- The act of killing yourself
- A person who kills himself intentionally
What great violence is this
What incredible suffering
What mind that turns on itself
and in the end destroys its own existence
I don’t know if you’ve ever known anyone who has killed themselves, I have. He wasn’t a close friend but I knew him from the local pub. He never drank that much really, but I had a beer with him the week before he died. He seemed normal, although he said that people were watching him, the police were tapping his phone, and that there was some kind of conspiracy against him. He kept himself to himself pretty much, but I wouldn’t have said he was on the brink of attaching a hose to the exhaust of his car and gassing himself to death, something he did the following week. That was it. The end. Death. And for him, maybe peace.
Back then, I had no knowledge of the human mind. It wasn’t something that interested me a great deal. I had my job, my girlfriend, my own problems, and to me, he was just another guy drinking in the pub. So when he said people were watching him and tapping his phone, I didn’t make any connection that he may be suffering in his mind – that the feeling people were watching him, or conspiring against him may be a symptom of schizophrenia (any of several psychotic disorders characterized by distortions of reality and disturbances of thought and language and withdrawal from social contact), or some other illness of the brain.
You see, in every other capacity he was a regular guy. He had a job, a car, liked music, and the way he explained that the police were tapping his phone sounded, although unlikely, quite plausible. After all, strange things do happen.
I only wish I knew what I do now. I wish I could turn back the clock, and get him some help (because help is available), and save him from carrying out the faulty instructions of a diseased mind. One that has made all the right connections in so many respects, but has one faulty connection. One that enabled him to use his human body and mind to do the one thing that humans are programmed not to do – terminate their own lives.
If terminating your own life was actually a program option in life, the human race would have been wiped out thousands of years ago. Our natural drive is to survive at all costs.
How many stories of courage and bravery have we heard over the years, where people involved in terrible accidents have dragged themselves many miles to a hospital and survived against all odds? The human is programmed for survival, and anything that goes against that natural drive is an error.
When people hear of others committing suicide, they say, “But she seemed so happy, I can’t believe she did it to her family. What about the children?”
From the initial shock of hearing of someone’s death, comes the accusation that what the person did was a selfish act, without a thought to the family she would leave behind, but suicide isn’t like that.
If the natural drive is to survive, what drives people to terminate themselves? These are not people who want to die. Their brain may be telling them they should kill themselves, that it’s the only option left, that they should do it now, but can’t you see, this is a faulty brain that causes them to think like that. It is not their own thought, there is a physically anomaly in the brain that allows the person to turn on themselves.
Could you kill yourself? Right now?
You have debts, a failed marriage, no job, a court case coming up. It seems the only option is killing yourself; but killing yourself is not that easy. If I sit with a knife ready to slit my wrists or my throat, could I actually carry it out if my mind was working correctly?
Everybody has debts, and problems with relationships, these are just challenges in modern life, and in the end, even if you feel at the end of your tether, there is hope, because you are alive! And whilst you’re alive, you can fix the problems. Debts are just debts, and if you can’t pay, you can’t pay, simple as that. If you have no job, you look for another one. If your marriage has failed, so have a billion others, there are plenty more people with whom to start a relationship with.
Life is an adventure: sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, and talking to anyone about a problem makes it seem half as bad, but people with a few problems don’t kill themselves.
I believe there is evidence that shows that most people think about suicide at sometime in their lives, even for just a second, but the pull of life is so strong it’s enough to silence these fleeting thoughts. People who drink heavily may kill themselves, but that is because the chemicals in alcohol actually affect the brain in a physical way. Suicide requires the brain to have made the physical connections that permit the body to harm itself.
Fleeting thoughts in the imagination are just that, imagination, and how many of us can honestly say that we’ve had what we can only call “crazy thoughts” or “weird ideas” at some time in life? I know I have, and most would be too embarrassing to even discuss with you here! But they pass quickly, and you get on with the business of living. The brains of people who commit suicide must be wired differently, if only at the crucial time they decide to kill themselves. If everyone who had a problem in life committed suicide, there would be nobody left on the planet.
Let’s compare two people for a moment to see which one would contemplate suicide. First, let’s take the successful man who has lost everything, his wife, his home, his job. Everything he worked for is gone, he is facing court on charges of fraud, and his life seems at an end. He is miserable, and desperate.
The second man still has his wife, although he has no water. His country has been at war for twenty years, his children were raped by soldiers, and he scavenges just enough to eat to stay alive. He is miserable and desperate. Who would you think is more likely to kill himself?
While you ponder the question, let me tell you a short story.
Last month, a friend of my girlfriend decided to kill herself. My girlfriend said she had no idea her friend was unhappy. She didn’t drink much, was always helping other people with advice, and just two days before she decided to do it, was talking about how much she was looking forward to christmas. Then she did it.
She swallowed forty pills, cut her wrists, then casually walked out of a sixth floor window. Amazingly, she is still alive, thanks to the wonderful doctors who saved her life, and is making a full recovery. Some of you may say that if someone wanted to die that much, she should have been left to get on with it, after all, she didn’t give a thought to the family she was leaving behind, nor for the expense and effort in saving her life. But do you know what? When she woke up in hospital, she couldn’t remember anything, and she asked the doctors: “Was I in a car accident?” She was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Three weeks later a psychiatrist told her what she had done. She could not believe what she was being told, as she had no recollection of the event.
She will now have a different life from that which she imagined as a child. Medication may calm her, and make her less psychotic, but it will always be with her.
Are humans the only species on earth to kill themselves?
The brain is a complex and delicate instrument, and it all needs to wired correctly for us to function normally. Given the complexities of the brain, it is surprising that so many of us are able to function at such a high level!
There are statistics galore on suicide, showing higher rates for men in a certain age bracket, or for women of a certain race and a specific age, or increased suicides in different parts of the world at a specific time of year; but the truth is, these are just statistics.
