Suicide has been in the news again, this time regarding Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999 with the middle-aged having the most suicides and the greatest rate of increase. Alarming statistics.
Suicide is derived from the Latin word “suicidium” which is defined as “the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suicide). Why would one decide to end his/her life by suicide? Are they mentally ill? For a person to commit suicide indicates that there is something gravely wrong in that person’s life. Mental illness is the most common correlate to suicide. Of the mental illnesses, depression is the one most commonly linked to suicide.
Suicide has been referred to as an inarticulate call for help. It has also been suggested that those who commit suicide are ambivalent about dying. It has been suggested that most of those who end their lives by suicide are characterized by three “Hs”. They feel helpless, hapless, and hopeless. Those three “H” words may very well sum up the felt darkness that compels people to “voluntarily and deliberately end their lives”. It is miserable to live without any hope that things might get better, to feel stuck or trapped in a morass of misery. Shame, regret, guilt, emotional and physical pain, feeling like a burden, worn out from the same drudgery of living, knowing one is going to die and not wanting to experience the intense pain. The list could go on. But back to mental illness.
Why such a stigma attached to “mental illness”? There is no such negative connotation attached to physical illness. Sadly, there remains a very strong stigma when it comes to mental illness. That is so unfortunate! People should not be stigmatized for having a mental illness. Surely, everyone has been physically ill. In the same vein, it would surprise me to find a person who has not suffered from mental illness. I personally know what it is to have mental illness and to be treated for it. Untreated mental illness is costly and can be fatal. Suicide is one potential outcome.
Those who commit suicide cannot be interviewed. But, much can be discovered by conducting a psychological autopsy. Some additional indicators that have been associated with imminent suicide include: lack of connection, inability to think clearly, death seen as a viable way out, and the list could go on and on. Though I never seriously thought of taking my life, I have begged for God to take me out. He did not cater to my pleas. At the time, I was angry that He did not accommodate me. If wishing and praying to die were sufficient to end life, I would have been dead decades ago. Life was purely miserable in so many ways. Yet, life was incredibly blessed as well. The pain of misery overshadowed the good. Though fragile, my faith, as well as not wanting to devastate those I loved, kept me from doing the irreversible.
More in the next blog re: what to look for, what to do, and what not to do.