The most futile cause of death is suicide. A veritable curse, it takes thousands of lives yearly. Yet, suicide never need, nor should, happen.
JOHN WAS 23 years old, a bright college student at a leading university. All he had worked for and dreamed of — graduation and a promising career — was now within reach. But John never reached his goals. He slashed his wrists — a suicide victim — one week shy of graduation. Mary was a 35-year-old London housewife. She lived in a comfortable upper-class home and seemingly possessed everything necessary for a happy life. She enjoyed status, a fine home, two children and a successful husband. Mary jettisoned all this by swallowing a bottle of pills.
A Problem of First Magnitude
No one knows how many people around the world, like John or Mary, end their lives by committing suicide. As a conservative estimate, experts feel at least 1000 people daily take their own lives. That amounts to several hundred thousand suicide deaths a year. What makes life so detestable? What causes hundreds of thousands every year to override the greatest drive known to mankind — the desire for self-preservation — and snuff out their own lives in a tragic suicide? Suicide tragedy is causing some concern. Over 200 suicide prevention centers have sprung up across the United States in the past few years! An entirely new profession that of "suicidology," has been added to the world as a result of this alarming trend. In America the problem of suicide has reached staggering proportions. Recorded suicides average somewhere between twenty-two and twenty-five thousand annually — or one suicide every 26 minutes! Many authorities, one of the leading of which is Dr. E. S. Shneidman, believes these figures, if added to the unreported and misreported suicides, could be doubled or even tripled. Dr. Michael Peck, Ph.D. on the staff of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center, in an interview with the author said it is generally believed at least 15,000 suicides fall into this category. This would raise the total to some 40,000 suicides in the United States yearly. The suicide roll is not limited to the United States. In England and Wales, 40,000 attempt suicide and 5000 succeed in taking their own lives yearly. Australians in the same span of time are killing themselves to the tune of some 1500, while in Canada another 1800 annually end their lives prematurely. In America suicide is a major killer — now among the TEN LEADING CAUSES OF ADULT DEATH. Among college or university students, it ranks number three, and in some areas number two, following only automobile accidents. But, no matter how it ranks as cause of death, it is, was and will remain — the NUMBER ONE cause of futile death. The World Health Organization August 1971 reports (only a horrible estimate at best, but shocking nonetheless) in addition to the hundreds of thousands who actually commit suicide, some three million attempt suicide annually. And, in addition, there are additional millions who have the desire to attempt suicide but do not follow through.
Why SELF Destruction?
The logical question is WHY? For every problem there has to be a cause. There is a cause for suicide. There is a reason why so many people end their lives in admitted failure. It's time the cause of suicide be carefully examined and understood. Those who have studied the field list the following 'as common reasons for suicide: loneliness, interpersonal difficulties, guilt, sudden shock and revenge. There is one factor apparent in every case. That factor is a feeling of failure in one way or another. The inability to cope with personal failure is the root cause of suicide! Loneliness, for example, is failure — failure to have friends, failure to love and be loved. The elderly often find themselves in an apartment complex housing hundreds, with a neighbor whose name they do not know, living not more than six inches away behind a common wall. Experts recognize loneliness, alienation or isolation — whatever term might be applied — to be one of the strongest immediate motives for suicide. Another reason for suicide is what experts term "interpersonal difficulties," or problems arising between two or more individuals. These difficulties are also a result of failure, failure to have a harmonious and happy marital, community or work relationship. Dr. Peck stated that the SPC (Suicide Prevention Center) never has to deal with anyone who has a satisfying marital relationship! A great many whom the SPC deal with have marital difficulties or are participating in a sexual perversion. These people are failures in a very important part of life and they often express their failure by committing suicide.
Guilt and Suicide
Guilt is another effect of failure — the failure to do what one knows to be right. Causes of guilt may range from cheating on tests to stealing, or to any compromising of the standards parents and society have taught to be right. Experts say the inability to live up to the image one has of himself is often a prime reason for suicide. Guilt suicides once again point out a terrible weakness and lack of mental and emotional stability.
Sudden Shock and Revenge
A sudden shock resulting from the loss of a loved one, devastating financial loss, losing a treasured job, being drafted, or even coming into a huge sum of money have been known to precipitate a suicide. Many people who suddenly lost their
The following is a profile sketch of a suicide, from characteristics which most often are prevalent in suicides.
ELDERLY: Suicide rates generally go up with age and are higher with elderly than with any other age group. College-age students are an exception, being also high on the list.
MALE: Two men commit suicide for everyone woman. Many more women threaten suicide, but more men actually commit it.
CAUCASIAN: In the United States, Caucasians have a higher suicide rate than any other race.
PROTESTANT: Of all the religions, Protestants have the highest suicide rates of any. Catholics are second and Jews third.
DIVORCEE: Married people have a lower rate than single, widowed, or divorced persons. Often a divorcee lives alone; this, too, raises the rates.
