What’s Your Take on Assisted Suicide?

It’s a story that seems to be cropping up more often these days. It’s in the newspapers, on online magazines, on Twitter feeds and other news streams. There always seems to be some kind of legal case going on where the defendants are fighting for the right to end their lives.

In a time where freedom and rights of expression are fought for valiantly across continents and through the internet, having the power to take your own life ‘legally’ is still a thorny issue.

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There are countries that allow assisted suicide; these include Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada and some states in America. The scope of these versions of assisted suicide is different in all states, with Switzerland being the most liberal of them all. The rest mostly fall in the “you can only end your life legally if you are diagnosed as having less than half a year to live”.

There has always been that paradox whereby you are asked, “If killing one person could save the lives of many, would you do it?” At first it seems that the obvious answer is “Yes”, till you are confronted with the realization that you will still have to take a life. It is here that most people falter. You come to the conclusion that every single life is sacred.

Life of Pain Versus Assisted Suicide

Why is there an increasing number of people who support assisted suicide? Is it that our moral compass is not as strong as it used to be in the old days? After all, the laws banning suicide are from a bygone era. In those days, they knew that they could not give anyone an escape from life. You had to bear your burdens and your fate.

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Or have we all become just more empathetic than our forebears? We are filled with tears when we see young people who have barely reached puberty dying slowly from cancer or from other life threatening health conditions. Who can say no to a fellow human being who feels pain coursing through their bodies with every breath they take? Is any one of us justified in making laws that deny people the right to make a decision about their own lives?

The Value of Life

We have talked before about how life is a shared experience; how we are all connected by invisible threads. It is thought that the individual is not merely responsible for his/her own life but rather it is society as a whole which is responsible for an individual’s life. You’ve probably spotted police officers encouraging someone not to commit suicide. You have also probably watched movies whereby they depict the lead actor/actress as talking to a person standing on the ledge of a tall building telling him/her that their life is important and that they should step down. If movies represent the ideals of the society, are we saying we believe that life should be safeguarded no matter who it belongs to? If not, do we differentiate between committing suicide and having assisted suicide for medical reasons?

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Again, the waters get murky. Is it really right for me as a human being to sit idly by while someone suffers the pain of terminal illness? Is it even right for people to end their lives on their own terms? By participating in the assisted suicide situation, does that make you a killer?

So we are caught between a rock and a hard place: should we help those in need? Yes. Does participating in assisted suicide mean that you will be responsible for someone’s death (thereby making you a murderer)? Should we legalize assisted suicide?

Conclusion

It seems there are more questions than answers. At the end of the day, you have to look within yourself and decide what you believe in and how you can make the world around you a better place.

What’s your take on assisted suicide?

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Example that Choosing to Live is Better!

I was combing through the BBC Website when I came across an article that caught my eye. It was something familiar to me, in a sense, because I had heard a little bit about this man who does amazing things despite what most people would call “A major handicap”. You see, the man in question is Nick Vujicic; otherwise known as “The man without limbs”.

If you’ve ever had an injury to your arm or leg, you know how helpless you feel and how you constantly want to curse your bad luck. You just can’t wait till the day the doctor declares that you are healed. Now stop for a second and imagine having never had those hands or legs. How would you even survive?

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Nick Vujicic’s Story

Nicholas James Vujicic was born with a physical disability which doctors admitted was very rare. He has therefore lived the whole 32 years of his life without arms or legs.

Not many people would have made it through all those years without – what many people feel are – the necessary tools for survival in an already difficult world. Indeed, not even young Nick expected to survive with the reality of his life. He was born “different” and despite all the love he received from his family and friends, he already felt disadvantaged. This cloud of negativity hung over him for a long time and he became depressed. At only 10 years of age, he attempted to commit suicide. Thankfully, he failed.

The struggle to cope with his physical, mental and emotional struggle took a great toll on the young man as it would for many of us. Though life offered him moments of joy, it was the bad moments which really weighed heavily on him. Therefore, he tried to commit suicide a few more times. Thankfully, again, he failed each time.

At age 17, he was inspired to become a public speaker and it was during his first attempt that a sobbing girl’s gratitude changed his outlook on life. As Nick says in one of his websites attitudeisaltitude.com, “I realized that we all need love and hope and that I was in a unique position to share that with people around the world”.

Choosing Your Attitude toward Life

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Nick now has several organizations such as LifeWithoutLimbs and AttitudeisAltitude which seek to help people in their lives through inspiration and by providing perspective. It is by no means a stretch to say that Nick Vujicic has helped millions of people. After all, how would you respond if someone handicapped was doing more in his life than you were with all your limbs and faculties intact? Yet, here is Nick, who can swim, type, speak in front of thousands of people, and even goes sky diving. He is happily married and has a child, just like any “normal” person.

