Suicide: The com­mon ex­cuses

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion -

ON Oc­to­ber 19, The Chron­i­cle pub­lished a news item about a ZRP Bu­l­awayo-based se­nior of­fi­cer who shot him­self to death. Near his body, his col­leagues found a Bi­ble, in­di­cat­ing that the man had read the holy book shortly be­fore he took his life. He was most likely a church-goer, hence the Bi­ble in his of­fice, for that was where he killed him­self.

He was quite prob­a­bly not a deeply committed Chris­tian, hence his ob­vi­ously su­per­fi­cial way he val­ued hu­man life, in this par­tic­u­lar case his very own life.

A cou­ple of days after that in­ci­dent, two other Zim­bab­weans also took their lives. One was a po­lice­man, based in Masvingo. He hanged him­self at Mvuma.

The other was a woman em­ployed in Ger­many. She left a note stat­ing that she de­cided to kill her­self be­cause she had be­come preg­nant. She threw her­self in front of a mov­ing train.

It is un­der­stand­able for a pa­gan to kill or to com­mit suicide, but for a de­vout, prac­tis­ing Chris­tian, it is un­jus­ti­fi­able be­cause what­ever dif­fi­cul­ties one is fac­ing, the Chris­tian faith says so­lu­tions are in God’s allpow­er­ful hands.

That spir­i­tual as­pect apart, a look at the psy­cho­log­i­cal side of suicide shows us that there are gen­er­ally three causes of that most un­for­tu­nate hu­man weak­ness.

The causes are anger, protest and de­spair. Anger may be against one­self as it is the case with some rapists, or one may be an­gry against a very dearly beloved one, or be­cause of a loss of what one re­gards as the real or only pur­pose of one’s life.

Some rapists kill them­selves shortly after they have committed rape be­cause of be­ing deeply ashamed of them­selves, or be­ing afraid of the le­gal con­se­quences.

Such peo­ple have a very deep sense of self-es­teem, and can­not rec­on­cile what they would have done with how they rate them­selves in the fam­ily, and the com­mu­nity to which they be­long.

They would have committed rape at a time when their sex­ual emo­tions were in stronger con­trol of their bod­ies than their minds. After the crime, their sense of self-es­teem over­whelms their sense of self-eval­u­a­tion, lead­ing them to con­clude that they are worth­less to both them­selves and to the world at large, hence self­e­lim­i­na­tion.

Fear to face the so­cial and le­gal con­se­quences may also be a causal ef­fect in some suicide cases in­volv­ing some rapists. The rapist fears to be os­tracised by his or her so­ci­ety, as well as the in­evitable puni­tive mea­sures meted out by the law courts.

That fear gen­er­ates anger against one­self, lead­ing to suicide. Suicide oc­curs in other crimes such as ar­son, and is not con­fined to rape. Debts can also lead to suicide.

Protest is an­other cause of suicide. Most suicide cases caused by protest oc­cur in some re­li­gions as well as in cul­tures where forced mar­riages are a norm as is the prac­tice in some parts of In­dia.

We come across sui­cides caused by protest also in cer­tain so­cio-po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties in which dis­si­dents or pris­on­ers of con­science are locked up in­com­mu­ni­cado for in­def­i­nite pe­ri­ods as a result they go on hunger-strikes, or use other means to kill them­selves in the pris­ons.

In the Is­lamic re­li­gion, it is per­mis­si­ble to kill one­self in protest against the ex­is­tence and prac­tice of hea­thenism or what may be per­ceived to be hea­then.

Cases of self-im­mo­la­tion, that is to say self-sac­ri­fice, are com­mon in some ori­en­tal coun­tries. Some so­cial sci­en­tists at­tribute Is­lamic sui­ci­dal cases to self­im­mo­la­tion and not to protest.

How­ever, that is de­bat­able in that such cases are, in ef­fect, an as­pect of ji­had, a word whose cur­rent mean­ing is “holy war”, but whose orig­i­nal mean­ing was “do­ing one’s ut­most” in de­fence or pro­mo­tion of that which was con­sid­ered to be spir­i­tu­ally or morally honourable.

