Are Suicide ‘Awareness Days’ a Waste of Time?

Tomorrow, September 10th, is the World Suicide Prevention Day. This day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to raise awareness on suicide.

Despite being held for over a decade now, there are growing concerns that the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) initiative has done little to address the scourge of suicide worldwide. Moreover, there are those who feel that the conversation about depression and suicide should not be restricted to a day or a week, but rather, addressed throughout the year.

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Organizations that deal with suicide every day of the year know better than anyone that more and more people are taking their lives. Unfortunately, this problem is not being aired in the media or discussed in communities. There are many families struggling in silence because they have lost someone to suicide and they have no one to talk about this problem with.

Worse still, there are many people contemplating suicide right now and they have no one to turn to.

According to the Samaritans, an organization whose goal is to help people and to reduce incidences of suicide, more than 800,000 people die from suicide worldwide annually. For example, in the UK, more than 6,000 people take their lives every year. In the US, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that more than 40,000 Americans die by suicide yearly. These statistics, however, are only about those who have died and don’t show the number of failed suicide attempts. When all those figures are tabulated, it shows there are a lot of people suffering from mental health issues.

The good thing about setting aside a date in the calendar year to address issues of suicide is that some people will get to hear a message of hope and possibly change their mind about taking their own lives. Secondly, it gives parents, family members, friends and co-workers of people who have committed suicide an avenue through which they can raise awareness and share their personal experiences on the painful loss of their loved ones. These experiences might inspire and inform others on preventing suicide in their families.

Criticisms of ‘Awareness Days’

Even though the concept of WSPD is to highlight the scourge of suicide in our world, these awareness events are lacking in some key areas:

  1. Do the people who are likely to commit suicide attend these events?

Maybe there have been occasions whereby someone at risk for committing suicide attended these events and got some help. But chances are that the people with suicidal thoughts are probably at home, hiding from the world, feeling lonely and isolated. They probably think that they are useless and that no one will miss them when they die. They think that the world would probably be better off without them.

If these awareness days are being held once a year, what chance do they have of reaching all the people who are suffering in silence? These events do have a ripple effect and more people do get to learn about suicide. But how many of those are actually having a word with the people who are contemplating their death?

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  1. The awareness days seem contrived, vain and flawed

One of the criticisms of awareness days is that people merely participate in the activities but the message doesn’t get across. There is no ‘transformation’ of minds.

Imagine a person who was doing some shopping and is now walking out of the store with a lot of coins in their pocket. Outside is a person with a bowl begging for some money. What will likely happen? The person will dig out some of the coins and give it to the beggar. Inasmuch as people like to help, sometimes people do what is convenient. There’s not much thought to it.

That example brings to mind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014. While the challenge was to raise money for an important cause – to treat the neurodegenerative disease called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – many people used it for publicity or simply because it was trending worldwide. At times, some of the genuine participants had to take a moment to remind others to actually donate money and not just pour ice water on themselves and call it a day.

There is a suspicion that some people only help so that they can feel good about themselves. For others, it looks like they just want to add a new cause or activity to their CV.

Many people who are suffering from depression, mental health issues and those with suicidal thoughts want to feel the theme of the awareness days; which is to connect, communicate and show care to those who are struggling. Unfortunately, these three key points rarely occur at these one-time events.

  1. There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan or purpose

Do people know what to do during Suicide Prevention awareness days? There are many people who are passionate about helping those who are suffering but they don’t know what to do or where to go. How are you supposed to respond when someone tells you they are not okay?

Isn’t it just sad that there is one ‘special’ day where people get to ask others how they are doing? Where are these people when someone is overwhelmed by life’s circumstances? Where are they when someone is feeling lonely, hiding from the world and is hoping to die? Caring for only one day is simply not enough. It’s like when people donate a lot of toys, food and clothes but only during Christmas. What about the rest of the year?

So, what is needed then?

According to the IASP, “Suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.”

Talking and raising awareness about suicide for one day is simply not enough. Here are some of the things needed to help people who are thinking about taking their lives:

      • better mental health services.
      • connection with others. The feeling that people truly empathize and not just sympathize.
      • easier access to mental health counselors and suicide hotlines/helplines.
      • better campaigns to remind people throughout the year that others are suffering with mental health issues and need love.
      • donations for mental health charities.
      • better educational programs on dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts in our homes and communities.
      • school and college events discussing mental health issues.
      • more funding for research into treatment and medication.