Nick’s circumstances would have overwhelmed many people but he chose to have a positive attitude even when negative thoughts threatened to derail his life.

Many people give up when life continually throws obstacles their way. No one can stand in another man’s shoes and claim they would respond positively to any negative circumstances. The interesting thing though, is that positive attitudes and unshakeable willpower trump life’s obstacles any time.

It is difficult when dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. But as Nick Vujicic shows, your life is important. Just like him, you can turn your negative circumstances into a story that can inspire others to choose life over death.

Just from following Nick’s example, you can lay claim to the attitude that the future holds something positive for your life. So choose life today!

Negative Thoughts That Lead to Suicide Pt.1

We have all perhaps come across comments from those who attempted suicide and survived. Those comments go a little bit like this:

“I felt that it would be for the best if I just died.”

“It’s all my fault; I deserve to die.”

“No one is going to miss me anyway.”

You get the idea.

Some of these statements are usually borne from frustration, trauma and mental health issues such as depression.

It could be heard from someone who was isolated; someone who did not have any support system to see them through whatever crisis was engulfing their lives.

The statements could be from someone who had given up. Someone who had tried everything to succeed in life but things never worked out as they had been envisioned.

All these thoughts, frustrations, traumas, and mental health diseases lead to this one question: What is the point of living?

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What is Really Going On?

All things in life emanate from the cradle of our minds. Our minds are powerful, and we rise and fall depending on whether our thoughts are positive or negative. At the root of all suicides, there is a pattern of negative thoughts that precede them.

Here are some of the thoughts that are prevalent:

  1. “No one loves me”

We all – in different ways – crave love from those close to our hearts. Unfortunately, sometimes we feel that our love is unrequited. It’s such a painful feeling to bear. In turn, we might start harbouring thoughts of how unworthy of love we are. It seems as though we don’t exist; we are all alone.

Those who have been in this situation will understand how easy it is to crawl back to the ‘safety’ of our minds and isolate ourselves from the unloving world. No one is ever wise to the shadows that lurk in the mind though. As much as our mind is a creative force, it can also be an all-consuming power.

As author Christopher Paolini once said, “The monsters of the mind are far worse than those that actually exist.”

Insidiously, the mind will ravage its victim every waking moment till there is only one possible way out: Suicide.

The Truth: Sometimes people don’t know how to express love. Others think it is enough to tell someone that they love them. The reality is that what you do and how someone else feels is always the difference. You can show love to someone but they don’t feel it.

There is a saying that “If you want love, then, you should give love.” Fight the urge to retreat to the recesses of your mind. Branch out and seek out people you can show love. Tell those around you that you’ve been feeling unloved and you will see them make attempts to show you love. Give them a chance to love you the way you feel you need to be loved. Love someone else the way you desire to be loved.

In life, the intangible things we yearn for are never given out to us; we learn them. If you want patience, you will have to learn to be patient with someone who makes you want to pull your hair out. If you want love, you will unfortunately have to go through a painful process to learn what love is.

As author and self-help expert, Stephen Richards, once said, “It sometimes takes a state of solitude to bring to mind the real power of companionship.”

But when you do learn, you will be better for it. Your life will be better for it. So give love and give life a chance.

  1. “No one will miss me”

One of the negative thoughts that lead to suicide is based on the idea that no one cares what happens to you. In truth, people spend most of their time dealing with their own struggles to the point that they don’t notice what other people are going through.

We are all different. There are those who seem capable of dealing with any problem plaguing their lives. For others, however, the breaking point comes sooner rather than later. What may seem like a minor problem to you can appear to others as an overwhelming mountain of pain. As you know, when you get to that point in life when you can only see obstacles instead of solutions, then you are in big trouble.

This “no one cares” mentality is at the heart of many problems in life. It is the basis for the R U OK? Campaign. The campaign is about asking people to make an effort to listen and share with others in order to establish whether there are those who are not coping well with the pressures of life.

Many people suffer in silence. When suicidal thoughts enter your mind, you look around and think to yourself, “If anyone cared about me, they would know how much pain I’ve been in recently.” Hence it leads to a simplistic portrayal in the mind that: If no one cares then no one will miss me.

Bad Analogy

The Truth: The saying that, “You don’t know what you have until you lose it” applies to not only things, but also to people. In our world today, we are faced with multiple distractions and responsibilities that it gets to the point where we don’t give as much time to the people we love as we should.

I’d wager that if everyone was asked, they would probably say that they can do better in terms of spending more quality time with their friends and loved ones. But everyone reverts to the excuse that there is just not enough time.

