World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is September 10th – World Suicide Prevention Day! It’s a reminder that people are suffering in silence, feeling like there is no point in living.

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But whoever you are and wherever you may be, just know someone cares for you. Even though you feel lonely or you think no one will miss you, please try to reach out for help. I am here for you as are other people and groups around the world.

The stigma around mental health is slowly but surely fading away. It is becoming part of the conversation. And with that change, we can get to the point where we reduce and ultimately prevent suicides.

Here are some tips for you and for those who are contemplating suicide:

Spotting the Warning Signs of Potential Suicide

According to the Beyond Blue support service in Australia, there are several signs to look for in people who are considering taking their life:

  • Substance abuse
  • Isolation from friends and family

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Besides developing your observation skills, you also need to cultivate good listening skills. After all, underneath the usual conversations is a constant desperate plea for help.

Make yourself available to others and go beyond common greetings. Dig deeper and get to hear that they are doing okay.

What about you? How can you take care of yourself to ensure you no longer think about suicide? Keep reading to find out.

Taking Care of Yourself

Life is difficult but you can navigate through it with some changes to your lifestyle. Here are tips on what you can do:

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These simple tips are just the beginning of the journey. Mental health is a lifelong issue. I’ll be praying for you and your loved ones. Be Blessed.

 

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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.

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

Ashley Madison Hack: Some Affected Users Contemplating Suicide

We all have secrets. It doesn’t matter whether they are perceived to be good or bad; they are OUR secrets.

For users of the adultery website service, AshleyMadison, those secrets became a real life nightmare when the website was hacked and their details released online.

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Background

AshleyMadison is an online hook-up service based in Canada that targets people in relationships with its slogan “Life is short. Have an affair”. It is a very popular website that is said to have over 30 million users and gets over a hundred million visitors every month.

If you haven’t watched the news recently, you’ve missed an explosive story that is sure to ruin the lives of many. On July 19th, Brian Krebs, a security expert, revealed in his website’s blog post that the AshleyMadison website had been hacked.

A hacking group calling itself The Impact Team compromised AshleyMadison’s parent company, Avid Life Media and stole customer data and some company information. The users who paid for anonymity were left dismayed to discover that the promised feature of having all their details deleted wasn’t fulfilled by Avid Life Media.

This has left anyone who used the website exposed to the criticisms and shaming of the world-at-large. You can only begin to imagine the level of embarrassment the users are feeling right now.

On Friday, 28th of August, Noel Biderman, the founder and CEO of Avid Life Media, decided to step down from his position. According to the BBC, Biderman, also had his private emails leaked. You can read about the reasons for the hack on the Krebs on Security blog post.

Suicide Appeal

It’s been interesting to read the views of people commenting on this hack. One group says the users deserve what they are getting because they were cheating on their partners. A second group says we should never blame the victim of a crime. A third group doesn’t really care and thinks we should all just mind our own business. A fourth group is contemplating the ramifications of these privacy leaks on the rest of our interconnected world.

No matter which group you fall in, the greater issue has been the impact this leak will have on the lives of the users and on the lives of those affected by the users’ actions. Already, as the DailyMail reports, people are gearing up for lawsuits and divorce cases.

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However, the worst part of it all is the impact that fear, shame and depression will have on everyone affected by this hack. According to CBC News Toronto, there were two unconfirmed suicides that were linked to the AshleyMadison hack. People should not be surprised by this news because other people deal with life issues differently.

Such reports signal that people have already given up on life and are unwilling to face up to the problem they created for themselves when they signed up to the site. If two people have already taken their lives, you can be sure that there are many others contemplating suicide.

How are you supposed to react when you find yourself in this situation that AshleyMadison users are finding themselves in? How do you talk to all the people who will feel betrayed by your actions? How do you reconcile your self-image of being a “good person” despite the public criticism of your actions? How do you deal with the embarrassment and shame of having your naked images online or your personal messages leaked to the world? [note: the hackers have not leaked any images yet]. How do you continue working at your job when you know your co-workers know details about you that they shouldn’t?

Thoughts

This is a very complicated position to be in. It would not be surprising if the affected users are feeling alone right now. In the darkest nights it is just you and your demons. And in the brightest day, it is you, your demons and your persecutors.

There are those who may wish for the ground below to open up and swallow them. In the same vein, the options some affected users are contemplating are permanent. You will not come back from a suicide, but if you can get through this nightmare, you can come out on the other side with your life intact.

No one can imagine how you feel and what you are thinking. You have found yourself in an uncomfortable situation that you could not have dreamed of. Some users weren’t even having an affair but rather looking for companionship. Yet, they have been lumped together with those who willingly went to the AshleyMadison site to cheat on their spouses.

