Saturday Dialogue:Suicide: A cry for help . . .

Yesterday, I saw a gruesome picture of a man who slit his throat using a multi-bladed Okapi knife while seated in the driver’s seat of his Isuzu double cab in the middle of the road in Borrowdale, Harare.

Report by Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

He died instantly.

So dreadful was the scene that one of my workmates who was at the scene, telephoned to alert this newspaper about the incident.

It was such a terrible sight. The bloody knife lay on the seat together with the man’s two cellphones that were on the passenger seat. But what kind of a problem could drive any person to ending their own life?

We all have read stories about men and women that have ended their lives because of marital problems. One example that comes to mind is that of the late sungura artiste Tongai Moyo’s wife.

She took a poisonous substance after Moyo had told her that he was bringing a second wife to live under the same roof with her.

Men are less likely to talk about their issues and suicidal feelings and consequently are less likely to be dissuaded from following through. Males also tend to opt for methods of suicide where there is little or no chance of survival.

However, this does not mean that women are stronger or more emotionally resilient, if anything men are more resilient in their determination to succeed. Med Page Today, a web newspaper authored by Dr Kevin Pho, a leading social media physician, gives a few reasons why people end their lives.

“Though I have never lost a friend or family member to suicide, I have lost a patient.

“I have known a number of people left behind by the suicide of people close to them, however. Given how much losing my patient affected me, I’ve only been able to guess at the devastation these people have experienced.

“The one question everyone has asked without exception, that they ache to have answered more than any other, is simply, why?”

  • lThey’re depressed. This is without question the most common reason people commit suicide. Severe depression is always accompanied by a pervasive sense of suffering as well as the beliefs that escape from it is hopeless. The pain of existence often becomes too much for severely depressed people to bear. The state of depression warps their thinking, allowing ideas like “Everyone would all be better off without me” to make rational sense. They shouldn’t be blamed for falling prey to such distorted thoughts any more than a heart patient should be blamed for experiencing chest pain: it’s simply the nature of their disease.

Because depression, as we all know, is almost always treatable, we should all seek to recognise its presence in our close friends and loved ones. Often people suffer with it silently, planning suicide without anyone ever knowing.

  • lThey’re psychotic. Malevolent inner voices often command self-destruction for unintelligible reasons. Psychosis is much harder to mask than depression — and arguably even more tragic. The worldwide incidence of schizophrenia is 1% and often strikes otherwise healthy, high-performing individuals, whose lives, though manageable with medication, never fulfill their original promise.
  • l They’re impulsive. Often related to drugs and alcohol, some people become maudlin (overemotional) and impulsively attempt to end their own lives.

Once sobered and calmed, these people usually feel emphatically ashamed. The remorse is usually genuine, and whether or not they’ll ever attempt suicide again is unpredictable. They may try it again the very next time they become drunk or high, or never again in their lifetime.

  • lThey’re crying out for help, and don’t know how else to get it. These people don’t usually want to die but, do want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. They often don’t believe they will die, frequently choosing methods they don’t think can kill them in order to strike out at someone who’s hurt them—but are sometimes tragically misinformed.
  • lThey have a philosophical desire to die. The decision to commit suicide for some is based on a reasoned decision often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists. These people aren’t depressed, psychotic, maudlin, or crying out for help. They’re trying to take control of their destiny and alleviate their own suffering, which usually can only be done in death. They often look at their choice to commit suicide as a way to shorten a dying that will happen regardless.

Without proper statistical data in Zimbabwe, it is difficult to conclude what really drives people into committing suicide. However, when a person says he/she wants to commit suicide, the threats should be taken seriously.

I have, however, noticed over the years that men are more likely to choose more effective methods like shooting or hanging, while women are more likely to choose less violent and sometimes far less effective methods such as drug overdoses and dangerous substances..