The most important point of all is that people who want to commit suicide simply need a reason for living. They need to get to the point where they choose life.

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In one social media campaign against suicide, the hashtag ‘IKeptLiving’ has been used by people to share how their lives were transformed when they chose to live instead of committing suicide.

In many other instances, it is not simply a matter of deciding to live. There are other mental health problems or the use of medication that can cause people’s suicidal ideation to be acted upon. These are some of the people who need to be identified and helped.

You have an opportunity to go out and spread the message about mental health and suicide. These one day awareness events are not enough to turn the tide against suicide. I challenge you today to start caring conversations with people. As I always say, you never know whose life you might save.

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World Mental Health Day: Key Points From Social Media

Today is World Mental Health Day!

It is a day to raise awareness on mental health illnesses. For others, it is celebration of triumph over diseases and conditions that strike at the heart of our being.

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Many people probably didn’t notice this day or even know much about it. That sounds eerily similar to the indifference observed when it comes to issues of mental health.

But you know what, that’s okay. Sometimes, unless you have been touched by a situation, a person, a condition, or a disease, it is unlikely that you will care a lot (or at all) about a certain issue. That’s why it is important to speak up and let others know what’s going on. Here is where social media comes in.

Key Points from Social Media about Mental Health

The interesting lesson from today is that a lot of people DO CARE about mental health issues. Just browsing around social media, you realize that you are just one voice among many; hoping that other people will awaken to the reality that mental illnesses are among us and there are those struggling everyday with such issues.

Here is a list of some of the key points that people shared:

  1. Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health

One of the greatest frustrations for those who know about mental health issues is that people don’t think it matters as much as physical health. Check your blood pressure; check your heart beat. But no one is wondering about the mind.

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The brain can get sick just like any other part of the body.

Just look around the internet and you will see more “work out your body” pieces and few “mental workout programs”. It’s just not as important.

We are here to say “Mental Health is Very Important”.

  1. Mental Illness does not discriminate

It does not matter who you are, what you do, where you are from, who you know or how much you workout, mental illness can affect anyone.

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Knowing this should make people stop all the name calling, shaming and stigmatizing because mental illness can affect you as well as your friends and loved ones.

  1. People should stop trivializing Mental Health

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Have you ever heard a statement that sounds something like this: “I didn’t have anything to do today; I’m sooo [sic] depressed”? This is just one of the things people do. They don’t understand that there is a world of difference between simply being sad (or bored) and being depressed.

There were other comments on social media such as “Bipolar disorder is not being moody”. These are just a few examples of how people trivialize issues that affect many lives. If people had any idea what others go through – how much pain and sadness others feel as they are struggling with mental illnesses – then they would show more compassion.

  1. You are NOT Alone

I’ve said it before but when you are going through a mental health issue, it is easy to feel that you are the only one suffering; That life chose to punish you.

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The reality is that there are many other people from all over the world going through their own version of pain. Like you, they have had to suffer in silence. When they tried to raise their voices, they were shamed. People just don’t understand until they have walked a mile in your shoes.

But fear not; you are not alone. There are many people who have a sense of what you are going through. There are many organizations and groups geared toward raising awareness and helping to find solutions for mental problems.

  1. Take care of your health

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Another point was that people need to take responsibility for their health. Go for check ups, analyze your family’s mental health history, take the medicine prescribed to you for your mental illness and educate yourself on mental health.

  1. There is a lot of support out there

Who do you turn to when your life is in turmoil? As I have said before, it is good to have a support system around you.

The beauty of our interconnected world means that you can join support groups online and you can meet people going through similar mental illnesses and exchange ideas.

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It was also great to see comments from people who have had mental health problems encouraging others and saying things like “You are not alone” and “Things get better eventually”.

Take heart and believe that you will find a way to manage your condition or cope with a loved one’s struggle with illness. It will not be easy, but you can find a way.

Takeaway

It is great to see a lot of people united in spreading the message of love for those with mental health problems. No matter what problem you have, do not be ashamed; it was not your choice to become mentally ill.

We love you and wish you well.

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…

Coping With Depression

It’s not easy dealing with depression. At times, you don’t even know you are depressed until you get to the point where you believe death is your only solution to life’s problems.

