Suicide Essay, Research Paper
Suicide refers to intentional self-inflicted acts that end in death. Derived from the Latin suicidium, which combines the pronoun for “self” and the verb for “to kill”, the word suicide was first used in 1651, but self-initiated deaths have occurred throughout history.
History tells us many stories of people destroying each other in war. Warriors are heroes of legends. We try to imagine the courage, strength, and wisdom it must take to become a hero, but history also describes how people have died because their lives have became unbearable. They choose to kill themselves rather than suffer hurt and pain. Different cultures and religions have had different ideas about suicide. Even in our own country, these attitudes have changed over time.
Sometimes the stories about suicide are romantic, like the Shakespearean novel, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet were only 14 years old, they fell in love, but their families would not permit them to see each other. Both lovers killed themselves when they thought the other had died. William Shakespeare wrote this famous love story to show us how tragic life can be.
Primitive people often made suicide part of religious ceremonies. Sometimes they even encouraged members of the tribe to kill themselves after a chief had died.
Until recently, it was customary in parts of India for a widow to kill herself after her husband died. If she did that, it would be easier for him to enter the next life. Hara-kiri (suicide) was also an honourable death for nobles and warriors of Japan. During World War II, Japanese fighter pilots crashed their planes into American ships, making it difficult for Americans to defend themselves.
Other cultures have not viewed suicide as courageous or honourable. Most of the wise men of ancient Greece thought that suicide was cowardly. During the middle ages, people were taught that suicide was a sin against God, a most unholy act. A suicide victim could not be buried in a Christian cemetery.
Early psychological theories, and especially those of Sigmund Freud, contended that individual, internal psychological forces, rather than social forces, could lead to depression and suicide. For Freud an essential aspect of understanding suicide was to view it as part of an instinctual human tendency toward aggression and destruction. He regarded suicide as one manifestation of his theorized “death instinct,” called thanatos, as opposed to the powerful “life instinct.” In suicides the death instinct somehow manages to overcome the life instinct. Freud’s second, considerably more complex explanation is based on the notion that an individual who commits suicide feels aggression and anger over the loss of love objects but turns these feelings inward on himself or herself.
Behavioural theories in psychology assume that suicide, like all other behaviour, is learned, and can be unlearned, according to well-established principles of learning. Thus suicide can result from habits and learned associations and the reinforcement of such behaviours–or the lack of reinforcement of other, more appropriate and adaptive behaviours. It may also occur through imitation of others.
Why do people take their own lives? An estimated 80 to 90 percent of suicides are linked to depression. Although most people who attempt suicide show hopelessness and despair, they do not appear out of touch with reality.
Strongly suicidal women report finding life more dull, empty, and boring than do less or non suicidal women. They feel more anxious. angry, guilt ridden, helpless, and inadequate than other women. In a Boston University study, college women who had attempted suicide were more likely than their peers to implicate their parents as a source of anger or conflict that led to the attempt. They were less likely to feel able to ask parents or others for help when they felt desperate or under stress.
Suicide attempts are more frequent following a number or stressful life events, especially “exit events”. Exit events involve loss of social support, as in death, divorce, separation, a family member’s leaving home, or the loss of an unrelated but significant person. People who consider suicide following stressful experiences have also been found less capable of solving problems than those who do not consider suicide.
Most countries maintain official mortality records based on death certification to provide data regarding suicides.
In the United States, for example, there are approximately 30,000 suicide deaths annually, which averages 17 Americans per day. Statistics Canada reports that in 1989 death by suicide for young men aged 15 to 19 accounted for 22.7 deaths per 100,000 total population; for young women of the same age the rate was 3.2. In the United States, the statistics given are for young men and women together aged 15 to 24; the rate is 13.3 deaths per 100,000.
Suicide may be one of North America’s leading causes of death but in society today it is becoming more and more accepted. Suicide is not the only way to end suffering, we need to encourage those who are suffering to find help.