Labelling Suicide while Missing the Point

Photo by the UN-aligned design team.

Every Forty Seconds

The 10th September was World Mental Health Day. In this context the WHO published a flyer to raise awareness on suicide and how to help prevent it: Working Together to Prevent Suicide. The WHO highlights the fact that every forty seconds a life is lost to suicide. This is tragic and all the more so because so much more could be done to help, both on an individual and on a social basis. It is reassuring that the WHO is taking this problem seriously, but I object to suicide being so often linked with mental health. 

Let’s face it: it’s life that’s crazy… but it works

True, mental health may be a factor, just as it influences all our decisions, but the assumption that suicide is a mental health problem is a lie and perhaps one of the main reasons people do not wish to talk about it. Life is absurd and often it is torture, not because of mental weakness, but owing to the insurmountable hurdles it places before us. I remember a story my father once told me be about his time in Libya during the war. The soldiers would often cruelly entertain themselves by encircling a scorpion with a ring of fire it could not escape from. The highlight was seeing the trapped scorpion sting itself to death. No mental health problems there, just an easier way out. 

Sometimes it feels crazy to carry on. It is survival that is often the insanity. But it is an insanity that works; an insanity that defies entropy and ushers in light and creation; love, even. Survival is an act of faith. There is nothing sane about it other than the bizarre evidence that it can work and that is worth fighting for.  

Ten reasons to fight on…

In May, I published an article on suicide and suggested ten reason why it was not a good idea. The reasons, of course are not exhaustive, but here they are again:

  • You may be killing a future self who may not want to be terminated. You are his or her guardian. Fight the moment and pass on the baton of your personal growth.
  • That future self may have an important role to play, even if it is just saving a butterfly from drowning, or someone who will prove to be a great benefactor to humanity… or you, yourself, may become that benefactor.
  • You are a winner. Part of you outraced millions of spermatozoa racing to fertilise the egg. You owe it to all those potential lives to make the most of your own. As the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa states: “To be born a human being is rarer than a star that shines by day.”
  • Whatever it is that life is about, problems are there as challenges that help us learn. Perhaps death will merely postpone those lessons and you may have to meet the same challenges with all the preceding crap until you get there again.
  • Many suicides go wrong; even well planned ones. You may find yourself with the same problems, plus the added inconvenience of being severely disabled or having to deal with some stupid reactions from those closest to you.
  • “This too will pass!” Sometimes we just need to weather the storm, because however frightening the situation may be, it may pass. If not, it is always more worthy to “take arms against” those “slings and arrows” than “oppose” them by ending your own self, which is really not opposing them at all, but taking their side!
  • Sometimes, a chemical imbalance or a trivial matter may cause disproportionate reactions. Important decisions should not be taken at our lowest ebb.
  • The urge to end it all is sometimes a reflection of what lies without, not what lies within you. See it a a nudge to change direction. There usually are many alternatives and we just have to break away from the conditioning that makes us believe that we are bound to the hopelessness of our environment.
  • Bigoted social and religious pressures often force us to be what we are not. This can be hell. Don’t take that hell with you. Stick your middle finger up to it instead and don’t let bigotry crush you.
  • Your death could have unhappy consequences: sadness, despair, more suicides…

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] or [email protected]. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at

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