Suicide: The Power of Words

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In recent weeks, the hashtag #JusticeForConrad has been trending. If you are not familiar with its origins, it’s about a girl, Michelle Carter, who is accused of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly convincing her ‘friend/boyfriend’ Conrad Roy III to commit suicide.

Background

According to news reports, Conrad took his own life in July last year. It is said that he had struggled with depression. If you read from numerous news sources, he was a nice young man. The only issue was that he had suicidal thoughts which ultimately led him down the wrong path.

As is the case with suicides, he left a lot of devastated people behind. The toll it has taken on the family has been immense and we always sympathize with those who have gone through such pain.

Unfortunately, the family has been put through more pain due to an ongoing case against Michelle Carter who is accused of allegedly encouraging Conrad to take his own life.

A series of text messages are being used to show that Carter played a role in Conrad’s suicide. According to an article on wtvr.com, New Bedford Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn said that the accused’s words were “harmful, offensive and likely to cause an immediate, violent act”.

For now, the case is still ongoing.

The Power of Words

If you were to do a quick check online, you will encounter a lot of comments about what did or did not happen in the Conrad Roy case. It is there that we discover how much power we have with our words.

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Through the ages and in many literary works, many people have acknowledged the power of words. Words can bring healing, peace, and happiness or tear others down and cause great pain.

Here are some quotes on words:

“Words are the keys to the heart.”
Chinese proverb

“Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them for a lifetime.”
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)

“If we could measure the damage to corporations from gossip, it might be more than the GNP of the Third World!”
Harvey Mackay
Author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Pushing The Envelope

“Speak when you are angry– and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Laurence J. Peter (1919 – 1988)
Educator, author of The Peter Principle

“The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm.”
Exactly as it is with our words.”
Source Unknown

Here is one from the Bible:

Proverbs 18:21 (KJV) – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

It can take you a lot of hours to go through all the quotes dealing with the effect words have on us and on others.

Speak Love

If you’ve ever had a problem, you will notice how quick people are to give you their views on what you should do. In a situation where you are actually conscious of the power everything you say can have on another person’s life, you will realize that counselling others is not easy.

When you factor in issues of mental health and depression, you will realize that it is always important to choose your words carefully. I have been in situations where it was important to speak a word of life into a person who had given up on living. It is scary how powerful words can be.

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A good approach is to do everything from a place of Love.

I do not know where you are right now. I do not know where you have been. I do not know how your life has been like up to this moment. I do not know what joys you’ve experienced nor the pain you have suffered. I do not know what your beliefs are.

But what I do know is that you are special and you are important!

The world needs you to be you and to give of yourself in love and service to others. I’ve said this many times, but no matter what you are going through, never give up. Everything always works out!

Try to seek out and spend time with those who speak words from a point of love. May you also show others the same love with your words.

Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Your Life on Earth

In recent times, I have been constantly talking about how your life is precious and why you should never consider giving up even when the pressures of life keep stressing you.

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The BBC website has a great interactive feature that shows how much the world has changed since the time you were born. It is an interesting interactive segment that you should go and check out using this link: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141016-your-life-on-earth.

We are all part of a great Earth Story and our lives are “connected by invisible threads”.

Enjoy that great feature!

Keep Depression at Bay: 8 Ways to Cheer Yourself Up

Sad moments can creep up on you when you least expect it. You were feeling ecstatic a moment ago but now you are not in the mood to celebrate. We all experience this feeling.

Sometimes we just get overwhelmed when the pressures of life weigh us down. You wake up and you don’t feel like doing anything. Making breakfast is a chore and you are looking forward to the moment you will sit down and just be. You can’t seem to shake the feeling so you allow yourself to wallow in sadness. All attempts from people to raise your spirits are met with anger and irritation. “Why won’t everyone just mind their own business”, you say.

There are many articles online saying that you should not try to get out of your slump; rather, embrace the slump as a reality and it will go away. While this course of action might sound deep, there is also a risk that your mini mood slump can quickly evolve into depression. Now you have a big problem!

