The Herald are reporting that Tony Veitch has (once again) attempted to take his life. The story is very sad but did get me thinking about whether suicide is ever a rational response.
There is some literature (here, here and here) on this very topic. The most interesting thing for me was that an attempt at suicide can be rational so long as the attempt is not successful. A failed attempt tends to significantly increase income (by 20.3% on average, relative to those who consider suicide but do not make an attempt) as more resources, such as healthcare and affection, are made available to the person who made the attempt. The more serious the attempt, the greater is the impact on income (36.3% on average for so-called ‘hard-suicide’ attempts).
This economic approach to suicide runs counter to the traditional view that suicide occurs at a fragile point in time when someone is acting irrationally.
In the instance of Tony Veitch, it is difficult to see how a positive income effect would be gained from his numerous attempts at suicide, given his broadcasting career has been ruined by the case. However, this might be underplaying the positive, non-financial, effect that a ‘cry for help’ can have on an individual. On the other hand, Tony Veitch could simply be acting irrationally.
Whether Tony Veitch is acting rationally or irrationally, one thing is certain – the case is extremely tragic.