PROFESSIONAL: Although there are many exceptions, suicide rates are highest in the most and least prestigious occupations. The professional/managerial categories have the highest rates overall.
FINANCIAL STATUS: Makes no difference at all. Suicide is neither the curse of the poor nor the illness of the rich. It cuts across all lifelines into every monetary stratum.
HEALTH: Constant chronic pains or acute illnesses are often cited as reasons for suicide.
VICES: Alcoholism, sexual vices, drug abuse, gambling or other addictions are characteristics found among suicidals. Mental weakness, lack of emotional control, lack of self-discipline and lack of strong character make people more prone to commit suicide.
fortunes in the 1929 Depression committed suicide. They simply gave up — agreed to accept failure — instead of fighting back. Inability to cope with sudden changes is a dangerous characteristic. Many are not resilient enough to adjust to a sudden turn of events. Even local disasters such as severe storms, typhoons, hurricanes and earthquakes have caused some to take their own lives. Revenge is cited as another cause of suicide. Revenge is another effect of failure, this time the failure to grow up emotionally. A teen-ager wants to "get even" with his parents and reasons the way to do so would be to hurt or kill himself. A teen-age girl with much of life yet to be lived will jettison it to "get back at" a boy who has jilted her. A wife and mother will strike out at her husband and/or children, hoping to hurt them by hurting herself.
Lifelong String of Failures
It should be understood that a single, individual failure seldom drives one to suicide. Generally a lifelong string of failures — and especially an attitude of failure — precipitates suicide. For some people failure becomes a way of life. Many have never made, and have never been taught to make, decisions. Some have never been given responsibilities, and as a result are incapable of handling crises. A sudden shock or personal difficulty becomes "just too much."
The Mind of a Suicidal
Dr. Michael Peck of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center was asked to comment on the "frame of mind" of persons contemplating suicide. He explained that they are people who from infancy have never learned to make decisions. They become trapped in a helpless, hopeless mentality. They can't seem to change their course from failure to success no matter what they do. They are emotionally immature, usually moody, and have never learned to control their emotions. Dr. Paul Popenoe, President of the American Institute of Family Relations, explained that many people can't cope with problems because they are kept in a state of over-dependence even into their college days. It is only after they leave home and school that they reach some degree of independence. Then they find they do not know how to make crucial decisions. Learning to control our minds and emotions should start early in childhood. But it is never too late to learn. Maturity, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, can be learned. The lack of it, particularly that of emotional maturity, is a root cause of many social problems. Take the problem of loneliness — often a motive for suicide. One who is emotionally mature, who has learned how to be successful, handles it this way. Rather than giving up, childishly
"In America suicide is a major killer — now among the TEN LEADING CAUSES OF ADULT DEATH.
muttering, "nobody loves me" and committing suicide, that person resolves to do something about it. He goes to work on his personality to make it more pleasing. He makes himself more likeable and enjoyable as a person. He decides to be a better friend. He learns to build friendships. A person who is motivated in this way will normally be able to dispel loneliness. Likewise, a husband and wife with marital difficulties can resolve them. They can begin to live by the laws that guarantee a happy marriage. They can sit down together and talk it over, communicate, analyze the problem — then mutually work to correct it. Rather than giving up, childishly seeking revenge, striking out to hurt — a successful person will change himself, make himself a better mate. Problems — almost any problem in marriage or out — can be solved. But it requires emotionally mature people with resilience to tackle and solve interpersonal difficulties. The same procedure applies to the other previously mentioned motives which often precipitate a suicide. Sudden shock will not defeat an emotionally stable person. One who has a sound mental attitude can cope with failure and turn it into success. A person who has learned to be emotionally stable will handle guilt in the same mature manner. He will realize he did something wrong, be sorry for it and determine not to repeat the same mistake.
We all need to understand one guiding principle. The basic problem with people who are suffering neuroses, mental stress and those who ultimately commit suicide is that they are too preoccupied with themselves. They are self-conscious, self-seeking, or fearful that the self will fail in some way. It is natural to want to succeed, to be happy, to be loved, to preserve the self. These needs and desires are not wrong. It is also natural to have fears. Without normal, helpful fears none of us would be alive today. Proper fear is merely the drive for self-protection. Without this fear we wouldn't exercise proper caution against injury or failure. But when emotions are not properly controlled, the natural desire for self-protection in whatever form creates unnatural neuroses, phobias and despondencies. The mind becomes distraught to the point of utter despair, and utter despair can lead to suicide. An individual must learn to exercise proper control over his emotions. It must be exercised daily — in all the various situations that constitute daily life. It must become a HABIT! This requires an objective evaluation of personal weaknesses and inadequacies, and the character to discipline the self. It isn't always easy — or immediately enjoyable, but the long range rewards are well worth the effort. For those who would like further helpful principles, our free booklet titled The Seven Laws Of Success discusses how an individual can be successful in every area in life. It explains that no person ever need be a failure. Anyone can learn to be truly happy, emotionally stable and able to turn defeat into success by applying the principles discussed in this booklet.