“Why do people die by suicide?””How can we prevent it?””How do I make my friend reach out to me in times of an emotional crises?””How can I know if someone is fighting a silent battle and is suicidal?”
I get asked these questions by a lot of people. In order to understand the answers to these questions we first need to understand what suicide really is.
Suicide can be an impulsive action but it’s not an impulsive decision.Someone doesn’t just decide to end their life on facing a single life challenge. This is not how a human brain works. Human brain is hardwired to protect itself from any possible harm or threat. Whenever there is a (real or perceived) threat to life or our sense of self brain activates the survival mechanism and the body gets ready to protect itself from the threat by either fighting the situation or if it can’t be fought then by escaping it. This is how strong our life instinct is.
However, despite this strong libido, if odds continue to seem against us, if it starts to feel like there are too many threats and too little resource to fight, if it seems like the threats are bigger than us, and if somewhere in the middle we start to feel worthless and helpless, that’s when we start to hit a dangerous point. This is where we start to lose that last string between ourselves and life, that is, ‘Hope‘. It takes a lot of blows, a lot of challenges (real or perceived), a lot of failures and battles that you keep losing for us to finally lose hope and for us to feel that there is no reason to live.
A person who dies by suicide is never looking at ending their life but at ending their pain. However, after a point one starts to feel that one’s pain is no different than oneself. Hence, if someone has already lost hope there is very little that one can do to help them. Therefore, telling people to reach out if they are thinking of taking their life away won’t work because at the time they see no point in reaching out. When hope is lost one is convinced that nothing can make things better for them and that the only way to end their suffering is to end their life.
what do we do then?
Well, we seek help while hope is still alive.That is the only way to prevent suicide. But the question arises if it’s that simple why isn’t everyone seeking help? In my opinion, it’s because of two primary reasons:
1. Denial- We think denial serves us well and that denying our anxieties, stressors and worries will make them go away. we can’t be more wrong. It’s like saying “if I close my eyes no one can see me”. And we close our eyes by either partying too hard, binge watching Netflix series, binge eating comfort food, by engaging in drugs, alcohol etc., by overworking, travelling, playing video games and so on. Even though engaging in these activities make us forget about our issues and give us pleasure, that pleasure is very short lives, which makes coming back to the reality harder and more overwhelming. It’s like a cancer patient denying that they have cancer and thereby denying treatment because they’re too scared. Denial will serve them for a while but will not cure their cancer. Denying our problems do not make them non-existent, it delays healing. We keep denying for as long as we can, and then we just start to break down- either become too numb to all positive and negative emotions or just have a meltdown- and this is where some people become suicidal because there’s too much piled up now.
2. Stigma towards Seeking Help- There’s too much stigma around seeking not just mental healthy help but help of any sort. We always keep seeking help as our last resort. If we have a project at work that is due and we need a colleague’s help for the same, we’ll keep delaying it just because asking for help is too uncomfortable and very belittling. Our issues with seeking help are so deep rooted that positive affirmations like “Seeking help is okay”, “there is no shame in seeking help”, etc, do not work. If this problem has to be taken care of then the belief system around seeking help needs to be addressed from very root.
Suicide is not the real problem, it’s the manifestation of a more deep rooted problem and more deep-rooted mindsets. If we’re able to challenge these mindsets of denial and stigma round seeking help we can bring down the suicide rate a great deal.