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Why commit Suicide?

15/08/2014

This topic was triggered by the recent demise of the Academy Award-winning actor, Robin McLaurin Williams (21 July 1951 – 11 August 2014), who imbued his performances with wild inventiveness and manic energy. He was 63. Lets suspend our doubt momentarily for the sake of this piece. I write this in response to articles that raise doubt about the claim that Williams committed suicide. Even if true that does not alter the harsh reality that suicide is common.

I read that most men have thought at least four times in their life to commit suicide, and are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. I haven’t found any supportive research for these statements. Yet, that does not mean they are fabrications.

In ancient Rome or medieval Japan, suicide was seen as a defiant act of extreme personal freedom against perceived or actual tyrants. In Victoria, Australia (my state), suicide is not a crime. However, a survivor of a suicide pact can be charged with manslaughter.

During the course of my social work career, I was charged with the role of assessing people admitted to hospital following their failed suicide attempts. I learned that to commit suicide is not easy; it goes against the life instinct. A kind of fearlessness is required to face voluntarily the daunting prospect of one’s death, and that involves a battle against ancient, ingrained, and powerful self-preservation instincts.

We have to change people’s suicidal minds. Why do people think of suicide? – for the reason that they experience life as ugly and don’t know how to beautify it, how to make a song out of it. It is sadness, a long anguish, a nightmare.

updated: 27 August 2013

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