It’s a matter of seconds before an individual chooses to either turn a page or close the book. It is that period where the death instinct (thanatos) is pushed into overdrive and the life instinct (eros) takes a back seat
Life is not always a bed of roses and real troubles are difficult to cope with, and you are too stubborn to get help; thus deciding to quit, still managing to maintain your ego and pride. The egoistic type of suicide occurs when the individual is not sufficiently integrated into society. Zilboorg explains the paradoxical effect of living by killing oneself, the method of gaining fame and immortality, maintaining an ego rather than destroying it. The person doesn’t want to compromise his or her reputation or status of many years.
Some case studies of suicide notes reveal that the motive is more than what meets the eye. Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer, who thought of suicide in the Mississippi, is an example of an individual’s wish to punish a depriving figure by the induction of guilt. The picture of him dead brought self-pity tears in his eyes. It is as though they could remain behind to see and relish the discomfiture and remorse their act would induce.
Then again, suicide is sometimes used as an aid in coping with an overpowering thanatophobia. It serves as reaction formation to the morbidly feared eventuality of death, by embracing it rather than running from it. There is the famous psychological case of a young boy who committed suicide to find out if death was as bad as he was told. He assumed the concept of the game of “cops and robbers” literally — that death was reversible and temporary.
Many teenagers die of failure of what I would call an “attempt to threaten suicide.” Their main intention is to deliver a message or a threat demanding attention and love, but they eventually succumb to the tortures they force on their bodies. Suicidal behaviour whether attempted or threatened must be taken seriously and dealt with maturely. It should not be treated as taboo anymore. There is need for discussing the concept of suicide in schools and colleges.
Depression is a common phenomenon and everybody at some point goes through that moment when he/she feels like just letting go. It would be immature to condemn people who have attempted suicide, threatened it or succumbed to the temptation; rather, we should be grateful that we have survived that moment at the threshold, when we had to choose between to be or not to be. It is erroneous to say, ‘If I were him I would have not done that.’ The fact is that we never know how we would react to a situation until we are in it and we cannot hypothetically assume how messed up the situation is for others.
A person who threatens suicide is emotionally more disturbed than the one who attempts it. The reason why the topic should be discussed in the open is that we fail to recognise the signs of victims. For instance, a change in the attitude of a depressed person to sudden peace and happiness is a reason to worry. O’Connor states suicide by a depressed person is a kind of narcissistic return to early power, where he receives omnipotence. Thus, an abnormal pattern in emotional polarity might be a sign of a potential suicide attempt.
It’s a matter of seconds before an individual chooses to either turn a page or close the book. It is that period where the death instinct (thanatos) is pushed into overdrive and the life instinct (eros) takes a back seat. If those few minutes are spent in the uttermost solitude there are more chances that the person will go ahead with the plan. However, if that period is interspersed by a phone call or a friendly embrace, things might change drastically. The cause and effect relationship is virtually impossible to sort out. Are lonely people more prone to suicide? Or do potential suicides become lonely?
The Goa unit of the National Student Union of India has begun an online campaign for a compulsory counselling cell in every college. However, more than a counselling centre, we need a helpline, where the closet person can just run into a corner and make a last resort call. Basically, when all is done and dusted and when you feel life is not worth living, there is a place to go. This helpline would keep issues confidential which will make it more believable and approachable. This ‘last resort call’ would aim to calm down the person and counsel him/her to rethink the decision.
Is a ‘suicidee’ a victim or offender? If you survive the horror, you will be charged with attempt to commit suicide under Section 309 of the IPC. One may be a victim in reality; but by giving in to death, one turns into an offender. Besides the crocodile tears and flowery obituaries which are often too late, let us do something to prevent the tragedy. For all the years of stupid resolutions where we bit off more than we could chew, this time let’s keep it simple — ‘mission abort thanatos, mission rescue eros’.
(The writer is a student of Criminology and Forensics, KUD. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)