Another kind of suicidal act involves using other people. For example, some murderers have committed their crimes in order to receive the death penalty; some criminals have asked the police to shoot them during apprehension; and many military personnel, during combat, have made solitary attacks to earn their death.
Beyond all these forms, psychologists indicate that there are those who subconsciously wish to die, with implications for everyone they come into contact with, and physicians attest to psychic suicides among the critically ill or very old - people who will themselves to die and actually do so. Suicidal acts may be committed during insanity, temporary insanity, or gross dysfunctioning of the mind due to disease, drugs, drug or alcohol addiction, brain damage, shock or neural depression. As such, they may be neither voluntary nor intended.
Hindu and Jain traditions view a kind of passive ascetic self destruction in which a person accepts death from hunger or starvation is often commended as heroic. Generally Buddhist traditions view passive self-destruction as a misguided way to find release, yet it is highly respected in many Mahayana traditions as compatible with the life of a saint. In east Asian traditions, self-destruction for honour or vengeance has been viewed with approval.
Suicide can occur as a result of mental illness, usually treatable; depression is by far the most common. Over half those who commit suicide were at the time or in the recent past consulting a doctor, and often a psychiatrist, although only the minority of suicidal individuals have a serious psychiatric disorder. Alcoholics and people with skin disease also contribute a disproportionately high number of suicides.
Suicide often occurs when the patient seems to be recovering from an emotional crisis; approximately half occur within 90 days of such a crisis. Common motives include ill-health, domestic difficulties, and unhappy love affairs. Isolation is a risk factor. Up to 70% of people who kill themselves have given many clues and warnings, communicating their intent often to several people, and about 40% state their intent unequivocally. Most suicidal people are unhappy but not fully intent on dying; they are undecided about living or dying, and they gamble on death, leaving it to others to save them.
Suicide increases with increasing age and in both sexes there is a rise in the fifth and sixth decades, with a fall after 65 years. Suicide occurs proportionately among all levels of society. It does not run in families, but the larger the family, the smaller the risk of suicide. Suicides are more frequent among those who are divorced. Most suicides occur in the early morning hours and more occur on Monday and Tuesday than on any other day of the week. The spring is the season with highest incidence of suicide. Contrary to the myth, suicides do not increase over the Christmas and New Year holiday season. In fact November and December are months with the lowest suicide rates. April is the highest, perhaps when the disappointment of not living up to expectations hits the hardest. Men outnumber women by three or four times, but there is an increasing disproportion between male and female suicide rates. Over the period 1974-86, the percentage increase in the male/female suicide ratio is Scotland 75%, England/Wales 63, Australia 58, Greece 56, Northern Ireland 46, Japan 41, USA 37, Canada 35, New Zealand 26, and Italy 24. Figures for men for 1986 give, per million population: Finland 430, Austria 421, Denmark 337, Switzerland 330, France 329. For women: Denmark 199, Austria 158, Japan 149, Belgium 141, Switzerland 132.
In the USA, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death and the third leading cause of death among teenagers. In 1998 over 30,000 Americans took their own lives.
2. Suicide is always as morally objectionable as murder. The Church's tradition has always rejected it as a gravely evil choice. Even though a certain psychological, cultural and social conditioning may induce a person to carry out an action which so radically contradicts the innate inclination to life, thus lessening or removing subjective responsibility, suicide, when viewed objectively, is a gravely immoral act. In fact, it involves the rejection of love of self and the renunciation of the obligation of justice and charity towards one's neighbour, towards the communities to which one belongs, and towards society as a whole. (Papal Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, 25 March 1995).