Dr. R. Balu speaks with empathy. He does not just report a problem; he has devoted his life to be part of honorable solutions to the miseries of less privileged. He has positively influenced people of all ages and positions. Balu’s Musings on 25 June 2011 asked “Who killed Sathyamma?” Satyamma committed suicide due to poverty and apathy. All of us, the members of society, have a responsibility to alleviate situations leading to such sad incidents.
Newspapers regularly report cases of suicide. Of them, psychotic cases are rare. Suspected reasons or what is written in suicides note vary widely. One of the core issues is lack of a larger purpose in life. Hardly anyone committed suicide in concentration camps – they had a greater cause which helped them to hold on to hope and faith. With more comfort came more stress and less meaning in life.
Shallow thinking, shadow living and hero worship reduces feeling of self-worth. Such people identify their worth in their hero’s glory. It can also be an anti-hero’s doom that matters to some. In 2004 when UPA got majority in Loksabha, a man committed suicide not wanting to accept Sonia Gandhi as the PM. When Jayalalitha lost elections in TN, a follower killed himself. Some people despair enough to lose meaning in life if the country loses a cricket match or their favorite player gets out without scoring a run. We have witnessed some willing to die or take another’s life in the name of their matinee idol who died a natural death.
Some people invest, gamble, change jobs, and develop relationships – often impulsively. This is often followed by guilt-beating. At times, they find fault in the society or others and at times on themselves. Shanta Kumar, 65, smashes wife’s head and commits suicide. He wanted to sell his house to pay debts incurred in heavy gambling; but the wife did not agree to sign the papers [TOI, 04 Jul 2011]. A boy of class 2 hangs himself, disturbed by seeing the dead body of his school caretaker.
Some young children, when angry or need help, bang their heads on the wall. With deliberate self harm they hope to gain attention and mostly succeed. When a person does not grow from this attention-seeking tendency, he continues to hurt himself in an effort to give a message to the world. He may start with excessive work, drinks, drugs, or self-medications – something that shows that they are severely suffering. When the limits cross, they could end their lives.
Stereotyping of roles and relationships can cause great harm. If we convince ourselves about a pattern of behavior from a relationship, we promote interactions that prove our assumptions. If adolescents do not expect parents to understand them and if the parents think that the teenagers are beyond redemption, strain builds up, leading to depression. An adolescent may also do something drastic to prove a point to the elders. Sunitha, a 25 year old home maker, kills mother-in-law and commits suicide [TOI, 04 Jul 2011]. A 40 year old skilled worker of Bosch and his wife killed their two sons and hanged themselves. Police told that he disliked the night shift at work [TOI, 04 Jul 2011]. A person working at managerial position in a highly reputed company tells me “work is a torture.” When probed a little, he changes the topic. Some people search for villains in their relationships.
Fantasies and phantom relationships are helped by social network media. There are hundreds of dejected young with addiction to shallow and instant gratification. There are deaths resulting from humiliating exposures in social media. Shoaib Khan, 12, a class 7 student in a bid to see what suicide felt like, hanged himself from the ceiling with a dupatta – a fantasy.
Some deaths are self-imposed euthanasia, with a philosophical desire to die because of a painful terminal illness from with little to no hope of reprieve. Even Ramayana ends with suicide of Rama by drowning himself in river Sarayu. When the life’s purpose is over, desire to live vanish in many though there may not be a resolve to die. Tagore has told “because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well.” With the idea of deathless soul and theory of reincarnation, some nurture a romantic idea about death as if it would be a glory to end one’s life. Harakiri is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. It is reported that majority of suicides are committed by men, as if this is a macho act.
“O thou the last fulfilment of life, Death, my death, come and whisper to me!
Day after day I have kept watch for thee; for thee have I borne the joys and pangs of life.” – Tagore
Supreme sacrifices are glorified in many cultures and scriptures. Giving one’s life is the highest form of sacrifice. The outlawed Sati system was also a form of suicide – a sacrifice with no cause. 12-year old Mumpy kills herself to donate eyes to father and kidney brother [TOI 04 Jul 11].
Pain mixed with guilt, anger and regret is very bitter. Anger on self is the most difficult to handle. All of this leads to depression, considered to be the most common cause of suicides. People have intense sense of suffering and think it impossible to escape from the situation. They do not strive to get out of the situation, but want automatic escape. Depression is almost always treatable. And in most cases it does not require chemical concoctions in the name of medical treatment – but sensible counseling. There are several organisations which offer such help. I am involved with Yogakshema, an NGO, which helps people understand their minds’ potential by way of training and counseling.
Fear of failure is a drain on emotional health. A student kills herself a day before the examination results are declared, fearing that she would fail. Another dies because she got only 83%, which is a failure by her yardstick. We often do not take up a challenge or use an opportunity with a fear that we could fail, a fear that we would fail in the eyes of the world. The world at large rolls on without paying specific attention to our failures or achievements. Our glory is in our minds.
“They say the Lion and the Lizard keep the courts where Jamsyd gloried and drank deep; And Bahram, that great Hunter – the Wild Ass stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.”