Question of Suicide and Social Stigma

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I have always attempted to keep this blog as real and up close and personal from day one and have covered various much relevant mental health topics even as I walk through them myself. So here’s another.

Speaking of walking, that’s what birthed the idea of this post. Currently, walking a lot. A time when aimless, directionless miles of walking begins to feel cathartic against the strong urges to walk out of life itself. Urges of walking out for good on everything called existence gets catharsized through literally walking miles while imagining like a daydreaming child – What if by such walking one day I could reach the earth’s circumference? – and then one more step and I would be out of this planet – free, floating or walking back to my real Home!

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Silence Doesn’t Help!

Yes, of late thoughts are yet again on and off plain suicidal. And if I have always written on issues like derealization, anxiety, depression, panic disorder and so on, while in real time battling them myself, (writing has always been therapeutic!) why should I shy away from writing on this? Mind had protested with “But it’s.. after all.. Suicidal thoughts.. They will think it’s attention seeking.. Or.. Too much stigma..!” I had smiled. Exactly! That’s why this blogpost is all the more necessary.

Why do we shy away from talking about Self harm and Suicide??

According to WHO reports, about 800,000 people die due to suicide each year. The country where I am writing from, India, 10.9 per 1 lakh people have been accounted for death by suicide by WHO 2015 statistics. In 2012 our National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) reported more than 1 lakh suicide cases. It’s a global phenomenon with 1.4% of all death worldwide caused each year by suicide.

Suicide is a Real issue. Real issues need real talks. Real solutions. Not stigma and shaming and shying away in awkward discomfort! 

For full size map and detailed WHO reports :

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/

 Suicide if Most Often a Silent Prowler – 

One such evening, while walking for miles aimlessly, with raging suicidal thoughts inside, I was thinking how, to every fellow pedestrian or passers by, I must be appearing quite normal, healthy, just another person going somewhere. Only I was aware of my own intentions. With that thought suddenly emerged another thought. I looked around and suddenly wondered how many faces on that busy street were thinking similar suicidal thoughts. 

Look around please, as I did that evening. You will find endless faces commuting to workplace and back home. Strangers sipping tea on roadside tea stalls (or coffee shops, depending on which part of the world you’re in.) Faces in the bus windows looking out. Teens walking back from school. Housewives with heavy shopping bags. Local boys playing cards or board games in a corner. Salespersons, shopkeepers, cyclists, bikers. They all ‘look normal’. But how do we know if their Dis-eased (Not ‘diseased’! Just out of ease) mind, much exhausted, is not silently making the last elaborate plan to cut short life? 

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It is a common and risky misnomer that people who talk of suicide often don’t do it finally, but is only attention seeking. It is also a dangerous misnomer that those who look ‘normal and happy’ are not even entertaining such terminal thoughts. Most successful suicide occurs Suddenly, with hardly any proof that they were thinking about it or were serious about their spoken intentions. 

Psychology categories the topic of suicide under ‘suicidal thoughts with no suicidal intention’ and ‘suicidal thoughts with medium to high risk suicidal intention’. Question remains – How do we tell for sure who’s having which??

Common Causes of Suicide 

Depressive disorder, chronic anxiety, prolonged trauma and several other mental health issues and disorders often become a primary motivation to the secondary issue of suicidal tendencies. Low coping skills, repeated frustrations or failure, severe self-loathing or low self esteem, despair, repressed mental torments, repression and silent suffering, due to all the fear and stigma around mental health issues – all these and more could silently fuel on suicidal thoughts and intents.tumblr_msyvwkk2sd1qcjn0zo7_500

There are a few common signs of someone considering suicide, besides the telltale sign of repeatedly mentioning it as an option. Here is a very detailed and useful list to risk assess and what to do 

https://www.suicideline.org.au/worried-about-someone/recognising-suicide-warning-signs/

‘Abetters involved in every suicide’ – Social Stigma, Blindness and Apathy

Being a borderline personality survivor (my professional mental health expert might pull me uo for using this tag again! Often diagnostic tags become our mental prisonhouse.) I have had, through my lifetime, several phases of strong suicidal tendencies and intentions messily attempted. I personally know the rabid stigma and lack of awareness and empathy around the topic of suicide. Those could be easily termed as the other significant murderers or abetters involved in every successful suicide.

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My personal tryst with it.. 

