The world population is tending to 8 billion human beings as I write this article. One thing in common amongst all the approximate 7.75 billion human inhabitants of this beautiful planet, is life as we know it. The process of birth, growing up, living and breathing, and finally death. This process has repeated itself from the word go. Whether one places their belief strongly in particular religious doctrines or firmly believes in natural selection or Darwinism, life is the most precious journey we are all blessed with.
On average, the life expectancy of humans is approximately 80 years on planet Earth. The only planet that we know where life exists for now. Eighty years roughly equates to around 2 billion heartbeats, give or take. Each moment of the journey leads to our final destination, death!
Ever since the dawn of civilization, every living soul that has walked this planet has pondered where we go after death. Is this life journey a one-off random chance or is there a heavenly scribe that ordains our fate? In either case, both the beginning (birth) and the end (death) of our journey are unknown. Countless theories, conjectures, hypotheses, beliefs based on theological assertions or spiritual notions but no concrete evidence. Hence, life as we know it is, all we have; here and now! A precious journey with limited duration. Every moment is worth living, learning, growing, not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well.
So why do some pay the ultimate sacrifice themselves willingly? If life is such a beautiful gift, why do some willingly end their journeys short themselves? Suicide is getting so prevalent and frequent, the term is so loosely used in common conversations among youth and children. As the world advances technologically, as the quality of life increases, as the growth opportunities increase and expand, one would tend to think that the rate of suicides among the human population would be declining, but unfortunately, those rates are increasing. Not only due to the current COVID pandemic and lockdown induced anxieties and depressive atmosphere but prior to this outbreak also. Where are we going wrong? Especially as the frequency increases while the tender ages are decreasing.
I will not get into the number-crunching but roughly around 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide a year. That number rising as I type this. Some experts believe the next pandemic is the number of youth or adults committing suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young people, worldwide.
From the chart above, death by suicide sits right above malaria. A virus that historically has been responsible for the most deaths since the middle ages. The most tragic inference from the chart above is the fact that every suicide is preventable (other than unexpected accidents). A terminal disease is a known outcome, a viral disease in an unfortunate stroke of fate, several other causes may be subjected to wars, or poverty, or climate change even. Suicide is something that is preventable by a good samaritan or a stranger even. This leads me to my next point of argument.
In the space of three months, two young lads from the northern UK (Leeds) have committed suicide. Both from a well-developed nation, from well-to-do households, from apparently loving and educated families, with healthy social circles (so to say!). The young lad on the left went missing in his high-end sports car last week. Put up a lengthy suicide, not on one of his social media accounts with quite an extensive fan following (~ 40K followers). No one could do anything! The lad on the right gave up his life in somewhat similar circumstances in mid-September.
I have been to Leeds, UK once. It is a small city with close-knit communities in healthy suburbs. The Sikh community, in particular, takes a lot of pride in its existence and establishment, as one of the most prosperous communities in the area. The question arises, however, what is being done to help the young minds? Certainly, there is no easy solution but there has to be a start. There must be! I was listening to a podcast where a prominent member of the society attending the funeral of life lost recently mentioned about 600 calls were received on various helplines seeking suicide prevention help. Let that sink in, 600 calls.
Depression or mental health issues are no joke. It’s extremely unfortunate and heartbreaking that there is still a stigma associated with mental health illness in some established and self-proclaimed progressive societies and/or communities. I reiterate, every suicide is preventable. What is it that we are doing wrong, collectively?
There are numerous groups, entities, organizations, podcasts, radio talk shows, television channels, news outlets, social media platforms that are constantly raising awareness on mental health issues every day but why is the problem worsening? In my brutally honest opinion, I do not believe we are getting the right message across. The awareness is there but the appropriate message is not being conveyed. We constantly hear that we must reach out to our friends and family to check up on them or keep our ears and minds open to listening to anyone who may be feeling down or depressed. But is that the appropriate path to avoid more tender lives being lost? I totally agree with and endorse talking to anyone that may be bottling up their dark and toxic feelings and emotions that may lead to drastic steps of taking their own lives. Is that enough though?
Depression is a complex state of mind. It is a storm consisting of a combination of detrimental entities. It is a dark place to be in where the mind is constantly battling to get out of the storm but being constantly sucked deeper into the abyss. A mixture of feelings, emotions spurred by past trauma or current, physical anomalies spurred by brain chemical imbalances, a constant turmoil. Physically, the appearance looks normal but inside the mind is in complete shambles. The good news, there is help available. That help comes from trained professionals who have experience and the knowledge of reaching the underlying issues that fuel the storm. Hence, it is imperative that these individuals get that appropriate help from trained professionals to cure the mind.
I would like to use an analogy here to make this point of discussion clear. Deepyyy, the lad pictured on the left above, jumped off the bridge. It is reported that he went missing prior to taking this drastic step but some community members managed to find him upon reading his disturbing note on Instagram. They managed to bring him home but he managed to escape again and managed to commit suicide. He lost his battle with his mind, the darkness within, the storm overcame him. If he was taken to the hospital instead, he perhaps would have been with us today. I’m certain the community members that found him ‘talked to him’ or tried to persuade him out of his ill-fated decision. What I’m trying to get at is, a good samaritan can certainly help someone from jumping off the bridge once, but unless the underlying mental issue or ailment is not addressed appropriately, the jump off the bridge is merely postponed or delayed, not entirely eliminated. Therefore, my point of contention is, professional help with identifying and addressing underlying mental illness is extremely vital. We must lend an open mind and ear to anyone in need but we must take that extra step forward to get these vulnerable minds the appropriate help they need.
The good news is that almost all the cases dealt with by professional psychiatrists, psychologists or behavioral therapists result in full mental recovery. There are tons of resources and helplines available online. These provisions are confidential and secure. Many times, some people feel talking to a stranger on social media will help relieve some steam and make them feel better, but in hindsight, that is causing more damage in the long run. It acts as a band-aid solution where one feels better momentarily but the source of the issue remains, which at times is deep-rooted and long endured. That stranger may or may not keep your personal information confidential. Which leads to more grief in the long run and the cycle continues gaining more strength.
I would leave anyone reading this with some self-reflection ‘homework’ if you will. I would implore anyone reading this blog post to reach deep within themselves and reflect on how you can help another Deepyyy from not going back to that bridge again? It could be our beloved next, a coworker, a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a complete stranger even. I mentioned earlier, suicide is a preventable tragedy. An ordinary person may not be able to save someone in medical physical distress due to lack of medical knowledge but suicide is preventable by using communicative influence momentarily. Its the next step after that is extremely essential. It’s the guidance, influence, support to get them the professional help so that they may go over that bridge as many times as they need to but never jump off it. With these thoughts, I’d like to end my rambling here and once again implore one and all to dive deep within and encourage everyone to stand up against this ever-growing demon collectively. We can defeat this darkness and make the world a much more happy and positive place.
Our journeys are unique, our destinations are unknown, our journey times to reach those destinations are a mystery but we can all guide each other to reach those destinations comfortably. We do not know what the destination looks or feels like but we must strive to make the journey for ourselves and those around us as beautiful as possible.
Peace and love to all!
Have a wonderful and safe festive season!!