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Coping with Suicide

Coping with Suicide

Kumlachew Derso (M.A)

It always puzzles me why someone takes his life. Even more, in the last moments of their being what would those who are about to commit suicide contemplating? What really was going on in their minds before executing their plan? I still have a very vivid memory of 3 youths aged between 20 to 22 years in a nearby village that took their lives, I was extremely shocked when I heard the sad news but I could not establish their justification for their dreadful act, I am still at a loss about their rationalization. I did nothing than assuming that losing a close friend could trigger suicide since one of the friends had taken his life a bit earlier, we will discuss about this later as a potential cause.

Before embarking on the details of suicide, it is better to define it. Emile Durkheim defined Suicide as all deaths that emanates from negative or positive act of a person which s/he is familiar with the ultimate result (retrieved from: psychologytoday.com). I hear people often saying it is common to think about taking one’s own life, at least once in a life time, to escape from the chaos around them. This specific situation is known as Suicide ideation; to refer someone’s thinking & planning about death or committing suicide (Kosslyn and Rosenberg, 2011).

Though there still is a confusion as to when exactly suicide started, but there have been educated speculations about it, researchers have revealed that around 4000 years ago there was a writing (poem) of anonymous Egyptian about a conflict that he was having with his soul, about the dishonesty, maltreatments and inhuman acts in general, as these ideas root in his mind, there was a voice inside him that urged him to take his life by his own so that he could be free from all the atrocities of life that he was experiencing, It was not clearly stated in the poem whether that person committed suicide or not but this is one manifestation that suicide has a long history of existence (Barnes, 2010). It is understood that in ancient Japan’s Feudal society, if a person engages in deviant behavior it was believed that honorable suicide was one way to emancipate his/her family from the shame that s/he has brought to his or her family (ibid).

 The attitude embraced by the society considering someone who committed suicide as a sinner or something bad is changing these days; people who take their lives are considered victims rather than anything that is associated with negative connotations. This shift even brought the word ‘committed suicide’ to the spotlight for further scrutiny. That is why we nowadays hear the words suicidal, completed suicide and died by suicide. But still my wonder and baffle remains, why?? What really drives someone to suicide? What kinds of situations push their back against the wall?

There are certain factors that lead to suicide; they fall under the categories of psychological, sociological and biological factors. Amongst the psychological factors for suicide, various researches have revealed that people with substance abuse disorder, low problem coping strategies, personality disorder, those who suffer from learned hopelessness, abusive families, unsettled romantic lives, and loosing someone very close are at a high risk for completing suicide. The other factor is sociological, under which are stigma and discrimination towards certain groups of people as a result of different natural or human made defects, being unemployed, cultural norms that put certain amount of pressure on someone. For instance, consider a culture or society that has a difficult rite of passage. Failing to do so will result in discrimination even worse being considered as abomination of nature which in turn results in an unbearable shame and seclusion leading to suicide, problems related with romantic relationships like being single, divorced and widowed are also thought to play their role in prompting suicide.  Regarding the biological factors, it is beyond my expertise, so I won’t indulge myself in to it for the time being but might say something later on after consulting related literature.

People with thoughts of suicide can be helped through different mechanisms so that the actual suicide attempt could be curtailed or prevented. In this regard, I would like to give more room for psychosocial support in the following lines.

1. Building strong social support

Social support here comprises the support that a person could get from family, community, colleagues or significant others… someone that will be able to show a way in the tides, that s/he still can get up and fight for what s/he has failed to achieve, someone that could lend a shoulder to cry, someone who can commiserate, someone who is able to say life will knock you down in every possible way but don’t knock yourself out because you never know what tomorrow holds for you and you never know how close you are to your dreams.

2. Religious organizations

It is well known that all religions don’t support suicide, not to mention the suicide itself is considered as grave sin by many. So how does religion and religious organizations play a role in preventing suicide? The above-mentioned entities provide religious education regarding living with hope and faith, which in turn equip someone to live to see tomorrow. Personally, I strongly believe that other than food and water hope is what really drive or motivate us to live through all the challenges of life.

Religious beliefs at best render the ownerships and authority of life of a person to a supernatural force thereby convincing a person that it is not up to him/her to decide on whether to live, that the responsibility of a person is to strive and toil to find meaning in life armed with hope. Religion provides one with beams of light at the end of the tunnel defeating darkness, gloom and doom.

3. Organizing hotlines

In Ethiopia, there are online services to customers regarding various issues such as HIV/ AIDS where someone calls and asks various questions about the issue. I suggest the same in suicide case too. If someone harbors an idea of suicide, there should be a way like the above- mentioned case of HIV/AIDS calling for help. The professional counselors in the other end of the line provide ideas and advices as to how one could pass through the trying time and further refer him/her to institutions that provide additional help.

4. Therapy

This refers to Psychological counseling focusing on structuring the derailed abnormal cognitions to friendly thoughts that could make the person be able to see the positives in his/her life. This kind of therapy paves the way for recognition to positive sides of life and achievements that a person has attained.

5. Marriage

Spouses can help each other get through bad times.  In their marriage vows, couples promise to take care of each other for better or worse. Call it psychological, Economical or anything spouses can play a key role towards combating suicide. Do mind here that I am not promoting getting married for the sole intention of not being suicidal but what I am attempting to convey here is that marriage is one institution that helps to prevent suicide.

6. Avoid loneliness and specific objects

If you are struggling with the idea of suicide, avoid the feeling of loneliness because Suicidal thought changes to full completion stage and practice when one is alone & feeling lonely. Loneliness triggers suicide if the idea is already fermented inside the mind, so avoid being alone and feeling lonely for a time, if especially the idea of suicide is recurring again & again, until a permanent solution is found. Individualistic way of life promotes suicide in developed countries, for instance In U.S.A approximately 32,000 people commit suicide which accounts for 87 per day (CDC, 2005 cited in Kosslyn & Rosenberg, 2011). Moreover, removing objects like sharp objects, medications, rope and acidic detergents that can assist you in suicide is very important.

In general, suicide is a non-solution to a temporary problem. I really wonder what someone attempted suicide and failed but now succeed in life thinks about his/her previous move (suicide attempt). I personally believe and uphold that after a prolonged and tiring journey in life, there will come a time of reward as long as we keep on doing whatever it is that we want to achieve; plus we never know how close we are to reach at our dreams. Just hang in there because hard work will pay. I strongly believe that no matter how long and arduous it is, there is always light in the end of the tunnel.

Click here to watch short documentary film on “Suicide”

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Barnes, D.H (2010). The truth about suicide. New York, NY: An imprint of Infobase publishing.

Kosslyn, M.S .,& Rosenberg, R.S. (2011). Abnormal psychology.  New York, NY: worth publishers.