Friday, March 2, 2012

How Does Suicide Affect the Larger Society?

Society in Motion.
When it's easy to become lost in the crowd.

How does it affect the daily lives of individuals?

I found a great quote that I will paraphrase, which pretty much says, one's death is not the end, but the beginning for those who are still living (Dyregrov 311). Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area I had never been directly exposed to suicide--it was not a phenomena that explicitly occurred among family or friends, classmates or those in the community. Of course it probably did occur far more often and with higher frequency than I ever could have known. In high school my teachers would walk into class and tell us about recent suicides that had occurred among students within our school district. To me, it was wonder and curiosity and a thousand other thoughts that I could not grasp, spinning through my mind, tearing away at perception and reality. How could something so simple, yet so impersonal resonate so powerfully? What could possibly motivate someone to end their own life -- pull the plug from their own power source? Then I began to turn my focus towards asking, what about their families and friends, and classmates and teachers, and neighbors and everyone they have ever loved--everyone who has ever loved them?

While it may appear obvious that suicide affects the individual entirely, considering they are no longer alive, a less obvious repercussion lies within the impact suicides have on the other individuals who are close to the suicidal.

I came across a Peer Reviewed article regarding high school adolescent suicides, which labels suicide among the top three leading causes of death for individuals within the 15 to about 25 year old range (Valois et. al 81). The research, titled "Life Satisfaction and Suicide Among High School Adolescents,"  states suicide is a traumatic experience for those who survive (Valois et. al 98). Understandably, intervening in the lives of those who have attempted suicide must not only be necessary, but immediate. The unfortunate truth is that high school and young adult suicides do occur, especially considering our present era in which stories of the suicides of bullying victims and other young people have frequently been presented in the news media. These are individuals who would one day be running our country and world, but within an instant, all hopes and chances for their presence has been eliminated. It's a sad thought, but it's one that undoubtedly must be addressed.

A suicide study relating suicides in Los Angeles and Vienna states that information regarding the suicide victim's death is difficult and unlikely to be accurate as the "survivors," those once near to the suicidal, are dealing with their own feelings of guilt and shame (Farberow & Simon 401). This signals their obvious disillusionment, but in the context of their situation, what they are feeling is unimaginable.

Tunnel Vision.
When through our eyes, all we see are clouds.

How does it affect the society in general?

With the simple fact that suicides do occur combined with the need for researching and recording suicide rates, understanding how this phenomena impacts society is necessary.

The article titled, "The Clustering and Contagion of Suicide," by Thomas E. Joiner Jr. mentions two types of suicides that occur in an environment--point cluster and mass clusters. Point clusters take place in a local area. For instance, a couple of students at a local school commit suicide, then soon after other students in the area attempt suicide as well. From the research, the students involved had mental disorders and were more likely to be close to the suicidal. On the other hand, mass clusters involve the media. According to the research, suicides are more frequent within days and weeks of other suicides taking place in an area and being presented on the news or radio (Joiner Jr. 90).

In the research titled, "Life Satisfaction and Suicide Among High School Adolescents," Valois and contributing authors further state that public schools must respond to suicidal behaviors and suicide attempts as well as completed suicides by providing school district policy regarding suicide. This includes informing school members about risks and possible signs of suicide, and bringing suicide awareness into the campus health office. Furthermore, schools should form suicide prevention programs and intervention teams to try to lower the chances of imitated or increased suicides. This all ties into decreasing school-wide trauma that may occur when a student commits suicide (Valois et. al 98). In this instance, suicide has a more prominent, community presence, in terms of response and awareness, as opposed to suicide that may occur in large cities or office places, where people may not necessarily notice or be aware of the negative effects of suicide.