Monday, 22 October 2012 06:59

SUICIDE EPISODES: One Ending One's Life For Good or For Bad and What It Means

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For an introduction, this article says that death is death but when it is cut short by one killing oneself when one is not supposed to means that those thinking of taking their lives need emergency and resourceful help. The first help is what we shall concern this piece with – to create awareness and educate the public that we are our neighbour’s first aider at hand when our neighbour or kin-person or community member or workplace colleague is facing a stressful challenge that might force him or her into death by suicide. How do we identify and help cases of suicide as episodes for attention?  

Application of Knowledge of Suicide

Death by suicide is a common cultural experience in the context of living and dying. Often people die by killing themselves just like that. Each case of suicide appears to shock us as it equally appears to apportion blames. Quickly we ask, why this way of shameful death? Did no one see it coming? Is it not stupid for the dead person to commit the act of death by suicide? What happened that the victim could not endure to live on, try something different?

It is sometimes easier said than done because in every case of suicide, something happened beyond the conquering capacity of the victim. That way, the living is impacted and challenged to understand and to ensure that dying by suicide is avoided.

Are there major and minor reasons that lead to self-killing to death? What lessons do we learn from suicide experiences? What can we offer to relieve of signs of suicide and severe contemplations of suicide? Life needs first aid at all times to move on. But does suicide seek out first aid and if it does do we know what to do to help the needy person being involved in dying by suicide?

To understand suicide as a phenomenon we live with, it is important to explore the circumstances of why people die by choosing to kill themselves. How and why do people die of suicide?

I am working out an article on suicide and I think it is necessary to share the questions I am thinking with around the perceptions of suicide and reasons why people die by so choosing. Again why do some societies have high rate of suicide and others experience low incidence of suicide? Ever before suicide occurs, what symptoms are exhibited by the victim of suicide? Why do people contemplate suicide when challenged with difficulties and shocks in life? Is suicide easier said than done?

Recently, a young man was shown in this Facebook column of having died by suicide by jumping from the 8th floor of the government secretariat in Nigeria. He was shown in his own pool of blood. Scary! Disgusting! Shocking! No single person is a bullet proof to the issue of suicide. Anyone can be a victim of suicide. As such, suicide thoughts and actions can be a factor to the life and death of anyone. The thought of suicide does not come in a single day. It builds up according to the challenges that result to the act of self-killing in a particular way.

Obviously people who die by suicide are not fools, nor are they commonly useless. Something orchestrates suicide. Although some societies view suicide as an abomination while some others have different opinions and set of taboos around the body and soul of a dead person by suicide. Burying a dead person by suicide is also a challenge to some community members. This is true because for such communities, suicide connotes the unfamiliar and unacceptable way to die a decent death. Suicide in that circumstance is a bad death, a death not wished for nor prayed for – so as to express the end of one's good life. By and large, suicide is a condemnable pattern of dying. Is mercy killing, one helped to take one’s own life a good thing? Military war ethics condones a measure of suicide for the security and safety of others in the battle field. But every suicide condition – cool, hot, peaceful, forceful, or compelled – must count and worry us.   

To help people who contemplate suicide in any way, it is important to understand the challenges of suicide such that we can offer help to those who are engaged in personal guilt feelings and the worthlessness of continuing to live. To get at the root of what we can do, we need to view a suicidal person to be that who is at the centre of human conflict between life and death. The suicidal individual is located at the centre of the struggle to live or to die. One's person is bothered, thinking out nearly on how to shift one's paradigm of values either to the side of life or to the side of death. One has two sides therefore – the life-side and death-side. Consequently, everyone thinking death is presumed to be also thinking life. It is a serious fight or rather struggle to come to terms with this evocative struggle, to live or to die. To shift from the side of life to sleep with death is the most compelling mental force a suicide prone person can have to deal with.

When we ask the right questions to people we know who suddenly get depressed, disturbed, challenged, become loners, withdrawn, less likely to socialise as before and completely changed, there is every tendency that we can capture the victim's mindset and do something in the manner of first aid to alleviate the trouble, in particular the choice we might consider to be a wrong one when it can lead to terminating one’s life. This means we have to become more observers and participants in such people's lives and become able also to offer solutions that might help, and urgently too. Our response must be meaningful and apt.

But the question again is how do we earn the trust of someone contemplating suicide to empty the one's self-conflicts and become able to regain the one’s part of life that wants to live? In other words, thinking suicide refers to one having two sides of the human divide - side of death and side of life as I said before.

