Love You When You’re Gone, Either”. This is intended to address those folks who want to kill themselves to punish other people, particularly parents whom they feel didn’t love them. Quinnett reminds these people that they are the ones who matter now, not their parents. And if their parents didn’t love them when they were kids, chances are good that they won’t love their children when they’re dead, either.

Quinnett speaks to his readers confidently and personally. He also asks them to put the book down if they are high on drugs or drunk on alcohol. He says that he expects his clients to come to therapy with their whole brain ready for use. He expects the same of those who read his book. Quinnett offers somes commentary on those who have already attempted suicide, warning that those who have attempted to kill themselves are now at a higher risk of attempting to kill themselves again or actually succeeding in the act. He asks these people to consider what could happen if they don’t succeed. He relates stories of some of his clients– people who have wound up paralyzed, disfigured, vegetative or maimed because they attempted suicide. Quinnett also reminds would be suicides of the people they would be leaving behind– family, friends, perhaps children. He writes that the day that a reader commits suicide will become a day of infamy for his or her family. The family will never be able to enjoy that date again without thinking of the horror of how their loved one died by their own hand. Quinnett reminds readers that it’s not fair to put family and friends through that kind of guilt.

At the end of the book, Quinnett offers tips on getting help for depression and suicidal ideation and points his readers in the right direction. He explains the difference between psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and master’s level clinicians. He also emphasizes the importance of getting a physical in order to rule out physical reasons for depression (aside from brain chemical imbalances).

I found this book to be very comforting when I was feeling depressed on a regular basis. Quinnett’s tone is empathetic, insightful, and respectful. The book is not overwhelming or overly long. He’s used a comfortably large sized font that’s easy on the eyes so the book is easy to read. In my opinion, it would be easy for people with depression to pick this book up and read it– it was for me, anyway. Those who have the will to read this book have most assuredly not conclusively decided to kill themselves. I believe that Paul G. Quinnett’s book may help these people tip the scales in the direction of choosing life. Yes, suicide is a choice that people are able to make to solve all of their problems right now and forevermore. But this book is very likely to show readers why they shouldn’t make a choice that will solve all of their problems forever. For that reason, I recommend it wholeheartedly. 

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