The pain of losing a loved one takes a great toll on people. Every day, you wish you could get just a few minutes with that person for one last time. The feelings of guilt are overwhelming; you pore over every moment in your life that you could have spent more time with your loved one but didn’t.

If you ever get to a point in life where you feel that no one would miss you if you died, then take a moment and rethink it. Then rethink it again and again and again till the only other option you have is to ask those people to their faces whether they would miss you. And, God forbid, if they ever said they would not miss you, then there is someone in your future that you are meant to meet who will have lost the opportunity to know you, to love you and to care for you the way you would want. Your actions now will affect many lives in the future.

You are here in this world for a reason. Everything you do impacts many lives across the world in imperceptible ways. The world is already different because you are here. You the individual. You are IMPORTANT!

Even if the people closest to you don’t see your value, you are valuable to the world. You have something to contribute. Even if it takes time for you to discover what that contribution is, eventually you will make a difference to someone’s life. The world is already different because you are here. You are important!

To be continued…

Life Issues: Who’s Got Your Back?

The reality of life is that it goes on even if your world is in turmoil. Sad but true.

You look around you and you realize that everyone else is going through their own personal trials and tribulations. That is the nature of life.

When John Smith* came to the conclusion that his dream had failed and there was no means to salvage it, he gave up on living. The failed dream broke him in many ways. Here was a devastated man with no one to turn to because everyone else was facing their own struggles. He felt all alone and depressed. So he did what many broken men/women do when they don’t have a reason for living: he started planning his suicide.

Who can blame him? After all, we all respond differently to trying circumstances in our lives. But perhaps there was a better way for him to deal with his problems. Perhaps what he really needed was a support system.

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What a Support System Entails

A support system can be anyone or any group of people who are willing to share your burden by offering mental and emotional support. It can be a family member or a close friend who allows you to unburden yourself or people who have formed a group to support each other through tough life circumstances.

Benefits of a Support System/Group
  1. You get to unburden yourself

The problem with feeling alone is that you are stuck with all your problems inside your head. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective on things, hence the saying “A problem shared is a problem half-solved”. Talking to someone can help you better understand what you are going through. You also get to bounce your ideas off them. If you are in a support group, you can hear from people’s experiences and be able to work out a solution for your problems based on what you hear.

  1. Comfort from comrades

It is always a relief when someone who was struggling discovers that there are other people going through similar struggles. It creates a sense of brotherhood and peace of mind that you can work with your ‘comrades’ to eventually find a solution to your pain. No one wants to be alone, and thankfully, you don’t have to be.

  1. Get advice and feedback

Some people are trained to provide helpful counselling to those who are struggling in life. Even in the context of support groups, there are those who are either trained or have enough experience of dealing with situations in their lives and can therefore offer you relevant advice and feedback that can help you through your own issues.

How to Find a Support Group

Finding a support group is not as complicated as it might appear. Although they don’t advertise themselves, there are usually a lot of support groups scattered around any city. Here are a few tips to help you find one:

  1. Do a Google Search for your area

You can try using different search parameters (e.g. mental health support group+location etc.). The search engine provides a lot of information about forums that are discussing your question and you can therefore find something listed about your area.

Note: If you are more comfortable talking to people online as opposed to face-to-face meetings, you can give it a try. Nevertheless, it is better to meet people and connect with them.

  1. Check the yellow pages and contact health organizations

Health organizations are a rich resource for finding information on health issues. They usually have lists of groups that provide counselling and support. Therefore, if there is an organization in your area, you can ask them for directions to the nearest group.

  1. Get referrals from your doctor or health workers

This is similar to the previous point in the sense that doctors always know someone who can handle a specific health problem you have. Therefore, most likely, a doctor would know about the presence of a support group in the region or at least refer you to someone who might know.

What can you do?

Life is difficult and we cannot make it on our own. Find a way through which you can be there for someone to help them through their struggles. Sometimes the only thing that people need is an ear.

Point to Note

John Smith* is alive today because someone chose to let him share what was bothering him. Until that point, he thought that no one cared about him and that no one would miss him if he committed suicide. Such kind of thinking is usually unintentional, just a symptom of the greater mental health and depressive issues afflicting one’s mind.

If you are out there and you have no one to talk to, consider calling a local Helpline. They always have counsellors on stand-by who are willing to listen to you and let you share your problems with them.

If you can’t find someone to talk to, feel free to contact me as well through my contact form.

We all need each other. Sometimes, though, help is not forthcoming. When you find yourself alone and scared with no one to turn to, never give up.

There is always a way out for everyone. Nevertheless, you need to prepare yourself beforehand for tough moments. Ask yourself today, “Who’s got your back?”

*not real name

Changing Attitudes Toward Mental Health?