Wars are waged in protest against what­ever as was the case with Zim­babwe’s lib­er­a­tion war, or in de­fence or the ac­qui­si­tion of what­ever is at stake or is de­sired.

Protest sui­cides seemed to abound in the Gokwe re­gion, es­pe­cially in the early 1960s when some women hanged them­selves fol­low­ing their hus­bands’ tak­ing of an ad­di­tional wife (wives) us­ing fi­nan­cial re­sources ac­quired with the ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of the first wife or wives. The se­nior wives would com­mit suicide in protest.

Ear­lier in Zim­babwe’s mar­i­tal cul­tural his­tory, many girls hanged them­selves in protest against be­ing of­fered as wives by their par­ents (fathers or guardians) to some elderly men they did not love.

There are many suicide cases in­volv­ing mar­i­tal (as well as quite a few busi­ness) part­ners whose mar­riage or busi­ness per­for­mance fell far much be­low their (the part­ner’s) ex­pec­ta­tions. That cre­ated very deep dis­ap­point­ment, re­sult­ing in suicide.

It is the opin­ion of this ar­ti­cle’s au­thor that most of the “vic­tims” of those sui­cides are women.

Protest as a cause of suicide bor­ders on de­spair, the third cause of suicide. Some so­cial sci­en­tists ar­gue that “protest” can also be an aim.

De­spair sui­cides in­volve mostly young adults, teenagers be­ing a very sig­nif­i­cant group. Some peo­ple who feel that coun­selling, plead­ing and per­sua­sion have failed des­per­ately turn to self-elim­i­na­tion.

Fea­tur­ing promi­nently in this group are those who are pas­sion­ately in love, but whose amorous pas­sion is not re­cip­ro­cated. In some in­stances, that non­re­cip­ro­ca­tion per­cep­tion may be ut­terly mis­placed. The rea­son maybe a dif­fer­ence in per­son­al­i­ties be­tween the pas­sion­ate lover and the other – one be­ing an ex­tro­vert and the other an in­tro­vert.

It is usu­ally the ex­tro­verted per­son who turns to suicide as a “solution” (for lack of a bet­ter word). That is sim­ply be­cause the phys­i­cal elim­i­na­tion of one party to a con­flict or controversy does not solve but de­stroys the con­flict or controversy in that there would no longer be a com­plainant or re­spon­dent, ac­cuser or ac­cused which­ever the case may be.

Re­sort­ing to suicide is a tragic ex­pres­sion of cow­ardice to stand up to harsh and hard re­al­i­ties of this world’s so­cial, eco­nomic, cul­tural or po­lit­i­cal prob­lems.

It is honourable to be coura­geous, but shame­ful to be cow­ardly. It is vir­tu­ous to per­se­vere, yes, to try, try and try again for suc­cess lies be­hind the dark cor­ner be­yond our vis­ual, au­ral and other sen­sual pow­ers.

It has been strongly sug­gested that the only time when suicide can be jus­ti­fied is when it can save one’s fam­ily or one’s na­tion.

Such sit­u­a­tions oc­cur dur­ing wars, and wars are rather rare, and so are such sit­u­a­tions.

In the ma­jor­ity of con­flict and con­tro­ver­sies, crime and short­ages, so­lu­tions can be found pro­vided there is a will for “where there is a will there is a way.”

We should also bear in mind that in ev­ery bleak sit­u­a­tion, there is al­ways a streak of hope; in fact they say “ev­ery dark cloud has a sil­ver lin­ing.” This is an English ex­pres­sion that means that never mind how hope­less a sit­u­a­tion may ap­pear to be, it has some ad­van­tages to some of those in­volved.

In ad­di­tion to that piece of wis­dom, we should re­mem­ber that ev­ery un­for­tu­nate hap­pen­ing has a solution that brings it to an end. All that is needed is good­will.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a re­tired, Bu­l­away­obased jour­nal­ist. He can be con­tacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sg­

A po­lice­man hangs from a tree after com­mit­ting suicide in Masvingo re­cently

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