Monday, May 20, 2013

Suicidal Thoughts: Out In The Open

End Of Life



Edvard Munch’s "The Scream": This iconic painting represents quite vividly the feelings and emotions of many individuals, including those who hold suicidal thoughts and ideas. The painting, which was sold for almost $120-million to to financier Leon Black on May 2nd, is currently is on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York from October 2012 to April 2013.
Photo Credit & Source: USA Today

Suicide, the killing of self, has always been a touchy subject, with good reason. There are the religious and ethical arguments to consider, but there’s also the personal, the individual act. The idea that one wants to end his life seems to go against the biological desire to continue and press forward. And, yet, many people kill themselves each year, having no desire to continue, to press forward.

In an article in Scientific American Samyukta Mullangi writes that instead of making suicide and the thought process associated with it a taboo, which is often the case in many societies, we ought to bring it out in the open, without fear or consequence.
A recent article in NYTimes [1] declared that the rising rate of suicides among our baby boomer generation now made suicides, by raw numbers alone, a bigger killer than motor vehicle accidents! Researchers quoted within the article pointed to complex reasons like the economic downturn over the past decade, the widespread availability of opioid drugs like oxycodone, and changes in marriage, social isolation and family roles. Then I scrolled down, as I always do, to peruse some of the readers’ comments, and that’s when I paused.
I suppose in hindsight that I had expected readers to exclaim at the shocking statistics (suicide rates now stand at 27.3 per 100,000 for middle aged men, 8.1 per 100,000 for women), or lament over personal stories of relatives or friends who took their own lives. While I certainly saw a few such comments, I was amazed to discover the number of readers who were sympathetic to the idea of suicide.
“Molly” wrote “Why is suicide usually looked upon as a desperate and forbidden act? Can’t we accept that in addition to poverty, loneliness, alienation, ill health, life in world [sic] that is sometimes personally pointless means that death is a relief? I believe the right to die, in a time and place (and wishfully peacefully without violence) is a basic human right.”This post was ‘recommended’ by 351 other readers at the time of this essay being written.
“MB” wrote, to the approval of 394 of fellow readers, “Has anyone considered fatigue?…. Stress and overwork (and the prospect of continuing to do so until my health gives out, without any realistic hope of retirement, assuming that I want to keep on eating when I get really old) have taken a toll. All I really want to do is sleep. I’m tired of fighting, tired of running on adrenaline for years at a stretch. Adrenaline was designed for short bursts of energy, not a multi-year slog. I dream about suicide chiefly because it would enable me to take a long rest.”
Such is the way many people today, and in previously difficult economic times accompanied by a loss of social cohesion, think and often act. What needs greater, wider and more serious discussion is not why individuals commit suicides, which are well known, but why our society is structured the way it is that leads to to the need to end a life. The problem, as I see it, is that society for many individuals has become an endless battle, and a often-tiring one without any cohesive purpose. Suicide is often the sign that the battle has ended.

We need to listen more carefully to more of the rising chorus of unhappy voices and not consider them all crazy or unworthy of our time. Talking about suicide does not lead to suicide, but opens the conversation to important matters of life,, purpose and death. You might learn something not only of the other person, but also of yourself—he or she being a mirror to your true self.

In conversation, you might find out something revelatory, namely, that what frightens us as a society the most is the most human of things—that we are all truly fragile creatures, and not as tough as we think we are.

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You can read the rest of the article at [SciAmer]