For those who have experienced depression, it is a memory that brings a tinge of regret at having fallen way off on the goals you had set for your life. No one ever imagines themselves being in such a desperate situation. Yet, it happens to many of us. Not even the high and mighty in society are immune to it. It is an insidious foe that leads our lives to despair.

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Symptoms of Depression

Depression starts slowly and can even develop over a couple of years. What’s important to note with mental health issues is that, some problems are genetically linked while others are due to external circumstances. There are some symptoms one needs to look out for to identify depression before it takes root in our lives:

  • excessive stress;
  • constant fatigue even when you have not done a lot of work;
  • changes in our sleeping patterns e.g. oversleeping excessively;
  • indifference to day-to-day life issues;
  • irritability;
  • wanting to be alone more often;
  • experiencing loneliness even when you are around people;
  • feeling hopeless and miserable;
  • reduced productivity at work;
  • inability to concentrate on any task;
  • loss of enthusiasm;
  • lack of appetite or interest in eating;

Some of these symptoms become significant once depression has started taking shape in our lives. Depression manifests when our world is out of balance; when we feel (even without realizing it) that we no longer have control over what happens in our lives. It is this lack of control that leads to suicidal thoughts.

Unfortunately, we only ever research such issues once they have affected our lives; sometimes with drastic effects. Before we become mental health victims or know someone who is affected, none of these issues are ever relevant. Nevertheless, we can learn to cope with depression once we understand how it affects us.

How to Cope

There are a couple of things you can do to help you cope with depression:

  1. Establish a support system

We all need a confidant; someone who we can share our life’s goals, dreams and problems. It can be a family member or a friend. Having someone you can talk to about your problems gives you a different perspective of what you are going through. Sometimes we just need to get something off our chests to help us feel better. Having someone you can trust, who will listen to your problems without judging you, will enable you to understand issues better and perhaps even help you get a solution faster.

Depression pops up because we bottle a lot of problems. Life is not easy. Everyone is going through some sort of struggle in their lives. The more you keep unresolved issues inside you, the more likely you will get anxious about it. Once you feel you are losing control over your life, you start getting stressed. It is vicious cycle. Find a group of people who care about you and want to help you resolve your problems. It will keep you from suffering a relapse into depression.

  1. Address Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety and stress always tie in with depression. When you are constantly anxious and stressed, it might feel like the walls are closing in on you. You have nowhere to run and no one to help you. The people closest to you can even make you feel worthless. They might not understand what you are going through and therefore they can put pressure on you to resolve whatever it is that is troubling you.

What people on the outside might not understand is that you feel helpless in your situation. Depression is the same. You feel all alone; all your problems are yours to solve. What can you do to get yourself out of this mess? Should you even bother anymore?

Once you get out of a depressive state, you learn about all the triggers that brought you this mental health issue. Therefore, from now on, you have to learn to resolve any problem in your life that is causing you a lot of anxiety and stress. Get your support system to help you tackle everything quickly and move on.

  1. Get outside

One of the key issues that leads to depression is not getting enough sunlight. It is strange how important the sun is to our health. People who are depressed spend all their time indoors wallowing in their suffering. Getting some sun rays and a breath of fresh air outdoors has a massive impact on our health and overall well-being. So go outside more often and take walks near parks and rivers. You will feel rejuvenated.

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  1. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is important, not only for those who are fighting depression, but also for every other health problem in our lives. Exercise contributes to our well-being by releasing beneficial chemicals into our blood stream and helping our bodies combat illness. Exercising also keeps the mind fresh and active thereby boosting mental health.

  1. Sleep Well

Sleep deprivation is now linked to a host of health issues in our lives. Depression is one of them. Solving your sleeping problem will go a long way in helping you cope with depression. Poor sleeping patterns lead to other health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, which will in turn cause you stress and anxiety. Everything is cycle. You have to cut off all problems at their root before they cause other issues that can reignite your battle against depression.

Nowadays, there are sleep monitors and sleep tracking devices that can help you figure out the changes you can make in order to get the most out of your sleeping time.

  1. Seek Professional Help

People often turn to professionals when they are overwhelmed. Depression is an overwhelming problem that requires patience and assistance from others in order to manage it fully. A medical professional can prescribe medication that can help you with this problem. Doctors and therapists are also adept at giving advice and guidance that can help you to cope with depression and move on in your life.

Thoughts

Dealing with depression is not easy and it will require great effort from you in order to cope with it. For those who have not experienced it, you can try to keep it at bay by following some of the ideas listed here.

