Your ego is a strange thing. It can give you the strength to carry on in difficult circumstances but more often than not it can lead you astray and make you overreact. One of the worst forms of overreaction is when you inflict harm on your body, in a situation of disappointment and despair, which happens more often than one would think. I looked up the suicide rates and found the following numbers, as published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Each year, more than 40,000 Americans die by suicide. The annual suicide rate is 12.93 per 100,000 individuals, and on average, more than 100 suicides happen per day. These are quite impressive numbers. I don’t think that all these suicides can be ascribed to people in physical pain due to a disease or other circumstances for which these people see no other escape than suicide. I bet many people commit suicides in situations that many outsiders would perceive as a temporary freak of nature, and not as a reason to commit suicide if there can be any such reason at all. For example, the young boy who is desperate because the love of his life shows no interest in him, and even worse, criticizes him and falls in love with another boy. His ego is hurt, but few will accept this as a suicide reason and more of a life lesson that the boy needs to learn in the process of becoming a man. Another classic suicide example is the stockbroker jumping out of the window of a high-rise bank building after the collapse of the stock market. Do you think a poor beggar would show any sign of understanding when the broker’s body thuds onto the pavement in front of him? The reason the broker committed suicide, namely the fact that he has just been delegated from the class of the Haves to the class of the Have Nots, is not something the beggar needs to be afraid of here. In fact, belonging to the class of Have Nots makes up the very existence of the beggar so why should he be afraid of it. He may not like it, but he can take comfort in the fact that millions are sharing the same fate with him.
Experts will argue that these examples are over-simplified because, and I’m copying here again from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide.
Nevertheless, whether one sees suicide as a multi-cause disease or not, I think the overall conclusion is the same. Our ego leads us astray in a situation that would not justify this action by any means in the opinion of a neutral observer. The anxiety of not getting what you want or losing something can let the ego initiate a self-destructive process with suicide as the possible final climax. We need to be aware of this force that our ego exerts on us and keep it at bay, as much as we can, by constantly re-evaluating our goals and learning to let go before self-destruction begins.
For the curious reader who has made it this far, here are the nine leading reasons of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with intentional self-harm on 10th place:
- Heart disease: 611,105
- Cancer: 584,881
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
- Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
- Diabetes: 75,578
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149