You Can Cope With Life—Why Do Some Choose Suicide?
ARE you finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the problems surrounding you? When you read the accompanying article “So Glad to Be Alive!” you will see how one woman learned to cope and found a reason to live. You, too, can cope. However, the facts show that a growing number of people feel unable to cope with life.
In the United States there are some 25,000 suicides recorded each year. It is estimated that several hundred thousand more fail in their attempts. There is also estimated to be an accumulated total of several million persons who have tried to take their lives.
Some countries have even higher suicide rates than the United States. Worldwide the suicide rate has reached alarming proportions. Both the wealthy and the poor are involved—and the numbers keep increasing.
Why are so many people deciding that they can’t cope with life?
“The three H’s: haplessness, helplessness, and hopelessness,” answers Dr. Calvin J. Frederick, chief of emergency mental health and disaster assistance at the National Institute of Mental Health. Thus to the suicidal person one thing after another seems to go wrong. He feels unable to cope with the present and sees nothing good happening in the future to change things. But what causes a person to sink to such depths of despair? The reasons are varied.
Extreme poverty drives some to the point of desperation. For many people poverty means a question of survival—a struggle to obtain enough food to feed them and their family. And some, feeling unable to cope with watching their family suffer from want, choose the alternative—suicide.
Many others find it difficult to cope with a chronic, painful illness. Faced with a future of living every day in pain, some plan to end their lives and thus end the misery. In fact, to help such persons, recently a book was published that is described as “the world’s first guide on how to commit suicide effectively.”
Pointing to another factor is the comment by a spokeswoman for the Samaritans, an organization in England that specializes in helping suicidal persons. She said: “It seems that depression is increasing and one factor in this may be unemployment.” (Italics added.) To illustrate: Young people leaving school and unable to get a job share with older persons, who have been made redundant, a common feeling of rejection. Frustration can soon lead to acute depression. Social welfare or unemployment payments do not solve that problem. And, what about the man who loses the job that for a number of years has enabled him to provide well for his family? Now he searches the want ads every day. He goes on one job interview after another, but he can’t get a job. Meanwhile, the family still needs to eat. The bills are piling up. Clearly, not an easy situation to cope with either, is it?
Loneliness is something with which many others feel unable to cope. Perhaps one loses a mate in death after many years of happy marriage. To some the thought of life without their mate is unbearable.
Some researchers feel that suicide among the elderly is a reaction to a series of losses: their mate dies; their children have moved away from home; they retire or are forced to retire; they must live on a fixed income while prices keep rising; their memory begins to fail; their health slowly deteriorates; self-respect is lost as they find themselves becoming more dependent on others. Thus suicide can be viewed as a way to avoid burdening others or as an alternative to spending the rest of their days in a nursing home.
The most striking increase in suicides and suicide attempts is among youths. In the United States some sources estimate that 57 children and teenagers attempt suicide every hour. Canada has had a fourfold increase in young suicides since the 1950’s. Similar trends are reported from France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan and Sweden. Why do so many young people feel unable to cope with life?
Hopelessness about the future is pointed to as one of the leading reasons. Dr. Diane Syer, as director of the Crisis Intervention Unit at Toronto’s East General Hospital, said that young people who attempt suicide sense “that their world isn’t going to get any better and so what’s the use of going on.”
At schools and universities the seemingly never-ending pressure to “make the grade” drives many others to the breaking point. In the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan this fear of failure largely accounts for the high suicide rates among youths. In some cases it is the parents who apply the pressure, expecting their children not just to learn but to excel. Many push their children to pursue a particular career without giving any thought to their abilities and preferences. Dr. Richard Seiden, of the University of California, said: “Some parents need their children to achieve to make up for their feelings of inadequacy.”
Many researchers believe that insecurity in family life is another major cause. As more and more families are torn apart by divorce, many young people blame themselves for their parents’ breakup. Adding to the insecurity is permissiveness. Young people are left to make their own decisions about sex, drugs, alcohol—decisions they are not prepared to make. They see this permissiveness as a lack of parental concern. As a result, some decide that their parents would be better off without them.
“Another factor is the devaluation of life,” says Dr. Herbert Hendin, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at New York city’s Columbia University. (Italics added.) What contributes to this “devaluation of life”? “By the time a child is 15, he or she has witnessed 14,000 murders or violent deaths on television,” says Dr. Seiden. Added to this are the popular songs that feature suicide as their subject: “Think I’m Gonna Kill Myself”; “I’m Mortuary Bound”; “Suicide.”
So often family members and friends of the victim are heard to say: “If only I had known . . .” Is it possible to know if a loved one is feeling unable to cope with life? What help can be given?
Help—From Whom? From Where?
It is important to realize that how we treat those around us—our family and friends—can have a significant effect on whether they find life worth living. As one 16-year-old girl who had thought of suicide wrote: “Maybe if parents and kids were kinder to each other, if teachers were more understanding, if we didn’t feel so much competition with one another, if our minds weren’t so open to sex and closed to true relationships, we would all be better off.” But when a person feels that life is not worth living, where can he get help?
Help for young people should logically come from their parents. Older people who are feeling unable to cope also need to be able to turn to someone they know will care, someone who will offer sound, practical counsel. What should you look for so as to know if a loved one is thinking about giving up on life?
