Life and death are subjects of such colossal proportions that even after hundreds of years of contemplation by scholars of science and arts alike, much hasn’t been added to the repertoire of this knowledge. Self-intervention in this cycle, or imposing ones will before natural death is suicide. Suicide throws a spanner in the wheel of life and suddenly everything comes to an abrupt end. Or so it may seem. What is left behind is not just the loss of life with enormous untapped potential but also the pain and suffering of those impacted by it.
Those of a pragmatic mindset can be told that they owe it to themselves and their family to try every possible alternative before taking the irrevocable step that leaves a grand scale of destruction behind it. Suicide in its wake brings immense despair.
Osho narrates a story about a man, who walking across the Waterloo bridge, notices another man, standing on the parapet, ready to jump to his death. The man convinces the one contemplating suicide to step off the ledge and talk things over a drink in a nearby pub. An hour later, having discussed the state of affairs, taxes, inflation and the future of Western civilization, both men finish their drinks, walk back to the bridge and jump off together. Statistics also support this anecdote – Like affects like. When parents of children, who are younger than 18, commit suicide, the children become three times as likely to follow the path.
Studies show that people who don’t even know the person who committed suicide personally, can get impacted. After Marilyn Monroe’s cause of death was determined as suicide, there was a spike in the number of suicides in Los Angeles.
Therefore, our lives are not only intertwined with those of our friends and family but even those who don’t know us. When someone chooses not to take this drastic step, they not only save their life but a significant number of other lives as well. Author of the book, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, Jennifer Michael Hecht says, ‘crying and feeling useless is fine – you’re still contributing a tremendous amount, you’re keeping some other mother’s son from the grave’. People can be made to see their self-worth when they see that they can save a number of lives by just carrying on. Displays of human strength and resilience in times of adversity has inspired many to try and fight what ails them.
A death orchestrated artificially also robs the world of a person’s potential and the role they had to play in the world. The human potential left untapped, the talent lost, can never be accounted for.
Osho talks about how one shouldn’t rush to meet death as it is coming anyway. Someone who wishes to take their life, should consider taking Sannyas as Sannyas is the greatest suicide possible. People familiar with the tenets of reincarnation are aware that suicide is not an escape from the never-ending circle of life and death and that we will be born again to suffer the same misery which we so desperately wished to escape. Desires that aren’t fulfilled and cause frustration, must be dropped as in anger and desperation, we may wish to destroy life. Osho says, ‘murdering somebody else is more dangerous, so people start thinking of murdering themselves, but it is still murder’. Whatever our belief systems may be, scientific schools of thought and spiritual leaders alike, have tried to bring forth reasons in myriad of ways to lure one away from this false sense of escape.
We must not be so sure that our life is ours to take. It is not like an object we possess, to dispense off, as and when we feel the weight getting heavier. If we are religious, it belongs to a Higher Power, if not; it belongs to some greater cause and our loved ones. As psychologist Dr. Peterson points out, ‘you have a moral obligation to yourself as a locus of divine value’.
India has the highest suicide rate in the South-East Asian region, according to the World Health Organization’s report. Apart from an emotional loss, suicide also poses a huge economic loss to the society. According to a paper titled, ‘Financial Aspect of Indian Suicides in 2015 – 1,33,623 persons committed suicide in 2015 and the net cost of these suicides was 1,49,313.9 trillion rupees.
Many people who commit suicide are suffering from a mental illness, out of which depression is most common. The perceptual field of someone who has been long suffering from a mental illness and has been struggling without an outlet or medical intervention, may see only an increasingly narrow tunnel, with no light at the end. The change that can be brought about by talking to someone, getting the required medical attention and medication at the right time must not be underestimated.
Destigmatizing mental illness and sharing our stories, helps those who are in the eye of the storm. Knowing when to seek help, whom to approach must be made clear. Immediate attention coupled with unconditional love and support from friends and family might help people feel their importance in the lives of their loved ones.
Since lockdown, it is reported that suicide has been the leading cause of over 300 non Covid-19 related deaths in India.
It is necessary for us to educate ourselves, so that we can identify symptoms in ourselves and those around us. Psychiatric medical help must be made accessible. Though suffering from a mental illness is different for everyone, the path forged by one can inspire many to persist in their pursuit of a peaceful life.
Suicidal thoughts must be watched carefully for they turn to plans and plans to actions. Like any other physical illness, people ailing from mental illness, need as much of our help, care and support, if not more for it takes tremendous courage and fortitude to recognize suicide for the false sense of escape it may provide and persevere towards life.