Saturnine

"The darkness brings me home, rewarding me with peace"

Attempting to understand suicide

When we are trying to understand suicide, there are no general recipes, or ultimate answers: it would be hard to determine what type of person (think about gender, age, ethnic background, marital status) is the most endangered in taking their own life, and it would be even harder to give a general explanation to all suicidal cases.

There is no-one who would have a 100% immunity for suicide; practically anyone has the possibility to get into a difficult situation which they feel impossible to bear, and think “even death would be better than this.” They say that everyone had at least one point in their lives when they, at least for one moment, considered suicide.

We are not the same, everyone has different values, different things which are important to us—and if we feel ourselves kept apart from what means so much to us, it is much easier to develop suicidal thoughts. For example, an actress in the 1990’s took her life after a car accident which left her with injuries on her face; she likeably thought that this would end her career, so she took her life, out of despair. Another significant example was a “random everyday guy” whose love of his life committed suicide; he committed suicide not too long after this, choosing the same method as she did. Or, another example: a university professor was very violently “drilled” by his rival colleague. He could not stand it any more, so he hanged himself in his office. I have also heard about a gifted young poet who committed suicide after dropping out from college.

I am pretty sure that everyone could mention such examples: if you don’t know anyone in your environment who have lost someone to suicide, then you can consider yourself a very lucky person.

Seeing these examples, we cannot avoid thinking: what can be wrong with certain people? Sad things, or painful things do happen every day—how can it be that some people can survive even the worse happenings, while others choose to end their lives?

The reality is that these reasons are usually the last drops in the glass, to say it so. Many different and unlucky factors have to correlate in aim to drive someone into suicide. Of course, it seems quite irrational to take your life “just because” you have dropped out from college—there are many rational solutions to the same problem.

However, it is not the wisest thing to judge suicidal persons as “weak” or “mentally unstable” people. Of course, there are different mental and psychical disorders which can—and often do—lead to suicidal act, but this is not the one and only reason behind suicide.

To be very honest, I became extremely upset when I read the guestbook of a memorial site made by a father who had lost her daughter to suicide. Some of the readers left quite ignorant messages in the guestbook like “I know that it is hard for you, but please, do not blame yourself. She was mentally sick, she appears to have been borderline disordered!” I can imagine how it felt for the father to read this. Furthermore, even a well-educated psychiatrist does not have the competance to give a diagnose of “borderline disorder” of a deceased person (whom they hadn’t even known!)

Many reasons may stand behind suicide, and every case is different, even if some similarities are indeed noticeable.

  • The most typical of them is the loss of something or someone which had an extreme importance to the individual—this might mean the death of a loved one; a divorce; losing one’s job or a possibility for career.
  • Another well-known reason is personal problems, family or relationship problems; a less supporting family background; or a marriage which makes one’s life a living hell.
    Researchers has found out that young people who are growing up in a one-parent family have a bigger chance to get suicidal thoughts!
  • There is also a correlation between having been exposed to some—or more—kind of violence and having recurring suicidal thoughts. Many victims of domestic violence, spousal abuse and/or any kind of sexual violence choose to end their own lives.

In the case of young people, we might seek the reason for the constantly increasing number of suicides in the missing safe and protecting family background; in the getting bigger and bigger demands of society (just take a look at any given job announcement and you will understand this…), a strong likeability of long unemployment; and the getting more and more increased alcohol-and substance-abuse.

Sadly enough, there is an increase of suicide even among teenagers and primary-school kids. Peer abuse and mobbing are quite common reasons. Kids and teenagers can be very cruel to each other.

Those who think that “bullycide” (suicide in correspondence with peer abuse) is nothing more than escaping from being mobbed are very, very wrong. If it was that easy, then any bullied child or teenager would just tell their parents: “Mom/Dad, I am unhappy in this school, the others keep teasing and hurting me; please take me to another school!”

So… bullycide occurs more likeably when the victim believes that (s)he is to blame for what has happened to him/her; when (s)he is convinced that she is bad, nasty, stupid, ugly and therefore does deserve the pain (s)he has to receive every day (or: thereforee does not deserve to stay alive.)

In the case of elderly people, the main risikofactor is isolation. Old people might lose their spouses, friends, and loneliness is not easy to endure. They also might experience the decrease of their former activity, they do not have the energy to do the things they used to do before; so it can easily happen that an elderly person chooses to end his or her life so that (s)he would not be a burden to his/her family any more.
To face chronic terminal illnesses also might give a big feeling of hopelessness.

Weakened self-esteem is very common among suicidal persons. It might not be obvious why self-esteem problems can lead to self-destruction or suicide, so I think it does worth to give a more detailed explanation.

Low self-esteem in practice means that you feel “I am nothing and a nobody”, so you always feel the need to prove—to prove that you are as worthy as others, you have the same rights as others have, you have the right to be there (may the mentioned “there” mean belonging to a certain group, a class, a relationship, whatever means a lot for you), you deserve respect…

This can often result in an over-achieving attitude. For an outsider, it might be difficult to understand why a “successful” person feels suicidal… you see, over-achieving makes you very lonely. While you are busy with “proving”, you have no time or energy to enjoy what you are actually fighting for. Loneliness and isolation can lead to dangerous thoughts.
The other danger in this over-achieving, perfectionistic attitude lies in the possible failures. A perfectionist person is very good at concentrating his or her energies in one certain subject. This might make him/her respected, others likeably look up to him/her, admiring his/her willpower for making so enormous efforts… but, believe me, this is not good at all.

First, if you make too much efforts in aim to achieve something, the possibility of failure will cause a much greater depression. You sacrificed everything you have, and thereafter failed… so all the energy is gone, and you have gained nothing.
For a devout perfectionist, this might mean more than for a “normal” person. The more perfectionistic you are, the more you are to identify yourself with your successes and failures. And it is very easy—dangerously easy—to get from here to a state of mind when you identify yourself with your failure. “I am a failure.” Perfectionists have a tendency to think only in black and white, and this is not the healthiest thing.

It is also important to know that—at least in Norway and Danmark—approximately 40% of the suicidal acts happen in intoxicated condition. So, it is much better to be careful with alcohol and other substances when you have to face any kind of crisis in your life.

It might seem to be a good temporary solution, to consume enough alcohol to forget about your problems for a night, or you might feel that you are cool if you use some drugs… but in reality, the only thing substances help in is to make you feel even more out of control.

Resources:


Familien beskytter mot selvmord—Family provides protection against suicide (no)
Fakta om selvmord—Facts about suicide (no)
Derfor begår noen selvmord—Therefore commits one suicide (no)
Den store mobbebloggen—The great blog on mobbing (no)

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