A couple of years back, severely traumatised by a repeated negative pattern of my life experiences, when I had again grown extremely suicidal and people realized I might have attempted ending my life, the scene changed rapidly from sad to funny to shockingly dismaying. Closest friends/BFFs send in texts with “How could you even..?? You’ll never hear from me again! Am so disgusted!” Family and relatives badgered the life out of me with righteous lectures of how such attempts show a weak will and escapism. Some even threatened to bring home a police to “save me from my stupidity”. Close acquaintances began avoiding interaction. There was a scintillating silence that brooded for months. Though, I was much relieved to be left alone, this clearly shows us all what enormous lack of awareness and empathy works around this topic.

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Suicide survivors all over the world not only have their original trauma (whatever issue made them attempt it in the first place) to cope with and heal but also the heavy burden of social taboo, unsolicited advices of righteousness, the tags of ‘Weak-willed Escapist’, increased non-employability, social shaming, avoidance and the list goes on. Besides these, if your country has criminalized suicide, God save you! 

Why Decriminalization of Suicide is a Must 

I don’t care if religious beliefs judge suicide as some “Sin” claiming one will rot in hell.

What are our churches, temples, mosques, religious institutions and teachers doing to spread Mental Health Awareness and promote greater mental Heathcare?? 

I don’t see why society should slam suicide as ‘Escapism’ and ‘illegal’.

What is the society doing to prevent suicide and self harm?? Just criminalizing it?? If criminalizing real mental torments and dis-orders that push anyone to end their life helps, please carry on! 

Worldwide when there exists till date so much lack of Mental Health Awareness and Stigma that hardly strugglers are allowed to open up in public and/or seek suitable mental health professional support, then criminalizing suicide seems nothing but a sheer convenient hypocrisy!

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The concept of “punishment”, legal and/or social, is inherently reformatory in its intent. What reformation of a suicide attempt survivor do we, as a society, expect? Legally penalizing a person tormented inside with mental illness or depression or other debilitating thoughts around failure or despair is Not Only Senseless but Outrightly Dehumanizing! 

Our Suicide Laws need to change. Some argue that decriminalization may lead to increased suicide rate. I don’t think so. No serious suicide attemptor thinks for even once, “Oh but the law may punish me..”. If at all decriminalization of suicide results in more ‘attempts’ it is then a blessing in disguise. As it can only reveal more cases of genuine silent sufferers – or even people who have certain dysfunctional neurotic manipulation tendencies which too needs professional help and healing.

 

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The linguistic around suicide too needs drastic change. One may be said to “commit” murder or rape or acts of crime. To call an act of suicide in the same breath as “committing suicide” linguistically further stigmatizes the real issue and socially disempowers us to see it empathically. Language is a social/individual mirror. As we keep saying “commit suicide” we are only revealing our blindness towards a far deeper real issue that is crying out for our help and a shift in our old no-good perspective around it.

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These DON’T help!

Don’t say things that don’t help rather push a desperate person even more –
Need help?
India:
International Suicide Hotlines :
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If you’re feeling suicidal, find a way to come out of the closet and talk about it. Life is precious no matter how despairing it may seem. It’s your life and you can ultimately choose what you choose, yet before you pull the plug, are you sure..very very sure..that it is the only balm and solution to whatever you’re struggling with? I know you might have given life umpteen chances and are now exhausted. Yet.. Can you give it one last chance? Talk to a close one. Or to a professional expert. Pick up the goddam phone and dial a helpline. And even just go on long exhausting cathartic walks like I do, which can soothe a traumatised and suicidal mind with a false sense of “walking out” on life while in reality you’ll still be “walking” and hopefully towards healing and brighter days.

Take care,

Nivedita

Disclaimer : (More so because in my beloved country Suicide still remains criminalized!) This blogpost is intended towards spreading more Awareness around the causes and reasons of Suicide thus to be able to socially be more equipped to prevent such misfortunes. This article No Way aims to glorify, support or instigate suicidal tendencies and/or acts of suicide. The writer of this article is Essentially Pro-Life and under No circumstances does/will advice such acts as any reasonable human option. It often emerges as a despairing option for millions, hence needs to be empathically understood and suitable community/professional support extended. This article only aims that.

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© & Author : Nivedita Dey, 2017

Image courtesy & © : Source websites

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