A young woman (girl, 16 or 17 years old) attempted to take her own life — again. She had tried before, when she was 15. I don’t know her well enough to be able to say she was influenced by this-and-that that led her to choose death by suicide. I just know she is a charming, vibrant woman who always greets me with a sincere smile and a warm greeting.
I’m no expert. I do have 18 years of pastoral experience and masters level training in crisis counseling. I’ve seen more than my share of successful teenage suicides as well as young people who are on the brink and reaching out desperately for help.
So what is it that causes such a young, vibrant and charming woman to try to end her own life. It’s nearly impossible from where we sit to be able to accurately guess what she is going through. Nevertheless, we can share about the general, more broadly accepted, causes for such tragic behavior.
From this point on in this post what I am sharing is based on my own experience, even if I am using the third person.
One of the factors that comes to my mind is fear. What? Not depression first? I think fear is a major reason that people consider suicide as an answer to a their anxiety. Fear/anxiety are central to a person’s decision to “call it quits.” When fear makes it hard to face another day and anxiety haunts a person not only during waking hours but during sleep as well, a person grows weary of trying to cope. Anxiety/fear come from a lot of sources: bullying, expectations that are too high, irrational body image, and any one of other negative stimuli.
Existentially if one is constantly afraid and cannot see any possible solution, one can get depressed and depression increases the probability for suicidal ideation exponentially. This is what some philosopher’s refer to as the “no exit” situation-in-life. To be sure, depression has biological roots as well. Some people are predisposed chemically to depression. I have personally experienced such chemical etiology to depression and the temptation to suicide. For me it was the potential, at the moment, to drive my car under the wheels of a semi-tractor that I was next to on a freeway. I had been prescribed a new psych med that disagreed with me, to say the least.
One other factor that we are beginning to gain the vocabulary for discussion is gender identity; when a person just does not feel right in their own skin. This, I think, deserves a post of its own.