We don’t want to think about it, exercising free will upon ourselves in such a way as to end our lives must be discussed. It happens all too frequently today, and usually distresses everyone around the ‘victim.’
One of the reasons it’s difficult to discuss is that we don’t want to admit that everyone considers suicide as an option. The good news is that very few people consider it as a viable option. It’s considered, and then it’s gone. Because it’s a deep dark thought, we never have to admit it. Yet evidence of its familiarity are all around us. Shakespeare perhaps said it best (of course) as Hamlet considers whether he should be or not. However, consider this. How many children have considered running away from home, away from the repressive regime represented by their parent? How many parents have heard the tearful teenage admonition, “you’ll miss me when I’m gone!”?
The thoughts are there, always to some degree. In some minds the dark forces are stronger than in yours, and for that we are thankful. It’s our job as students to try and tease out the forces that push the decision one way or the other, no matter how ugly they may be.
And in this fashion, the simple lessons of primal biology give us the greatest insight. For it may be that the choice of suicide is one of avoiding pain. In fact, it could be argued that most of the decisions we make everyday are to avoid pain.
Yes, suicide is painful. No matter how we would choose to do so, there will be some fear factor in its execution, and fear equals pain. Furthermore, we are human, and we have relationships with others. We know that our choice will bring pain to those we care about. Add up all this pain, and we have a sum representing the force of life.
Life. For most of us, life is mostly joy. But for some, life is mostly pain. In truth, life is a mix of both. Sources of pain are pressures from our peers, parents, and teachers. We have homework, social obligations, possibly a job, a family, and a huge project. Perhaps we don’t have a job, and we want one. There is the great divide between where we want to be and where we are, even after years of toil. Add to this our knowledge that all these sources of pain may increase over time. The sum of all these sources of pain, added up across time, becomes the force of death.
Then we choose. The easier the tools are to find, the more accepted the choice is within society, then the more likely we are to choose death over life.
As students of behavior, it’s difficult to truly say we study this phenomenon with impartiality. But we must try. And as we study, we realize that suicide does not only come in one size, or in one form. For that we must step back, and consider the balance of forces on yet another scale.
The scale of a generation.