Perhaps a few of these methods below can assist you to get back the joy in your life:

Happy woman with headphones

  1. Listen to Music… and Sing

There is probably a song for everything. Think up any topic and a musician has probably sung about it. When you are sad, you’ll naturally gravitate toward sad songs. It seems that this guy or that girl gets you. That musician understands exactly how you are feeling. Perhaps it would be best to listen to uplifting music. Singing will make your mind active and responsive to mood changes. If you really let the music sink in, you might even start dancing. It’s a form of exercise and we’ve already seen how exercise can be great for your body.

  1. Get perspective

As Dan Gilbert says in his ‘Surprising Science of Happiness’ Ted Talks speech, human beings tend to overestimate the pain or pleasure they will experience. Thus, it is important to get some perspective as to why you are feeling sad. Try to get an objective view of the situation you are in rather than a subjective one. By doing this, you remove the emotions that cloud your judgement as to what really happened to you to make you feel sad.

For example, sometimes people can hurt us unintentionally. Letting that pain fester in your mind can keep you from focussing on the fact that the person who hurt you loves you deeply and they would never do anything intentionally to bring pain to your life.

You have to find out exactly what it is that is making you feel down. Normally, when people are sad, they tend to make blanket statements that their whole life sucks. In truth, before getting into a negative mindset, these people were thinking their lives were amazing. What changed? Focus on what’s wrong and fix it.

  1. Exercise

Working out brings more benefits to your life beyond the physical. As you know, exercising makes the body release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters from the brain that make you feel good. If you want to feel good, exercise.

  1. Share your problem with someone you trust

A problem shared is a problem half-solved. Confidants can help you make sense of issues and find solutions for them. You have to surround yourself with people who will give you sound counsel. This will get you on your way to resolving your problems and being happy again.

Trusted friends can also give you the support you need if you require a shoulder to cry on. Another interesting thing is that if you manage to get a couple of hugs, your mood instantly changes. Try it.

  1. Find a source of laughter

You’ve heard this before, but laughter is the best medicine. To get out of your bad mood, you need to find someone who can make you laugh or watch a comedy show. Laughing makes you feel alive and grateful for your life. It will make you feel happy

  1. Remember that you are what you eat

There are a couple of foods and snacks that should be included in your diet, which act as mood boosters. Top on the list is fish, which gives omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 raises the levels of a brain chemical called serotonin, which boosts our mood. Another booster is chocolate. Chocolate not only tastes good, but also acts as an anti-oxidant and as a serotonin stimulator. You need to eat the chocolate in moderation though, as eating a lot of it will leave you feeling queasy and ruin your mood even further.

  1. Volunteer to help other people

It is said that, “If you think you have problems, just visit the hospital and see for yourself what other people are going through”. This is just a way of bringing perspective to your problems. Volunteering has a two-fold effect of not only helping other people, but also giving you a sense of gratitude and joy. There are so many people going through a lot of issues that sometimes you just need to ask them whether they are okay. We all need each other. We can lift each other’s spirit by simply being kind, caring and generous.

  1. Get some fresh air by going for a walk

Going outside can do wonders for you. It has been theorized that staying indoors causes anxiety and depression because the body is not getting enough Vitamin D from the sun nor taking in fresh air into the lungs. Walking is a form of exercise as well and it allows you to clear your mind as you analyze everything that is making you feel sad. Being outside is soothing and it rejuvenates your spirit as you take in deep breaths.

sunny day

Take Action

All these methods have one thing in common; they all involve taking action. People focus too much on their feelings and talk about not “feeling like doing anything”. In truth, feelings follow actions and not the other way around. Notice how when you don’t feel like doing something but you do it anyway, you stop ‘feeling’ like it was a bad thing. It’s all about taking action.

Wherever you are right now, you can choose to be happy. Life will throw all kinds of problems your way. In times like these, you will need to summon your willpower and take action to be happy again. Realize that happiness is a state of being and embody happiness.

You can choose to be happy right now. Don’t wait for the sadness to overwhelm you.

