Hey! Stop! You probably think this article is not for you. Such a “depressing” subject and “we don’t talk about that”.
Well, it’s precisely the fact that people don’t talk about it that so many people actually do it.
So please read on.
It’s either total despair or absolute clarity, but the result is the same. Suicide.
So many people around the world take their own lives, especially in Western cultures. Did you ever wonder why? How is it that a friend is here one day and gone the next. It comes as a huge shock and you rack your brains to try and remember if you saw any warning signs. Guilt creeps in along with the grief and the self-recrimination.
The grief is all about you, not the dead friend. So what about him? How come he suddenly ended his life? I can’t give all the answers, because every person has a different life and different troubles.
I had a friend, well more of a work colleague really. He killed himself and that day has never left me.
You see, it is sometimes possible to see the signs, recognise that something is wrong. In the case of my friend, it seems I was the only one who noticed. I did my duty and brought it to the attention of someone who I knew would talk to him. Three weeks later, he was dead by his own hand.
This is not his story.
How Does It Begin?
As I said, everyone has their own life and experience, so to try to provide an answer that is a panacea for all would be unrealistic and futile. But we can peek into the depths and find something that will help us understand this problem better.
Let’s start by defining a couple of things so we are clear about that which we will discuss. First of all, I am not talking about people who self-harm. Neither am I referring those who attempt suicide as a means of getting attention as a cry for help. It won’t be surprising to know that many of those attempts go wrong and actually end in suicide, which was not their real intent.
The “real” suicide will occur when a person has come to, what seems to them at least, a rational decision (one way or another) that the only true solution to their problems is death. Their death.
You might wonder how it’s possible to come to, what seems to them at least, a rational decision to commit suicide? Well if that’s your thinking right now, then this article is for you. I’m writing this to try and help you to understand this process. To those of us who have no thoughts of suicide, the idea just seems bizarre, selfish, and just fantastical that anyone could think that killing themselves is in any way the right choice to deal with any set of problems. But that’s just it. Their state of mind is not the same as yours. You are the one who’s out of step with this process.
If you think that engaging in suicide in such a calm and practical manner is not normal, then you would be right, of course, under normal circumstances. But these aren’t normal circumstances.
Each of us has our breaking point and once that point is reached, then it’s like breaking through the sound barrier. To begin there are buffeting and turbulence and things are really scary. Then you reach that specific speed and, providing the wings didn’t tear off in the process, there is a loud “BANG” and then calmness and serenity, like entering into another world.
My analogy can only take us so far. That smoothness and calm are akin to the altered state of mind that often comes to a person who has endured as much as they can. They reach critical mass (sorry for yet another metaphor) and something clicks in their mind, like a switch. There is a sense of relief and clarity of purpose. It’s like having a eureka moment when you see the answer to some puzzle that you’ve been struggling with for ages.
The difference is that this new state of mind leads to just one end. All the answers are clear. We, on the outside, would ask, “But what about the wife and kids?” and we are appalled at the selfishness. But we are not in the same state of mind as this person. They calmly justify their decision with “They’ll be better off without me to fuck up their lives”.
The outsider would say with shock and horror “But you are wasting your life. You have so much. Why throw it all away?” Our potential suicide has the easy answer “I’ve looked at all the options from every angle thousands of times and I thought there were no solutions for me, until today, when I realised that if I wasn’t here, then the problem would just disappear!”
It’s that seemingly rational decision that can simply just click into the mind.
So where does this all begin? The answer to that might seem somewhat trite, but it’s none-the-less true. The answer is anytime and anywhere with almost anyone.
You see, living in this high-pressure world is not what we were designed for. Just the act of living today is filled with rules, laws, regulations, political ideologies, conformity, work, study, relationships, technology, buying and selling and a whole lot more.
Where the problems start with the stresses of life are with how the well individual is able to cope with all of the above. This will vary enormously depending on a whole host of factors that go to determine personality. If for example, you’ve had a troubled childhood, then you are less likely to be able to cope with the traumas that life can bring.
By the same token, a person with a “healthy” personality who experiences some extreme horror may be pushed beyond their ability to cope. I’m just trying to define some peripherals to this problem. Within the confines, there is a myriad of ways that have the potential to lead to the final destination.
It often begins with the onset of depression, but it could just as likely be the enormous pressures of work or some other stressor. Depression is often a factor because one of the most common features that lead to suicide is the deep sense of being trapped. Not just the feeling, but actually being trapped in circumstances that have no escape (or so it seems).
The Heart of the Matter
Let’s look at another analogy. Imagine you’ve created a product that you just know everyone will want. People need to see your innovative thingymajig so they can see just how wonderful it is.
You’ve spent months or even years coming up with the idea and the design. Then finally you go into the production of your first workable product. But wait. How many other people were involved in that process? Five? Ten? More? You bounced your ideas off your family and friends. Then there’s the bank for a business loan. Maybe you want to rent a building etc. On and on to build your idea. At each step you find yourself talking about your fledgeling business to other people. Like any small business, you need to get known. So you find ways to contact many people.
Imagine how far you would have got if you didn’t talk to anyone at all about your idea? You’ve kept your idea in your head or on paper. You’ve thought of everything and tried to look at all the configurations of design, using all your expertise and experience to create that perfect thingymajig.
So, still not involving anyone else, you produce a prototype and it doesn’t work. So you go back to the drawing board and re-examine it. How much time and effort have you wasted doing that? How much frustration has come as a result of the constant failure?
Doesn’t this sound like a circular process? Something like we see in depression? Well of course it is. Depression is so often the platform from which suicide is launched and is an important step on the ladder down to suicide.
As important as it is, depression is not the point I am making here. From my analogy above it should be clear to see that talking to others is of vital importance. It’s the gathering together of the ideas and the assistance of others that is so vitally important to get the job done. Success with a business adventure requires the co-operation of others.
So here we have a parallel with those who struggle with depression. Some become so demoralised and hopeless that suicide becomes their only option. They’ve run things around in their head for so long that the conclusion is that there is no solution to their problems, and for some, that final solution comes into their mind.
If only they had talked, I mean really talked with someone. If only they had had the opportunity to explore themselves with the assistance of someone who didn’t have an agenda. Someone who could help to provide another perspective, perhaps something that was not visible from the inside.
I’ve been through this process with other people many times. Seeing a person for the first time who believes strongly that speaking to other people about their problem is putting their burden on their shoulders. Then gradually encouraging them to open up and share their troubles.
Sometimes it takes a long time, but the effort is worth it. So I end by encouraging you to listen. Be that person who can share the pain of another, without judgement. You could save a life.
What to Do Before It’s Too Late
If you are contemplating suicide please talk to someone. Family or friend, it doesn’t matter. At the same time consider calling one of the following organisations:
In the USA: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
In Canada: Kids Help Phone (For young people under 20 years old).
The above are some of the major charitable organisations that can be accessed by phone. See each site for more information.
See this article in Wikipedia for more:
You can, of course, find a counselling therapist. In the UK go to this link to choose one near you (UK only): https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk
If you enjoyed this article, please take a look at my book, “The Whole Family”.
(In paperback or eBook from Amazon)
It’s about relationships. How do you know who is right for you? You want a family right? But you’ve had some disastrous relationships and you don’t really understand why? Well, I aim to answer those questions and much more.
How do families work? What are the dynamics in relationships? How can you learn more about yourself and why bother?
In addition to trying to answer these questions, I also give you my own personal life as an example of a dysfunctional family.