To offer help, our role will need to centre on helping a victim to re-hold onto or re-acquire the audacity of hope to achieve one's dream in life and get redefined by belongingness to one's circle of valued people in one’s life. It can never be such an easy task to assist someone to regain the side of life. But it is possible and a way to go. Living a life is not a pleasure but a gift and desire we labour to have. Let me be clear, to be confronted with a life in danger of suicide is not funny. This we must always keep in mind as we approach a suicidal individual at risk. It is as serious as any threatening moment in one's life. I was faced with one yesterday (October 18, 2012) by a guy I never would have imagined to think suicide and I did offer help that is bringing the guy back to reason – and his life being regained. Getting involved works, I must say, than shying away. Take any situation serious and immerse yourself as a last solution to the victim. One at risk of suicide watches how you are feeling and acting towards his or her situation and your ability to demonstrate that you care and want to be the best of all helpful persons and become everything in making the victim’s life get retuned up and rectified to function again will all add up.

Nevertheless, the World Health Organization states that "worldwide, suicide is among the top five causes of mortality. This is true to people of all ages of people, particularly in the 15-to 19-years of age group as well as among the elderly. But the point is that no age group category is risk averse to suicide. In many countries suicide episode makes first or second as a cause of death among both boys and girls in the youth age group." As such, WHO recommends "strengthening student's self-esteem" to protect children and adolescents against mental distress and dependency as well as to enable them to cope adequately with difficult and stressful life situations – to be a task that must be done. It also suggests that preventing bullying and violence at school" will require specific skills of which should be available in the education system in order to promise and create a safe environment free of intolerance, including "to de-stigmatize mental illness, discrimination and racism of all kinds, as I must indicate.

Do we have the skills and how to connect to resources to help?

Articles and workshops on suicide, including what people should do or concern themselves with are common. Yet suicide is rife. I have drawn from internet sources to help increase awareness of suicide and offer people practical solutions and support. It is obvious that when people feel at risk of suicide, we should not assume they have known all they should know about the phenomenon and anxiety of being at risk. Sushii asserts that “if you feel suicidal or are in danger of harming yourself, please tell someone. Don't keep it to yourself.” I totally agree and I want you to agree to this counsel too. It is important that you do so and to regularly remember this advice at any moment you turn to thinking suicide. Indeed, any suicide ideation must bring you into first of all asking yourself, why can’t I tell someone in the first instance? Two heads, they say is better than one. And I must tell someone – for good or for bad. In this way one at risk of dying by suicide is likely to be the best the one can do as a provoked idealist wanting to cut life shot. In other words, tell a friend or a family member, or a mental health professional. If you feel you have nobody to trust or you are feeling embarrassed to admit what you're going through, there are anonymous helplines set up especially to deal with suicide. There are counsellors who are trained, who won't judge you, and who can provide support and assistance when you feel there's nowhere to turn. Never see suicide as a bridge to no-where close to life again but to death to end your sufferings, your misfortunes and your dilemma. There is a way out to every situation. How many people, particularly new immigrants are aware that in Canadian or USA tax code, there is a way to exempt you from dying of suicide due to heavy debts that overwhelm you? You must speak to debt managers or counsellors to give you a way to do a soft landing. Only those who come out of their closet will be helped. Only when one at risk raises one's hand and voice can we try to understand the very kinds of help needed and how it is needed. The same applies to suicidal behaviours when one is overwhelmed by challenges. There are hotlines and emergency contacts one can be linked up to. Do not die in silence, period.      

Below is an advice around “What to Do if you Want to End your Life” culled from the internet (cf. Sushii column - 2007) and I hope by reading it you will get wiser and become able to help those in need of losing the battle of life. If you are feeling suicidal or want to end your life, it's important that you keep yourself safe. Try to remember that thoughts about taking your life are just thoughts. They do not mean you have to act on them. No matter how overwhelming they are or how often you have them. They also don't mean that you will always have those thoughts.

Everyone goes through tough times and experience times when things seem hopeless. It is possible to get through these times by creating your own 'tool kit' of coping strategies, which you can use when you're feeling suicidal or when things feel hopeless. Some suggestions include:
Postpone any Decision to End your Life: While it may feel like you have to act now, try to postpone that decision. Keep a list of other things you can do to distract yourself. This might include watching a DVD or going to the movies, playing a game, ringing a friend, chatting on msn, doing some exercise, reading a book or listening to music. You can then put this into action when the feeling starts to surface. Many people report that by postponing a decision to die, they found that their life did change. They were able to get the support they needed and could move on to a better, happier place.

Tell Someone: Although it may seem hard, and may seem like a bigger challenge than taking steps to end your life, it's important to reach out to others who might help you to see alternative ways of solving or thinking about a problem, and help to you to realize what is important to you, allowing you to have a more positive outlook.
You could tell a family member or friend, counsellor or any person that you feel comfortable with (this might also be a teacher or religious leader). If they don't believe you or don't want to listen, keep trying until someone else does. Sometimes people don't react well at first because they don't know how. This is not your fault, and although it may feel hard, don't give up!