What is the Point of Living?

There are many reasons why people start considering suicide. It all starts when a series of questions play out in the mind:

Why are you here? Why are you alive? Why are you the only one who survived that accident? What about all the people we have lost? Are you more special than others? What is the point of living?

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These are the questions that engulf someone who has lost a piece of them inside. There are times when the pressures of life can weigh you down. There is a feeling of uselessness; an indifference to any activity; feelings of hopelessness; and an overarching feeling that perhaps life isn’t what it is drummed up to be.

The people who have lost a loved one or a cherished friend know these thoughts and feelings all too well. Of all the billions of people in the world, why did the one I love have to be the one to die? It’s truly a sad place to be. The questions abound in the mind thus leading one to make peace with the turmoil in their world and choose to continue living; whatever living is anyway.

So what’s the point of living?

Why bother waking up every day? Are humans just machines programmed to complete some tasks and interact with others in a certain way before returning to ‘re-charge’ in the beds again? There has to be more to life. There just has to be.

The happiest people in the world aren’t the ones without any problems. They have got to a point where they can cope with issues better and they choose to react positively to any setbacks. Perhaps this is the important thing to note. This ability to choose how to react to situations could be what separates humans from machines. Or maybe that’s a hasty conclusion.

Humans are programmed to respond to situations in a certain way. Programmed? Like machines? The brain is the ultimate machine. The thoughts that go through it reformat this machine to fit the reality of the host. Thus the brain of the happy person is wired differently from the brain of the depressed person. Nevertheless, it takes only one moment of chaos in a person’s life to make them question their purpose for living.

There has to be someone who has figured this out. Is the sum total of life being born, then going to school, getting married, ultimately having kids, then the soul departing from the body? Do people have to bear the madness seen on television where people go around shooting each other, politicians making promises they know they won’t keep, musicians making soulless music or hearing about how banks have crumbled and all the money in there is lost? Was Friedrich Nietzsche right when he said that to live is to suffer? Is that all there is? What is the point of living?

Some Perspective

There is an intriguing statement that parents always make no matter where they are in the world. “I’m living for my kids”, they say. With this statement they wake up at odd hours, work double or even triple shifts, queue in line for hours, and do just about anything in their power to make sure their kids have everything they need. Seeing their kids happy makes them happy. Can making others happy be the reason for living or is that a way to escape focussing on one’s life?

Everyone has their reason for not wanting to die. Maybe it has to do with fear. But mostly, people talk about their life flashing before their eyes and how they thought about the people they love. It’s the reason some people hold on to their lives even when they are suffering. They just don’t want to let down the people who love them. They want to be there with them and share their lives with them.

Or maybe it’s just one’s pride that keeps them from taking their lives. Perhaps the soul feels that there is still much that can be accomplished.

Maybe there is a God who is planning people’s lives and filling them with the desire to live and make some impact on the world.

Whatever it is, there is a reason why humans are here. Ultimately, one has to decide for themselves what their reason for living is.

Seasons of Happiness, Seasons of Suffering

freerangestock.com

freerangestock.com

We all want to be happy. There’s no doubt about it. Just eavesdrop on any conversation (it’s not nice but I just want to prove my point 🙂 ) and you’ll hear people talking about that car that so and so bought; that trophy wife that your new neighbour has; or that recent promotion that came with numerous bonuses and benefits.

And there’s that clamour for people to want to match what their friends or rivals have achieved (in truth, it’s more about exceeding their successes). He bought a new Mercedes; I’ll buy a new BMW. She gets her hair done every week; I’ll be going to the salon every 3 days. People just want to keep up with the Joneses. 

People want to be successful because they equate success with happiness. You can even argue that people who steal are not really greedy and selfish, just that they want to be happy. Stealing is VERY WRONG but people will take extraordinary steps to ensure their happiness. No evil is evil enough and no deed is unethical or immoral if it will help them reach their goal. You read stories that corruption is rampant in Europe. When you dig deeper you discover that people who engage in corruption have one goal in mind: To be happy. They may be trying to live a life that is beyond their means but they believe having money will make them happy. You see it happening all the time even amongst your friends or loved ones. Someone will do something that will make you wonder whether they are the same person you knew. Where is the integrity, sense of responsibility, fidelity to the law, accountability to the community? We all want to be happy and how people achieve their happiness will differ widely.