Please remember one thing: You are stronger than you realize. Many other people have faced depression and overcome it. You can do it too. Accept that despite all the challenges you face, life is still beautiful. Find your purpose in life and go out boldly to try to achieve it. Remember to give to others. What you give, you will receive tenfold. Be there for other people who are struggling in life and it will give you a better perspective of your own life and what you need to do to improve it.

2015: The Keys to a Healthier You

The new year brings a sense of pride in having survived 2014 and a sense of optimism for what the future holds in store in 2015.

There are those who are excited about what they are setting out to accomplish, whereas others are merely trudging along, dealing with situations in their lives as they arise. For those with mental health issues or know someone with a mental health problem, life is looked upon with different eyes. There are challenges that seem more daunting than they really are while others are simply overwhelming.

Looking to the future

This year, 2015, provides a great opportunity to utilize all the information we have gathered in the previous year to set ourselves on the path of being healthy. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Go for a medical check-up

With sky-rocketing costs of medicine and healthcare insurance premiums, it is easy to avoid visiting the hospital when you are ‘feeling fine’. There are many diseases which don’t exhibit any symptoms until your immune system is fully compromised and overwhelmed. Going to the hospital for a check-up has helped a lot of people to spot life-threatening diseases before they took hold over the body. So, no matter what the prices look like, remember that you are saving yourself more money by knowing the status of your health.

As recently mentioned, you can ask your doctor to test for the MTFHR gene mutation which will give you a heads up on whether your family will be beset with mental health issues. While some mental health issues can be linked with one’s lifestyle, the key cause of mental health issues lies within this gene mutation. You can spare your family a lot of heartache by getting tested and knowing your status, so that you can live responsibly and also so that you can be better taken care of. It is always better to know the monster you are facing.

  1. Learn to Manage Stress

Stress is an essential component of our lives. It makes us more aware of our decisions and choices, and it also helps us identify problems and solve them. In our society today, stress can become unmanageable to the extent that one’s quality of life deteriorates. Stress affects relationships, hinders personal development and even weakens the body’s immune system thus making people prone to diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

You need to find ways of managing stress. The first thing you should do is identify the stressors and take charge. If you are always reacting to the stress that means you are not in control of your life. Be more assertive and don’t take on more than you can handle. But most importantly, you should approach any problem with a positive attitude and perspective.

  1. Keep depression at bay

Depression is a silent killer. Many people never know they are depressed until their lives break down completely. Other people never know that someone – including a loved one – is suffering from depression until that person shares their problem or attempts to commit suicide. Everyone is going through some sort of struggle and it is easy to suffer in silence because no one seems to care about you.

Stay healthy and free from depression by managing your stress better. Ensure that you maintain your social life and interact with other people. Go outside and get some sunshine and some fresh air. Find a purpose in life that excites you and pursue it. These are just some ideas to tackle depression before it ruins your life.

For more information on how to keep depression at bay, you can read my article here.

  1. Help others. It will help you.

We spend our whole lives focussing on ourselves: our problems, our relationships, our happiness etc. There’s just too much going on in our lives to focus on other people. Life however shows that by helping others, we help ourselves. Once you shift your focus from your life and struggles and focus on someone else, you begin to see life in different eyes. You get a new perspective on what is important in life.

One issue that I highlighted last year was that, people don’t ask others how they are doing. Sometimes people struggle in silence and it takes someone who cares to understand them and uplift their spirits by sharing in their pain. Aim to be that person this year. It will work wonders on your health as you will have different approach to life. Empathising with others also gifts you a mental fortitude to help you in your life’s journey.

  1. Keep your mind active

Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease. These are all mental health diseases that have brought fear and pain to our society. Some mental health illnesses can be kept at bay by constantly keeping your brain active. This year, choose to become a reader. Read a lot and gather a lot of information. Analyse things in your mind and challenge your brain to solve complex issues and recall information.

There is a fear amongst people that as you get older, your memory wanes. Well, if you don’t exercise your brain, this issue will become your reality sooner rather than later. Exercise your mind. It will protect you from diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Staying healthy this year and beyond, is important not only for you but for the people who love you. Keep yourself healthy and have a positive outlook on life. Things are not always as bad as they seem.

Happy New Year. Have a Blessed 2015!

Seasons of Happiness, Seasons of Suffering

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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.

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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.

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.