According to reports, about a million people globally are recorded to kill themselves each year, and compared with the world population of six billion, I’d say that isn’t a bad percentage. Given the stresses that are put on us to achieve at all costs, the fact that people manage, either to work through their problems with a friend, counsellor or other support service, is very positive.
It is always terrible if someone actually ends their life, but we have to accept that once they are wired for suicide, it is virtually impossible to stop them unless you get to them in time. The fuse has been lit, and unless you can disarm the bomb it will go off….
So who is likely to kill themselves in the world apart from those with a diagnosed condition such as schizophrenia? Is it the man who has lost everything or the man who has nothing?
First we have to look at the society we live in today, and what it is wired for. One word: Success. The whole world is wired for success, and let’s face it, not all of us can live up to expectations can we? Success as a wife, success as a mother, success at school, success in business, social success. Everything we do is geared towards us being successful. And what if we’re not? We’re termed a loser, a waste of space, a no hoper, and we are ousted from the in-group.
People want to associate with winners, and if you’re shy, had a troubled childhood, aren’t well educated, or find trouble “fitting in,” you’re going to feel pretty low, aren’t you? You see everyone else looking “successful,” and you can’t match up to them. You’re an outcast, a nobody.
So although organisations may bandy around suicide statistics on the type of person likely to commit suicide, or the type of employment that may cause people to take their own life due to stress, it isn’t about that. I think we all have the ability to commit suicide if we push ourselves into the darkness of despair, and feel that everything is worthless, and we can’t see the point of living; but life is hard. It took several billion years to get us to where we are today, in times a lot harder than we are having now.
I wonder what the percentage of cavemen killing themselves was, back all those millions of years ago? Did it happen? Or is suicide a “new” thing?
Do you think there was suicide before conscious thought, and the development of language, as that may explain why we are probably the only species to deliberately kill ourselves. We have the ability to be aware of ourselves in our environment, we have the power of imagination to feel bad, and feel sorry for ourselves. We can feel. We feel depressed, and angry at the world, and we see no other way out of the situation so that anger starts to turn inwards. The brain, not being able to tell if it is a real threat or imagined, starts to make connections that support this negativity and offers us solutions.
Consider for a moment, the multi-millionaire executive whom everyone respects and looks up to. He is at the pinnacle of his career, but due to greed or inappropriate sexual desires with children, has been caught doing something that no one would expect him to do. They would feel total disappointment in him. He would be shunned; he would be made an outcast of the very society he loved being a part of. How could he face his wife, his own children, and all of his peers?
That fall from success, coupled with anger directed at himself may be enough for his brain to make all the connections necessary to decide to end his life, and save himself from lifelong embarrassment. The same goes for politicians, generals and anyone in a position of power with something to lose. The same goes for children who are expected to do so well at school, but know they will fail.
It is strange to think that the drive for success, or more appropriately, the fear of loss, could be a reason why we believe it is in our best interests to kill ourselves.
In our short example earlier I asked you who you thought would be more likely to kill himself, the successful man who has lost everything or the man with no food and no water. What do you think now?
Can you see that the man with no water is not driven by success or fame, but by the desire to live. The natural human drive to survive. I have no information on suicide statistics in africa, but poverty is not the key ingredient in making the connections, otherwise the millions of starving people in africa would have killed themselves long ago.
Loss of face, loss of position, and loss of respect from your peers are more likely to be key ingredients. You may be depressed that you can’t get a job, or your wife has taken the kids and left you, but your life isn’t worthless. You are a magnificent human, with the power to do anything in this life.
As I have found out, if I sit having negative thoughts about life, my brain inevitably helps me stay depressed! I know you may find it hard to think of positive things if your world looks grey, but stop for a moment and think of the millions of people in the world who are worse off than you – people who can’t eat, get fresh drinking water, or may be oppressed by a cruel and brutal dictator – and try to see how good your life is.
It doesn’t matter what has happened to you. It cannot be that bad. Death is bad, life is good, and whilst you’re still alive, you have a chance to do something good. You will only be alive on this planet for a few years anyway. If you kill yourself, you are no more than a statistic, time will pass and you will be forgotten like the billions of people who have died before we were born.
Life is great.
If you are depressed where you are, change your environment; never let yourself get caught up in great seas of negativity. Instead of conforming to what others expect of you, or striving so hard for success that you leave yourself a long way to fall, try to experience life at its most simple. Walk in nature, Spend time by the ocean, talk to a friend, talk to a doctor, talk to anyone who will listen. Do not keep problems locked inside so your brain can help you make the negative connections that may end with you turning on yourself.
Love someone. Love animals. Love people. Love nature.
For a man with love in his heart cannot think negatively about the world or himself, but please don’t let yourself become another statistic. You have so much to see and learn here, and you won’t find it unless you go outside of yourself for a moment, and look at yourself objectively.
How bad can your life be? You are alive. Cherish each moment you live. You are special. You are homo sapiens, a human being, the most advanced species on the planet; and like all complex things, sometimes they need a little maintenance.
The way out of every problem is through love, and when you love yourself, the world can throw all the shit at you it likes, and you know what, it just slides off.
Enjoy your life. It is the only one you have, and it’s very, very precious. It has taken hundreds of generations to get you here, billions of years of evolution, and two people to create you. No matter what people have done to you (and in some cases, terrible things), take small steps in the direction of love. I have, and I can tell you, it’s all been worth it.
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED FOR YOURSELF OR OTHERS OR ARE IN DANGER OF HURTING YOUR YOURSELF OR OTHERS PLEASE CALL THE EMERGENCY SERVICES IMMEDIATELY WHEREVER YOU ARE IN THE WORLD
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind – waking up’