If you are having difficulty speaking about what you're going through, you might start with sentences such as 'Right now, I'm feeling...', 'I think it started when...', 'I've been feeling this for...', 'My sleep has been...', 'Lately school/work/uni has been...'. At this point of the heavy and unclear anxiety, you must be brave to do that common and simple thing. Tell someone. Open up and talk. Phone a number and say I need to talk to you about something I might need your best advice.
Ring a Crisis Line: If you feel are having difficulty talking to people you know, phone a crisis line. Write Down your Feelings: Writing down your feelings, or keeping a journal, can be a great way of understanding your feelings and a particular situation. It can also help you think about alternative solutions to problems.

Set Small Goals: Sometimes people set goals which are almost unachievable and then feel worse when they cannot reach them. Try to set goals that are achievable for you, even if it's on a day by day, or hour by hour, basis. And remember to reward yourself too.

Exercise and Eating Well: Even though you might not feel like it, exercising and eating well can help when you are feeling down. Biological factors, as well as social factors, influence how you feel and how you react think about certain things and yourself. Exercise helps stimulate hormones, such as endorphins, which help you feel better about yourself and your life. If you haven't done a lot of exercise before, it might be a good idea to start doing something small a couple of times each week. A 15 minute walk or 2 or 3 laps of a pool would be a good place to start.

Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: Try not to use drugs or alcohol in the hopes of feeling better. The feeling is usually temporary and the after effects often make the problem worse.
Talk to a Psychologist or Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are health workers, who have special training in mental illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia, and suicide. Clinical psychologists have a similar training, but do not administer medication. You may be able to find them through your GP, your local community health centre, or through colleges of psychiatry and psychology. Some GPs and other allied health staff also do counselling. You may be able to obtain details through divisions of general practice in your area, and/or through your community health centre.

Why do People Want to End Their Lives?
 
Sometimes living can become very painful and problems can seem overwhelming. At some point many people think about suicide, but do not plan or act on it. However, for others the thought of suicide might begin to seem like a real alternative to a problem or situation that appears hopeless or as if there is no solution.

Situations that might contribute to a feeling of hopelessness include: relationship break-ups, family or marital problems, sexual, physical or mental abuse, getting pregnant and not knowing what to do, drug or alcohol problems, business failures or loss of wealth, mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar and depression, major loss and grief such as a death, school, university or work problems, unemployment or being unemployed for a long time, feeling like you don't belong anywhere, any problem that you can't see a solution for and is ongoing. Others may be one being involved in armed robbery or conspiracy, or being reported for a criminal or terror activity and you don’t want to be caught and tried. Hunger and starvation are part, including the neglect of loved ones at home in one’s country of origin or so.

The bottom line is that as a victim at risk, tell someone. Reach out to any of the following: (http://reachout.com.au/default.asp?ti=1861&gclid=CM-LsLSMkI0CFRoRYQod2h3Kng").
Suicide helpline (Australia) (http://www.suicidehelpline.org.au/); Suicide crisis centre (http://suicide.com/suicidecrisiscenter/); suicide.com; www.suicide.com). Suicide centre of the area you are living in should be sourced out through a network of your own local connection.

Conclusion

Let me conclude this article by assuming that we do understand that first aid to mental stress, hence suicide ideation is an important approach we need to pay attention to like in all other life threatening conditions and situations. We owe it as a human and social duty to observe and ask our friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues, peers, members of our associations or clubs and leagues not only how are they are doing but also check in and out and speak to a situation when noticeable changes and suspicious behaviours of stress are causing a change to the individual people’s normal lives? Act like a social professional and care-tailor and take measures to tailor down the situation through connection and engagement for a change, re-inclusion, opportunity and safety for the better. Preventing suicide must take the course of important and focused actions of prevention, intervention and rescue.

By being informed and empowered to know what to do, how to approach and interrogate as well as where to gather resources to address suicide episodes, the chances of preventing suicide, intervening to stop suicide and rescuing a person at risk of death by suicide is a duty and responsibility we owe to one another. Anyone can become at risk of suicide and it is obvious that we show concern to people in our community who may be currently at risk and do something about it. One good turn they say, saves another at risk equally.

We can say that by way of meaning, thoughts, feelings, shying away from normal things of life, and recognizing any sign of attempt of suicide expressed or intended is a clear communication like anger that someone is at risk and needs help. Having said all of the above, this writer hopes that this article should be helpful to you and others arround you towards not only reducing but also avoiding incidents of depression and death by suicide.

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Patrick Iroegbu Ph.D

Patrick Iroegbu is a Social and Cultural (Medical) Anthropologist and lectures Anthropology in Canada. He is the author of Marrying Wealth, Marrying Poverty: Gender and Bridewealth Power in a Changing African Society: The Igbo of Nigeria (2007). He equally co-ordinates the Kpim Book Series Project of Father-Prof. Pantaleon Foundation based at Owerri, Nigeria. Research interests include gender and development, migration, race and ethnic relation issues, as well as Igbo Medicine, Social Mental Health and Cultural Studies.

Website: www.igbomedicine.webs.com