Authorities list a variety of warning signals: suicidal threats; isolation from others; abrupt changes in behavior, such as an outgoing person’s becoming withdrawn; giving away “prized possessions”; severe depression. Even loss of sleep, loss of appetite and decline in attention to schoolwork, where such changes are sudden, prolonged and uncharacteristic of the person, should not be ignored. But what can you do to help?
“Just being a friend, sitting down and letting the [person] talk it out” can help, says suicidologist Dr. Mark Solomon. Be sympathetic. Don’t say, “Oh, come on, your problems can’t be that serious.” Be willing to listen. Offer alternatives; help him to see that things can change. Don’t be afraid to speak frankly. This may help him to open up and talk about his problems.
Many, unable to find a hearing ear among loved ones, turn for help to suicide-prevention and crisis-intervention centers. A number of these are equipped with 24-hour telephone hot lines. At one such facility in the United States, the Los Angeles center, about 18,000 calls a year are answered. In England, the Samaritans (a nationwide organization) logged a peak of some 1,500,000 calls in 1979, a year when 4,192 committed suicide.
Such facilities not only try to save the life at the other end of the telephone line but may also provide referral information to help the person to cope with ongoing problems. These referrals may include mental health and medical services, perhaps even assistance in obtaining child care and employment.
When considering suicide, some turn to yet another source for help, as shown by the following experience:
A few months back, a young man telephoned the Watch Tower Society in London, England. He explained that he and his wife had a friend who was on the verge of suicide and asked for somebody to call at his home as quickly as possible.
Upon arrival, a representative from the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses met a young woman who was in a deep depression following an abortion. With the aid of the Bible, the Witness was able to speak about God’s mercy and helped her to build an understanding of Christian principles as a way of life. She was grateful for the help and encouragement to start afresh, which she did.
But why did her friends decide to call Jehovah’s Witnesses? Simply because they believed that their friend would be visited by somebody who cared and who would use the Bible to speak consolingly.—1 Thess. 5:14.
You Can Cope!
Are you weighed down and depressed by one or more of the problems mentioned earlier? Have you ever felt unable to cope, that there’s no use in going on? True, you may have reason for a measure of sorrow. But do not despair—you can cope! How?
Try to think positively. Most problems have a solution. If you don’t know what it could be in your case, why not try to confide in someone you know and whose advice you respect? An older, sympathetic friend may well have faced, and overcome, a similar difficulty. A solution can be simple. Sometimes what is needed is a change in attitude.
For example, is unemployment the cause of your depression? Have you been trying, without success, to get another job? Well, what kind of job are you looking for? One that offers the same position and salary as the job you lost? Perhaps it would be wiser to ‘swallow your pride’ and settle for a job that pays a little less, or, if necessary, much less. After all, something is better than nothing!
Is loneliness your problem? Then don’t isolate yourself. Fight against self-pity. One of the best things to combat loneliness is doing a kindness for someone else. ‘But I need help,’ you say. ‘How can I give help?’ Jesus Christ said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Why not try it? You’ll find that giving to others will lift your spirits. True, it will not remove your problem but can help you to cope with it.
But perhaps you feel that your problem—chronic illness or death of a loved one—is unsolvable. Nevertheless, there is a source of help available that can aid you in coping with even seemingly unsolvable problems. In fact, this source of help assures us that in the near future all problems will be completely solved. What is that source? A person whose knowledge and ability to help is far greater than that of any human. Yes, God himself.
It’s true that a lot of people scoff at such an idea. But you have to admit that there are a lot of people with problems, too. And their failure to turn to God does not make them better equipped to cope with their problems, does it?
In the Bible, at 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, we read: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent.”
Yes, the Bible is God’s guide for man. Studying it and applying it in your life can help you to cope with all sorts of problems—unemployment, poverty, loneliness, even problems apparently having no solution such as persistent ill health and death of a loved one. It gives God’s servants the assurance that, in times of stress and anxiety, they will have his loving care. And those who in faith look to Jehovah God for help that is in harmony with his will do get loving aid that truly satisfies their need.—1 Pet. 5:7; 1 John 5:14.
But more than that, the Bible explains that present world problems are proof that we are living in the “last days.” (2 Tim. 3:1) Soon God will usher in a new order of things, one that will completely solve all the problems of those who love him. With reference to present world conditions, Jesus said: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28; 2 Pet. 3:13.
That knowledge inspires hope. And that hope gives us reason to live, no matter what our problems may be. Why not find out more about it? Jehovah’s Witnesses will gladly assist you.
Yes, with the help of God’s Word, the Bible, you can cope with life!
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In the United States some sources estimate that 57 children and teenagers attempt suicide every hour
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WHAT YOU CAN DO
□ Try to think positively
□ Confide in someone
□ Sometimes a change in attitude is needed
□ Don’t isolate yourself
□ Fight against self-pity
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FEAR OF FAILURE
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“By the time a child is 15, he or she has witnessed 14,000 murders or violent deaths on television”
INSECURITY IN FAMILY LIFE
DEVALUATION OF LIFE
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SUICIDE PREVENTION CENTER