Taking one's own life is reflected in ilustrado times. Simoun, one of Rizal’s characters in El Filibusterismo committed suicide perhaps in order to escape being tortured by his enemies, or out of desperation and despondency. Earlier in the novel, Juli likewise committed suicide to escape the amorous advances of the randy Padre Camorra.
In the novel, Rizal simply stated that Basilio learned that Maria Clara had died before noontime and he told Simoun about it. On the box-office hit Jose Rizal directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Rizal’s sweetheart’s death was interpreted as suicide also by jumping off the church window like what Juli did.
Suicide, the process of purposely ending one’s own life, was always viewed negatively in most culture. Rizal was even candid in reflecting this as an occurrence in the Spanish times less than two centuries ago. It may vary to some culture but nevertheless, major religions and culture are against this practice.
Right now, the suicide of Vina Marie del Rosario from Iloilo is highlighted on the headlines as this graduating nursing student seem not able to take life's challenges anymore thus jumping off from the mall's third storey. Exactly two years ago, a senior AB Sociology student at MSU-IIT ended his life through hanging. The said reasons were failed lovelife and grades. That made him guy number 5, in the unusually long string of MSU-IITians ending their lives while still in their pursuit of a college degree in the year 2009. A few months back, a freshman here took his life by jumping off the overpass just in front of the campus. While it may be true that almost each year a student here commits suicide, this year’s case with 5 deaths sets the record for most suicide deaths.
|I think I know why the Devil is happy.|
Unknown to many, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide with millions of people doing it. Statistics show that 10 million to 20 million attempts it annually. Even in the Philippines with a low suicide rank of 89 in the world, the devastation it creates makes it a very concerning public-health issue.
In the study of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the past 17 years in the country, there were 848 suicides with nearly 60% done by males. Sifting through the pages of a sociology book, I’ve learned that while it is true that more males kill themselves, women are far more likely than men to try and commit suicide. Men succeed more often for women usually choose poison, cutting wrists, or other “gentler” methods that don’t always work, or that work slowly, while men are more likely to use a gun or some other quick, violent method.
Eventhough we Filipinos pride ourselves being the 14th happiest country in the world two years ago; the presence of 2.5 suicides in every 100,000 is still upsetting. The statistics on suicide in the Philippines, I believe, may not be accurate. Most of the time, the suicide is not reported due to stigma. Our society is very good at sweeping truth under the carpet in the name of family honor.
Asians, in general account to 60% of all the suicide deaths in the world. Two of the countries with relatively huge suicide rates are Japan and South Korea. It can be observed that these countries have a very high level of competition that starts right from childhood. The Oriental culture seems to have this embedded in itself.
Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist, argued that either excessive or deficient levels of integration and regulation lead to four "ideal types" of suicide. First is the egoistic type which is the result of too little social integration. Second type is altruistic; the consequence of excessive integration, such as deaths of a Kamikaze pilot, ohka (human plane bombs), hara-kiri, or kaiten (human torpedoes). Thirdly, anomic type arises due to too little regulation or the shattering of ties with the society (e.g. divorce or unemployment). And the most common is the fatalistic type where there is an excessive regulation coupled with high individual needs to control one’s environment (this is where college students qualify because of failure to pass a decisive exam).
With this issue split open, this entry would look into some basic facts on this public-health matter. In its simplest sense, it is when pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. People feel like doing it to escape from a situation that seemed impossible to deal with. They feel there is no other solution; no hope left. Other reasons could either be financial or personal (relationship problem, low self-esteem, etc.) or due to a mood disorder. But generally, they have depression.
Depression is a brain disorder that affects your thoughts, moods, feelings, behavior and physical health. Experts believe depression may be caused by imbalances in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Imbalances in three neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine – seem to be linked to depression. Neurotransmitters also seem to help regulate the secretion of hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, melatonin and endorphins, which are also thought to affect mood and emotion. But again, the exact biological mechanism is not known. And whether changes in hormone levels are a cause or an effect of depression is unclear.
There are four main types of depression according to Mayo Clinic Health Letter (1998). Major depression is a disorder characterized by a mood disturbance lasting more than two weeks. Symptoms include overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief and loss of interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy. If not treated, an average episode of major depression lasts from six to 18 months. Apparently, the risk of suicide increases drastically when the depression is not treated.
Dysthymia is a less severe but more continuous form of depression. It lasts for at least two years and often more than five years. Symptoms are not disabling, and periods of dysthymia can alternate with short periods of feeling normal.
Some people with depression have recurrent cycles of depression and mania (or elation). This is called a bipolar disorder where it involves emotions of both extremes, or poles. This disorder also called as manic-depressive, affects judgment and can cause problems, such as spending money recklessly or making unwise decisions. Some people have bursts of increased creativity and productivity during manic phase.
Finally, reduced sunlight cause depression what scientists call as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). No kidding. Reduced levels of sunlight may increase the level of melatonin which controls the mood in the brain. That’s the reason why more people take their own lives during winters or cold rainy nights.
How then, can we diagnose and eventually prevent suicide? In its most basic sense, one must first find a way to reduce the pain. And secondly, find a way to increase the coping resources. Still according to Mayo Clinic Health Letter (1998), to diagnose depression, the doctor may perform physical exam which includes tests to rule out conditions that can cause depression-mimicking symptoms. If the doctor sees signs, he would then refer one to a psychiatrist.
The two hallmarks of depression are; 1) Loss of interest in normal daily activities (anhedonia) and (2) Depressed mood. In addition, for a doctor to diagnose depression most of these signs and symptoms must also be present most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks: sleep disturbances, significant weight loss or gain, agitations or slowing of body movements, fatigue, low self-esteem, thoughts of death, impaired thinking or concentration, and loss of libido.
If you think you have depression, steps can be made to overcome thoughts of ending one’s life. Seeing doctor regularly is a must. Medications can be taken as advised by the physician. Participate in normal activities and don’t ever become isolated. Taking care of oneself through diet and exercise can reduce risk of depression and finally, avoid abuse of alcohol and recreational drugs.
While we often hear people saying that “This country makes me crazy!”, I still do believe it’s one lame reason for ending one’s life. Life in general was made to serve as a challenging puzzle. In the words of my ever-favorite comedian George Carlin: “The whole essence of life is not dying”. I know you're well aware that we're overpopulated but please don't kill yourself... and don't even think about doing it.
Video capture from Word of the Lourd.
Suicide picture from http://bookbing.org/suicide-facts-images-10-amazing-powerpoint-presentations/suicide-demotivational-poster/