In mere days, the cyber world was shocked with the deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef-media personality, Anthony Bourdain. Spade and Bourdain come in addition to the long list of famous personalities who died by suicide, among them comedian-actor Robin Williams, of Joker-fame Heath Ledger, and DJ Avicii.
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“Isn’t our lives miserable enough? Who, in God’s name, would seek to prolong it?” —Seth Grahame-Smith, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
In the Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus says that suicide is the single most serious philosophical problem worthy of our consideration. Perhaps.
Suicide, from the Latin word suicidium: the intentional act of killing one’s self. Its forms differ based on purpose and consummation. A successful suicide results in the person’s death; an attempted suicide is a failed suicide.
There is physician assisted-suicide, as in the case of Australian scientist David Goodall who recently chose the “Swiss Option” due to “aging disgracefully” at the age of 104; with the help of a physician, he had himself do the lethal injection, with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as background music.
Another form of suicide is ritual suicide which is suicide imbued with a deeper, often transcendental and spiritual, sense of meaning. It is also known as self-immolation to denote its sacrificial character. Suicide is done as a means to redeem oneself or escape from shame or to uphold one’s honor, hence, these kinds of suicides are regarded as honor suicides. Ritual suicide is also done in the name of belief and/or religion and the forms vary from cultures across different peoples.
We are most acquainted with Japan’s harakiri or more respectfully known as seppuku, as well as the Kamikaze bombers’ suicide attacks; there is also the lesser known shinju or the double suicide of lovers which is portrayed in Japanese theater and literature.
The Muslims of the Philippines have juramentado, the ritual murder-suicide/suicide attack against invaders. Among the Sanatani (aka Hindus) of India, there is the sati, the ritual suicide of widows done by jumping into the husband’s funeral pyre. Buddhist monks, like Thic Quang Duc of Vietnam, burn themselves as an act of protest or to enter into the fiery samadhi, “enlightenment by fire” as described by the persecuted Buddhist monks of feudal Japan.
The nobility that characterizes these self-inflicted deaths makes them forms of benevolent suicide or agathusia because the person takes her own life willingly as a sacrifice for a greater good.
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However, our popular understanding of suicide mainly relates to despair, depression, and sin. This, we will deal in “An Invitation to Understand Suicide – Part 2”.
As of June 20, 2018, we have the Philippine Mental Health Law or Republic Act 11036. According to a post by Senator Risa Hontiveros, every day, 7 Filipinos turn to suicide. One in 5 Filipino adults also suffers from a form of mental disorder. RA 11036 cements the government’s commitment to a more holistic approach to healthcare: that there is no health without mental health.
Editor’s Note: Mental Health is a serious issue that we have to address. Depression and suicide are conditions that must be tackled sensitively.
In the Philippines, there is a national hotline for mental health assistance. For anyone who needs help, they may contact HOPELINE through the numbers 804-4673 and 0917-558-4673.