If you have been following the Germanwings plane crash story, by now you know that the tragic events that occurred were as a result of a pilot who was suffering mental health issues taking his own life in what has been called “suicide by plane”.

As you can imagine, the knowledge that someone you love is in a plane that you are hearing reports of having crashed somewhere is simply devastating. Unfortunately, there were many deaths, many mourners and many heartbroken families. The sheer effects of that day will reverberate for years to come.

Knowing this then, it has come as a surprise to learn that a lady who lost her boyfriend – due to the intentional acts of the pilot – does not lay any blame on the pilot due to reports about his mental health state. You can read that article here.

Does this surprise you?

Could the lady’s reaction be taken as a change in attitude by society toward people who are suffering from mental health issues?

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Only time will tell whether this is a major paradigm shift in the struggle against mental health diseases. There are a lot of people suffering silently and they need assistance.

Do what you can to be there for others and perhaps that will be the stepping stone toward making a real difference in their life.

You Monster: Depression

Sometimes it hurts to realize that no matter how much you learn, you will never know everything.

I have just found out that a lady I knew died recently. She had been suffering from depression for a while and had even attempted suicide. Each time, though, she was rushed to the hospital. She eventually had kids and with the help of her husband, she was able to cope with her depressive disorder.

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Yet another monster lay in wait though. I did not know this was possible, but apparently, giving birth gave her Postpartum Depression. It is a type of depression that affects new mothers.

Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • shame
  • indifference to life
  • self-harm or attempts to harm the baby
  • fatigue and insomnia

Eventually her illness took its toll on her body; she suffered a stroke and lost her life.

In the end, it seems that no one will ever have all the answers to this monster. Mental health issues can no longer be ignored; and yet, how can we solve this problem if we can never know everything?

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Find the Meaning in the Suffering

Life isn’t easy. It can be painful especially when you’ve tried so many times and still failed. This is the point when you just throw your hands in the air and declare, “I have had enough of this!”

Who could blame you for giving up? After all, you have tried and tried without much to show for your efforts. That’s not the issue though. The problem is what is going through your mind right now. By putting the label ‘failure’ to your experience you have altered the mindset you should really have about what has happened. Thus, you are now feeling depressed because you think that you are not good enough. At worst, you are even contemplating suicide. There are a lot of people who are winning and achieving great things, therefore, you mistakenly think that no one will miss a failure like you.

Hope in the midst of suffering

But I wonder; after putting so much effort into succeeding, will you let all your energy, desire, work and effort go to waste by stopping now? You have suffered a lot already. See it through to the end. Someone once said, “When you are exercising, the real work out begins when you are tired”. It BEGINS when you are tired. Not when you are strong, motivated, or succeeding. The real work begins the moment you want to give up.

In life, it’s never really what you accomplish, but rather, who you become by accomplishing a particular goal. You learn new things; you build your character; you build your strength; and you increase your belief the moment you decide to push through the pain. What would have become of the electric bulb if Thomas Edison had given up after failing over a thousand times? You have something to give to the rest of the world. You might not know what that is right now. Nevertheless, the world is lucky to have you. You are important.

Pain in Suffering

We hurt deeply when we lose something amazing in our lives. It’s always unexpected and painful. But no matter what you go through, you are stronger than you know. In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Dr. Viktor Frankl describes how he lost his family, his house, his job as a respected doctor, and his unpublished book manuscript. He found himself at a Nazi concentration camp where he lost many of the friends he made and lived everyday amidst dying comrades, starvation, spreading diseases, harsh weather conditions and the threat of being taken to the gas chambers. There didn’t seem to be any point in living.

But despite this harsh existence where it was easier to die than to live, Dr. Frankl said that regardless of what happens to us, we don’t lose everything. We are still left with the one thing that matters: the power to choose how we will respond to the crisis in our lives. We have the power to decide whether we will approach life’s hardships with a positive mindset or a negative one. He describes the essence of his book as this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, “To live is to suffer; to survive, is to find some form of meaning in the suffering”.

Dr. Frankl suffered, but he left a profound legacy on the world that has helped many people. He chose to survive and to share his life with others. As a result, he inspired many people with the message that no matter what you go through, there is a lesson to be learnt.

Tough Lessons

It is important to avoid the mindset of absolutes. Good things will not stop coming to your life. That isn’t to say that losing something precious won’t hurt because there are good things yet to come into your life. It will hurt. It will not be easy but you shall survive.

There is always a lesson in our suffering. Once you learn, you can teach and inspire others. Don’t give up. Choose to face life’s tough circumstances and soon you will find yourself on the other side. It won’t be easy, but only you can find the meaning in the suffering. And when you do, you will realize that you are a better ‘you’ than you were before.

Believe that you can get through life’s hardships. Just find the meaning in the suffering.