Opening our awareness to suicide

bluepurpledandelionHeretofore, suicide has been a taboo topic. Now, it is so headline-making and societally embarrassing that clinicians and researchers are madly looking for answers and trying to quantify criteria. Why has suicide become so rampant?

There are those that end their life by suicide from hearing voices. Or they become imprisoned by despair, shame, and worthlessness. They are feeling depressed and hopeless; and their actions can be reckless, impulsive, and, frequently, under the influence of a mind-altering substance. They feel disenfranchised and disconnected from others.

Suicide is complex and complicated. There is not one etiology. It is not simply a matter of mental health.

It is a matter of violence; be it the trauma of war, domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, political torture, bullying at school, cultural shame, personal loathing, and unrelenting self-hate.

It is also a matter of personal choice and debate. Think of peer pressure and identification with your social group. There is also devastating illness; acute, chronic pain; existential fatigue, karmic rut, points of honor, release from paralyzing fear; end of emotional pain; as well as end of life issues. Suicide is never one thing, but the result of an accumulation of stressors and circumstances.

Suicide is also a matter of economics. Just ask Italy, Greece, Ireland, and India. Countries are establishing suicide hot-lines in response to growing numbers of economically comprised citizens. If you cannot feed your family; if you cannot find a roof for your family, if there is no work; if you are consistently cold, hungry, and dressed in rags; if you are exhausted from trying, trying, trying to keep it all together and you cannot, suicide has become a response. In Spain, if you cannot pay the mortgage on your home; the bank brings a locksmith to open your door and claim your house. Far too many have taken their lives as a result of losing the safety, comfort, and refuge of their home.

Loved ones who are survivors of those who died by suicide are often shunned and, equally, as result of their loss, now at a higher incidence of suicide themselves. Trauma begets trauma.

We live in a competitive world where competition, bullying, shaming, and judging are prevalent in corporations and office; schools and universities; capitol hills and houses of worship. There is individual and societal violence and abuse.

Societally, there is a prevalent inability to walk in another’s shoes, to witness the pain or injustice. We turn a blind eye because it is uncomfortable. He’s crazy or she did it to herself.

If we are to end these vicious and pernicious cycles, there is a call for compassion and meeting the other. Suicide is a profound lesson in compassion. Are we ready to learn? Are we willing to demand that we treat each other with peaceful understanding and open hearts?