But then, life doesn’t work the way we want it to. Things fall apart unexpectedly. One day you feel like a king/queen, and the next, you are nothing but a pauper. One day you feel like you are full of life, even your friends tell you that you have a youthful look about you, and the next thing, your doctor is saying you are actually very ill and have a few weeks to live. You’ve heard the statement, “The rich also cry”. Apparently no one can escape the vicissitude of life.

The truth is we will all go through seasons of happiness and seasons of suffering at some points in our lives. A lady from season 5 episode 8 of the series Royal Pains, put it aptly as she spoke to one of the main characters, Divya Katdare (played by Reshma Shetty). She said: “Life…ebbs and flows, like the perennials in my garden. Sometimes they’re in bloom, sometimes they’re not. But they’re always alive. Things change…unexpected things happen.”

source: usa network series image

source: usa network series image

But the real message that has been popping up recently is this: happiness is not something to pursue, it is a state of being. You can actually CHOOSE to be happy. It doesn’t have to be that something is making you happy. You find that place inside of you where you are grateful for your existence. You discover that you can change your mood instantly by just changing your attitude and thoughts.

Unfortunately, this ‘choice’ does not apply to all people. There are those with mental health issues that are silently suffering in our midst. While depressed people can find a way out of their state of perpetual suffering to a point of happiness, the same cannot be said of those who are mentally ill. That is a problem they will face personally and with people who love them. There will be moments of happiness, and there will be greater struggles that will cause a lot of suffering. It is the nature of our world.

I do believe we can give of ourselves to others. There is a Tibetan proverb I once encountered that said, “As I helped him up the mountain, lo, I found myself at the top”. I think we can all enhance our chances of being happy by helping the collective get to a point where they are happy to be alive.

freerangestock.com

freerangestock.com

I heard another man say, “Our greatest wealth is our health”. I know many people will agree with this. If we could all be healthy, I think it would be a great step toward being happy. Mental health issues affect not only those suffering from it, but their families and friends. You feel helpless. What can you do to alleviate their pain? Why does life make us suffer?

There will be seasons of happiness and seasons of suffering. The human spirit is resilient. Every time I recite the words of Invictus, I know I have faced and will face any challenge head on. Not everyone is like this. Even as we marked World Suicide Day, there were many people we had lost. People we cared about took their own lives. Random people across the globe committed suicide. Everybody is suffering; some just know how to reach their point of happiness, while others are beset by mental health weaknesses that overwhelm them.

There is a quote from Wendy Maas that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. Try to make other people happy. Happiness is contagious. You always seek out those people who make you laugh. Those people who are the life of the party always draw crowds to themselves. It’s all about being happy. But it is more important that your happiness comes from within you. If you view the world from a point of happiness, from a point of gratitude, you will gain strength even in times of suffering.

Be strong. It is part of everyone’s journey.

Be available. It is part of your calling to help others.

I don’t know where you are or what you are going through. But I want you to be happy. I hope that your seasons of happiness stay in bloom longer than your seasons of suffering.

Dying to Live

I know this is something that can resonate with many people. It is a song by Edgar Winter but the words seem to transcend time. It talks about the contrasts between the struggle to live and the struggle with death. I feel it captures some of the thoughts that people have when they are depressed. Why fight to live when it is easier to die? That is the question. The answer can only be found within yourself. There is something inside you that wants you to succeed. Something that wants you to live.

Here are the lyrics.

You know I’ve heard it said there’s beauty in distortion
By some people who’ve withdrawn to find their heads
Now they say that there is humor in misfortune
You know I wonder if they’ll laugh when I am dead

Why am I fighting to live if I ‘m just living to fight?
Why am I trying to see when there ain’t nothing in sight?
Why am I trying to give when no one gives me a try?
Why am I dying to live if I’m just living to die?

