Is suicide ever rational? ‘Open and honest’ Manchester debate on taking own life

Is there such a thing as a rational suicide? This is the controversial question to be addressed during a debate at Manchester Museum as part of SICK! Festival on Tuesday.

The question will be posed as to whether suicide can be ‘a rational decision’ that can be ‘made with a clear head’, whilst also assessing whether these views could change the societal perception of the issue. 

The debate will feature academics and specialists in the field, and will be chaired by Professor Rebecca Bennett, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester.

Dr Alec Grant, co-editor of Our Encounters With Suicide, was approached by SICK! Festival to participate in the event, and write an essay on the topic for their website.

In his work he outlines his own encounters with suicide, including the death of his mother, and two attempts at taking his own life in his mid-fifties.

Speaking to MM Dr Grant said that he hopes the debate will leave audience members with a ‘more developed, sophisticated, and hopefully sympathetic understanding of the area’.

He also revealed how he anticipates a wide range of viewpoints will be discussed.

“I expect that professional opinions will vary. Some will pathologise suicide, seeing it as always indicative of mental disorder. Others will take a more liberal view, as I have in my essay,” he added.

“Opinions also may vary on how appropriate it is to encourage vulnerable or suicide-bereaved people to read narratives of suicide – I personally think the book can be very helpful and therapeutic in this regard.”

In the essay, he outlines his views on a subject that is obviously very close to his heart, indicating the stance he is likely to take at next week’s debate.

He wrote: “I believe that while suicide may in some circumstances be understandable, moral and even self-caring. In terms of its social effects it is probably rarely, if ever, an act of kindness.”

A point he elaborated on when chatting to MM, saying: “Picking up the pieces [of a suicide] inevitably results in dropping a few of your own along the way.”

The other academics taking part in the debate include Dr Patricia Gooding of the University of Manchester School of Psychological Science, Terry Rigby, founder and director of Forward For Life Limited, and Dr Kevin Yuill, an academic and author of Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization.

With such an interesting and well-informed line-up, the discussion is guaranteed to be another controversial installment in SICK!, whose success sees the  festival return for its third year.

Tickets will be priced at £4 and 50% of that fee will go to charities such as Mind, Survivors and Grassroots Suicide Prevention.

They are a Brighton-based charity that is, according to its website, ‘supporting communities to prevent suicide, one life at a time.’

The festival, which originated in Brighton and has since expanded to venues in Manchester and Salford, is described as ‘the first festival in the UK dedicated to revealing and debating our most urgent, physical, mental and social challenges’.

Many of its events, which include theatre, dance, film and public installations as well as debates, have been warmly received.

Terry Corbett, a member of the SICK! focus group for performances in Manchester, said on Facebook that he was ‘proud’ to be involved with the festival.

He said:  “We don’t need to hide and fear the topics, we need them to be made open and honest. This is how you tackle topics people find hard to speak about.”

The debate will be held at 7:30pm on Tuesday, at Manchester Museum. Tickets are available here

Image courtesy of Ashley Rose with thanks.

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