The Facebook Suicide: Who is to blame?

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Posted by Debajyoti Datta | Labels:


Following the suicide of the 22 year old girl after herboyfriend dumped her, much debate has followed. I find that most of the commentators have joined either of the two camps; one side believes that the boyfriend is to be blamed for being an utter jerk while the other side thinks that at least some part of the blame lies with the girl for being immature. I was prompted into thinking about this by this post over at the Just The Way I Like blog and the comments there in. Let me quote –
I just can’t figure out why people today are so sensitive, to the extent that they are unable to tolerate when someone blames them or points a finger at them. Why are we not able to take criticism in the right spirit from others?  Have we lost the ability to be resilient, instead call it a day, once and for all and give up? The World is fast paced, but why are we impatient and look for quick results? Why do we get into bouts of depression just because we failed at one point? Where has the virtue of patience gone? Has optimism and Positive thinking; despite being stressed repeatedly; become a thing of the past? When we should be giving a lot of room for positive thoughts and withstand the negative forces which trying their best to hamper our progress, we are unable to digest that one negative setback?
What I can’t figure out is why people have become so insensitive today? Why is all the talk about being so strong? I think it reeks of Social Darwinism. “Hey there! You are weak, that’s why you committed suicide but look at me, I am strong, and I can face everything.” Well guess what, there is nothing called strong willed or weak willed. When someone suffers from diarrhea do we ask them to go and strengthen their stomach by doing ab crunches? Then why all the non-sense about being “strong” for those who are suicidal? Is it just a way to shift the blame?

Why can’t they take criticism? There is a distinction between constructive and destructive criticism. Sadly, most of the criticism is destructive. We all like to snub others, it makes us feel superior. The world is fast paced, we are expected to show performance or get the boot. If I ask my boss to be patient and wait for the day when I succeed, will he listen? Will the so called “market” looking for quick results listen if I am not fit for the rat race? When the worth of a human is being judged by money and success can we blame any one if they despair on failing to achieve success?

There is an amazing lack of education regarding suicide and this doesn’t help any one. Let me start off with some definitions (from Medscape) –
  • Suicide – The act of killing one self.
  • Suicide attempt - This involves a serious act, such as taking a fatal amount of medication and someone intervening accidentally. Without the accidental discovery, the individual would be dead.
  • Suicide gesture - This denotes a person undertaking an unusual, but not fatal, behavior as a cry for help or to get attention.
  • A suicide gamble - For example, to ingest a fatal amount of drugs with the belief that family members will be home before death occurs. Patients gamble their lives that they will be found in time and that the discoverer will save them.
  • Suicide equivalent - In this situation the person does not attempt suicide. Instead, he or she uses behavior to get some of the reactions their suicide would have caused. For example, an adolescent boy runs away from home. He wants to see how his parents respond. Do they care? Are they sorry for the way that they have been treating him? It can be seen as an indirect cry for help.

In almost all the cases the person is just crying out for help. After being repeatedly ignored, he/she feels that this is the only way that they can get someone’s attention, that they can get someone to care for them. The blame squarely lies with us, the friends and family of the suicidal – if only we had listened, if only we had seen the signs, if only we had given some time, if only we had showed some compassion.

Depression is one of the most important risk factor for suicide. The thing we have to understand is that if someone is unable to open up, to share their feeling this doesn’t mean it’s their fault. It’s part of the disease, we can’t blame them instead we need to help them. For example, do you blame a child for throwing up if he is suffering from stomach upset? Then why we blame the suicidal? Almost 95% of those committing suicide have some form of mental illness but this is such a taboo topic in India that we never discuss it, instead we blame the suicidal which makes it easy for us to shirk our responsibilities. Being depressed is like drowning in a sea of despair from which one can never arise unless one gets help but they are unable/unwilling to seek help. This is a part of the disease.

There are a few signs that we can look out for in our friends or relatives to see if they have suicidal tendencies (from Medscape) –
  • Making a will
  • Getting the house and affairs together
  • Unexpectedly visiting friends and family members
  • Purchasing a gun, hose, rope, drugs, knifes etc.
  • Writing a suicide note
  • A preoccupation with death
  • A sense of isolation and withdrawal
  • Few friends or family
  • An emotional distance from others
  • Distraction and lack of humor: They often seem to be "in their own world" and lack a sense of humor.
  • Focus on the past: They dwell in past losses and defeats and anticipate no future. They voice the notion that others and the world would be better off without them.
  • They are haunted and dominated by hopelessness and helplessness. They are without hope and therefore cannot foresee things ever improving. This is a terrible feeling. They also view themselves as helpless in 2 ways. First, they cannot help themselves. All their efforts to liberate themselves from the sea of depression in which they are drowning are to no avail. Second, no one else can help them.
  • There are signs of suicide attempts, for example, cuts on the wrist, rope burns in the neck etc.
  • They have unkempt, disheveled appearance, unclean room or cloths.
  • Recent life experiences – death of a family member, losing a job, being dumped, failing an exam etc

If you do find this in someone, understand that they need your help even if they deny it. Don’t leave them alone. Get them help and may be you can save a life. For more information please visit here.

4 comments:

  1. Meera Sundararajan said...
  2. I must say that this is an extremely well researched post on suicide.. Thanks! it is not often that one comes across something like this on the net. I have visited your blog earlier and I must say that it does not disappoint

  3. Debajyoti Datta said...
  4. Thanks for your kind words, glad that you like it.

  5. Destination Infinity said...
  6. I think some people take life too seriously, especially when they are young! Taking things easy and light heartedly would solve most of the problems. I do hope that parents would guide their children (who can spot such tendencies faster) appropriately so that these incidents do not recur. I don't suggest taking sides.

    Destination Infinity

  7. Pranab Chatterjee said...
  8. Easier said than done. The pace of modern day life, the competitiveness of bare existence, the everyday fight to stay afloat is costing us more than we would care to admit. One of my close school friends committed suicide after a sustained bout of depression in our second year (http://wp.me/p1bI85-9U). We were all so caught up in our own lives we forgot to look for the tell tale signs...

Post a Comment