Hey, you know some people say that values are subjective,
But they’re just speaking words that someone else has said.
And so they live and fight and kill with no objective
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the living from the dead

Why am I fighting to live if I ‘m just living to fight?
Why am I trying to see when there ain’t nothing in sight?
Why am I trying to give when no one gives me a try?
Why am I dying to live if I’m just living to die?

Yeah, you know I used to weave my words into confusion
And so I hope you’ll understand me when I ‘m through
You know I used to live my life as an illusion,
But reality will make my dreams come true

So I’ll keep fighting to live till there’s no reason to fight
And I’ll keep trying to see until the end is in sight
You know I’m trying to give so someone give me a try
You know I’m dying to live until I’m ready
’til I’m ready
’til I’m ready
’til I’m ready to die

Suicide via Skype. That’s not the Shocking Part!

In life, you will never know the depths people are able to sink to. It truly beggars belief the kind of vile things human beings do to each other. Then I saw this story of a 26-year old man from Russia called Sergey Kirilov, who announced that he was planning on killing himself. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, he told people to link to his Skype account and watch him go through with it.

photo: DailyMail

photo: DailyMail

Now, at this point, you already have some expectations in your mind. Someone will step up and ask him whether he is okay, and another will offer an ear to listen to whatever problem this young man has and do their best to help him solve it. Perhaps, someone will be concerned enough to call the police and express their concerns that this young man doesn’t sound like he is joking no matter how casually he announced his impending suicide. It’s no secret that people are considering suicide for a variety of reasons. It could be stress, depression, or chronic mental health issues. The list is long. The opportunity was there for someone to make a telling contribution on another man’s life by saving him. No one did (one tried).

Admittedly, there is the social psychological issue called the Bystander Effect. It is a concept proposed by John Darley and Bibb Latané, and it states that people are less likely to assist you when they expect/assume someone else in the vicinity will volunteer to assist you. Yet, in the case of Sergey Kirilov’s suicide, that concept couldn’t be further from the truth.

In a vile, revolting, apathetic manner, the ‘people’ who had linked to Kirilov’s Skype account cheered him on as he took his life. I read that part and I was heartbroken. I took a long pause. I could not believe what I had read. But it is there, as clear as day. People celebrated the suicide. In some excerpts from the article, it says there were “dozens of spectators” and one of them said, “Come on, are you ready yet? Go on – do it” while another added that, “If a man says he’s going to do something, he needs to do it”. We exist with people like this in our world. I honestly don’t want to believe it. It is a great shame.

A spokesman (the article doesn’t mention who he speaks on behalf of, but I’m assuming it’s the Police or State Prosecution) called Leonti Zubarev, said that the people who encouraged the suicide could be charged with “negligent homicide”. The definition is explained here. I’m not sure that is enough. Those spectators broke the moral and ethical code of humanity. What is the punishment for their evil? Would you trust these people to be in your life?

In all this commotion and investigations, one thing stood out for me. Nobody asked what the young man’s reasons were for committing suicide. No one queried the mental health of a person who not only boldly announced his death, but also followed through with it in the presence of an eager audience. I have not seen any other articles following up on this story. Perhaps I haven’t looked well enough. There have been no further statements concerning this suicide. Perhaps it’s my fault I have not seen them. What’s striking for me then, is that this is a non-story! Not many people care. What’s done is done.

This is our truth, this is our reality. There are those who claim that this suicide was only possible because of the advancements of the internet. I DO NOT agree at all. Yes, let’s blame the internet for the actions of human beings. While it played its role in facilitating the viewing of such vile actions, no one should excuse the actors in this shocking story. This issue can only lead to calls for invasion of privacy through monitoring our actions on the internet. But that’s a different issue.

So what are we to do then? I guess we can just try to change how people view issues dealing with mental health and suicide. As for those spectators, I’m truly saddened by their actions. No man should ever wish ill on another.

Let’s help each other and heal our world.