No matter what you will go through in the coming weeks, suicide should not be an option that you consider. In time, perhaps everything will work out and you will be able to get some semblance of normality in your life.

Choosing to end your life, however, will mean that you are remembered for the two things you did wrong. Instead, consider going to see a therapist and a counsellor to help you get through this trying time.

By staying alive, you get the opportunity to make amends to those you hurt and to heal yourself. So choose life and fight through your circumstances.

Negative Thoughts that Lead to Suicide pt.2

In the first part, we talked about a few of the negative thoughts that lead to suicide. They included: the thought that no one loves you and the thought that no one will miss you.

All these points are only focussing on the mental thoughts that lead to suicide. There are many other factors that lead to suicide such as mental health illnesses or significant traumatic experiences that disorient someone to the point they make fatal decisions.

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Here are some more negative thoughts that suicidal people have:

  1. It’s for the best

Human beings are accustomed to taking shortcuts where possible. Think of all the times you refused to thoroughly analyze an issue and you will realize that we all want to get things done quickly and get over it. You see it as well with the fast food establishments. No one wants the hassle of cooking; therefore, you just pick up an already completed dish and get on your merry way.

When the pressures of life weigh you down, the easiest option is to take yourself out of the equation. After all, if you weren’t here, you wouldn’t get to go through this pain. You see unemployed people take their lives because they can’t live with the shame and humiliation of being unable to provide for themselves or their families. You hear about parents who murder their children and then commit suicide in order to save both the children and themselves from their suffering. Those are the painful stories we hear. It is truly scary what our minds can conceive to do when we have our backs against the wall. We can only imagine the moments that preceded the decision to take a life. What is clear is that these people believe that their actions are for the best.

The Truth: Even though we all face trying circumstances, the one constant that remains is that life is priceless. There is always a better decision and a better way to do things. Committing suicide is not the right decision. If people only knew how much life was worth, they would fight for it with everything they have. Just ask most people in the ICU or those suffering with terminal illnesses. In those moments, your desire to live outweighs everything else.

Once this negative thought creeps into your mind, you should always remember that there are those who love you and are counting on you to choose to live for their sakes as well as yours. The world needs you to stick around and contribute something profound that will improve the lives of your fellow man.

Try to develop willpower to strengthen you in times of hardships. Always remember that there is always a better way to do things. If you stop focusing on the obstacles and instead focus on the solutions, you might be able to deal with any problem in your life. Never give up. Things always work out eventually.

  1. I can’t take this anymore

At one point in our lives, it might seem that nothing is working in our favour. You’ve probably lost your job then you head to the parking lot and you find them towing your car. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, you get a phone call that a loved one has been rushed to the hospital. At first you are happy when you hear your loved one will be okay; then you receive the hospital bill and remember you no longer have health insurance for your family nor do you have sufficient funds in your account to pay. As you are pondering the solutions, you receive a phone call from your neighbour telling you that your house has just burned down. Disaster after disaster after disaster. But then things are about to get much worse…

While that paragraph reads like a script from a very sad movie, many people go through trying situations that leave them contemplating their very existence. And just the same, too many people give up and commit suicide. It is a sad reality of the world we live in. Those that are left behind suffer the consequences of another person’s actions. There are those who are so affected by that tragedy that they also attempt to take their own lives. It is a sad and vicious cycle.

Our minds can overwhelm us if left untamed. The mind can lead you to believe that you cannot withstand whatever problem you are facing. “You are not strong enough; just give up”. But is that really true?

The Truth: Most of us go through life without ever developing our willpower. Therefore, when the time comes whereby we are faced with multiple obstacles, our only option is to concede defeat. There are many people who are battered by various trials and suffering yet they stand tall. Why? It is because of their willpower. They have the belief in their ability to overcome whatever trials they face in their lives.

It is very easy to become frustrated at the way things are going in your life. We have all been there. All the plans you had seem to matter little to life. All the positive talk about success and achievement offers little change to your circumstances. When the reality of your life is that everywhere you look there is pain and struggle, you can easily fall victim to the negative thoughts that your environment fosters. The frustration and stress will wear you down until you start weighing your options.

But could you hold on a little bit longer if you had a positive outlook in life and had consistently built up your willpower? I believe so.

The mentally and emotionally strong people are usually those who have been through excruciating and tough situations in their lives. It is not that the pain is not there; it’s just that they have learnt to deal with it. As can you. You just have to hold on and push through to get to the other side.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to contact a counsellor or a trusted friend who can guide you through that crucial period.

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!

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.