SURESH RAMPHUL

According to the World Health Organisation, about one million people die by suicide each year. SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) says that every day approximately 123 Americans die by suicide, with one death every 12 minutes. It takes the lives of over 44,000 US citizens per year. A quarter million are survivors yearly. Self-injuries cost the US $671 billion in 2013.

In every corner of the world, suicide, whether among adults or teens, is a reality. But why is it that we’re unable to prevent it? Where are we going wrong? Despite the existence of organisations militating against suicide, why are their voices going unheeded? People are today living at a faster rate, competition is on the growth and these are bringing in their wake a high level of stress. While most people manage to deal successfully with their stress, unfortunately there are many who have difficulty adapting to it. This inability to adapt to this changing world makes their lives difficult. And they may not know how best to cope.

Known factors of suicide are depression, traumatic experiences in childhood, incest, break-up, the death of a loved person, incurable diseases, personality disorders and job loss. Lesser known factors are chronic pain, stroke, bullying, harassment, anorexia nervosa, exclusion, withdrawal of affection, a deep sense of shame, and inability to pay back heavy debts. Certain occupational groups are at risk when faced with crisis. Other reasons leading to attempted suicide or suicide itself are failed relationships, heavy loss in betting, drug or alcohol abuse, the failure to find a job, extra-marital affairs, falling in love with a married person, nagging. One common point here is despair.

Despair is a natural feeling. As such, it cannot be avoided. We all go through ups and downs in life and in time this feeling dissipates. However, it’s when despair becomes chronic and gets the upper hand on us that it turns into a serious matter. Severe despair tends to deepen our feeling of loneliness. It overshadows the good things in our lives. We don’t perceive that a situation can get better. We’ve the feeling that we’re stuck for good and there’s no possibility of ever getting out of the problem. It confounds the mind. We may very well feel like laying all the blame on others or on the wrong causes for our predicament. Our judgement is clouded. We’re caught in a pattern of thinking where everything is in black. Despair erodes us of our energy gradually. We tend to grow pessimistic and distrustful.

Empowering thoughts

We’re often victims of our misconceptions and wrong beliefs. Despair makes us believe that no matter what we do, we’ll always lose or fail. Anthony Robbins calls this “learned helplessness” in his book “Awaken the giant within” (Pocket Books, Simon and Shuster Ltd., London, 2001). Defeatist thoughts “strip us of our personal power and destroy our ability to act.” The author convincingly argues that we can manage our emotions through transformational words. Replace all those wicked words in our lives by life-enhancing and meaningful ones and life can take on a new significance. We can look at the event that distresses us and gives us dark ideas in a new way. “It’s never the environment, it’s never the events of our lives but the meaning we attach to the events (how we interpret them) that shapes who we are today and who we’ll become tomorrow.”

Emotional intelligence is basically about taking control of our emotions and channelling them constructively. It’s vital to understand our emotions. If we’re angry or frustrated with a person, we may wish to do him or her some harm; we may end up messing up a situation. But if we pause to ask ourselves honestly why we feel the way we do, we may have greater insight into ourselves as well as into those who have hurt us. Detachment can help us better interpret our failures. Controlling our emotions is a first step towards a healthy life. Too often, we emphasise physical well-being through exercises and good food, but we don’t give the same importance to our mental and emotional well-being. How much time are we devoting to our personal development and spiritual awakening?

Disempowering thoughts don’t allow for clear decisions. We’re so immersed in ourselves that we don’t see what effects our act of attempted suicide or suicide will have on close family members. Empowering thoughts strengthen us emotionally and give us mental acuity. In fact, it’s possible to find meaning even in our most painful experiences. We’re vulnerable when we’ve no purpose. It’s therefore vital to set a definite goal in life. We may or may not achieve our goal but a realistic goal has the distinction of giving us a sense of commitment and a direction.

Meditation and deep-breathing are simple but powerful methods to relieve tension. They transform us from inside and highlight our best qualities. They give us clarity of thinking and make us accept our weaknesses. They enable us to become creative and empower us to face boldly the adversities that life happens to throw in our way.

Those entertaining suicidal thoughts might do well to remember the words of Marcus Aurelius: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it, and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

There may be one particular reason why you want to end your life. There may be scores why you shouldn’t.