Suicide And Communication

Introduction

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary suicide is the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. Suicide has been said to be a last resort or escape from pain rather than a desire to end one’s own life. Suicide is responsible for the death of thousands of people each year. According to (WHO, 2018), “Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds and many more attempt suicide. Suicide occurs throughout one’s lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year old’s globally. It is a global phenomenon; in fact, 79% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2016. Suicide accounted for 1. 4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 18th leading cause of death in 2016. Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts”.

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This data is quite chocking not only for the fact that the numbers are high, but also for the fact that, the awareness about suicide is not widely spread as it is supposed to be, and many still face it with a blurry mind due to that lack of knowledge. In Africa specifically, ignorance and stigmatization are really present, and this dangerous phenomena is almost invisible and people barely consider the fact that it is happening today, and that the numbers of death by suicide are rising year by year, in a way that countries like Equatorial Guinea and Angola are among the top 20 in the world suicide rate, occupying the 9th place with 22. 6 and 14th with 20. 5 suicides per 100000 people respectively. And these are not the only ones, countries like Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and Cameroon still make it to the top 50 and Kenya for instance occupies position 114 (World Population Review, 2018), (mentalhealthdaily. com, 2014).

These statistics clearly shows that the idea that suicide does not happen in Africa must be eradicated and people should start paying attention to it. In this document we shall discuss the suicide phenomenon amongst teenagers and also evaluate the relevance of communication in this phenomenon. It is a major issue especially amongst teenagers of this generation therefore this discussion is brought about in the hopes of increasing awareness and delving into the real causes of suicide amongst teenagers. This is all in the hopes of finding solutions so as to reduce the devastating effects of suicide.

Causes

Suicide has several causes that differ from case to case. According to metalhealthdaily. com there are 15 major causes of suicide, but we have narrowed them down (mentalhealthdaily. com, 2014). However, all these causes can be divided into two groups. These causes arise from interpersonal and intrapersonal communication. Intrapersonal Causes: These are causes that arise due to the communication the victim has with themselves.

Mental illness

It is one of the most commonly known causes of suicide. Treatments are currently in existence however they are either ineffective or are rarely used. Often mentally ill people use the drugs as well as therapy, but these go on for years without much change leaving them in a cycle of mental pain. There are several kinds of mental illnesses such as: Anxiety: it encompasses social phobia, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) amongst others. This condition leaves people being unable to maintain friendships, have a steady occupation or complete their education. This increases feelings such as loneliness and fear and if left unchecked they could lead to suicideSchizophrenia: This is a highly severe mental illness with an array of symptoms including severe depression, hallucinations, and intellectual impairment. Having this illness makes it difficult to function in life and can serve as a major challenge due to the fact that most medications to treat this illness carry severe side effects. Anywhere from 20% to 40% of people with this illness attempt suicide.

Depression: Major depression is a leading cause of suicide throughout the world. People that do not treat their depressive symptoms have a greater risk for following through with suicide. Individuals with major depression are typically genetically wired in a way that makes it difficult to feel pleasure and happiness in life. 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from untreated depression.

Traumatic Experiences

Going through a traumatic experience can lead a person to feeling helpless, guilty, and ashamed. being a victim of physical and sexual abuse as well as dealing with trauma in war can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, a disorder that causes flashbacks and blockage of memories associated with traumatic experiences. These images repeating in one’s head could lead to them seeking an escape from a tormented life through suicide. Interpersonal Causes: These are the causes of suicide that arise from the victim’s interaction and communication with other people.

Bullying

This is when people are victimized because of some aspect of their lives is different from what is deemed ‘normal’. This could be physical, mental, emotional or sexual victimization. Most people that are bullied end up feeling extremely depressed, worthless, and hopeless to change their situation, and view suicide as the only way to escape the pain they are going through. In our world of technology cyberbullying has become a new form of bullying as well. This bullying leads to suicide because these continuous acts of discrimination and malice create a world that most people cannot possibly live in.

Substance Abuse

People that are addicted to drugs and/or abuse drugs or alcohol on a consistent basis are more likely to become depressed. Many people use drugs to escape painful feelings of depression and hopelessness of their current life situation. Drugs can provide a short term relief until the body becomes tolerant to it and the experience will not help them in any way and the addict start considering suicide as a way out.

Loneliness and Purpose

Social interaction is a basic requirement of all human beings. However some people find themselves disconnected from the people around them. This could lead to severe loneliness. As the loneliness progresses they begin to question themselves as to whether or not they have a specific purpose for living. Loneliness could lead to an existential crisis resulting in the person giving up on living as they observe that they have no one and nothing to live for. (Nath & Pratihari, 2018)

Terminal Illness

Terminal illnesses are those that certainly lead to death. These illnesses leave people in conditions that they know will not improve. The physical pain and bleak future of these people leads to the urge of taking their own lives or requesting a medically induced suicide (euthanasia).

Suicide and Communication models

Suicide is as a result of ineffective communication. In order to see this clearly, we can view it from another aspect of communication. The models used in communication are another aspect that suicide is a major part of. This elaborates the relationship between suicide and communication.

Schramm’s Model

This interpersonal model of communication states that communication is a circular process rather than a linear one. The model shows that there is the sender of the message, the person with information to be communicated who shares the message with the receiver. As the process is circular the roles of sender and receiver are reversible. Schramm also realises that in communicating a message there is the field of experience. This element of communication says that as long as one person in the communication is on a different level of experience then the communication becomes ineffective. In the issue of Suicide, the teenager attempts to communicate the struggles they are going through verbal and/or nonverbal communication. However, oftentimes the receiver is not on the same field of experience and as the model states the communication will not be effective. The Receiver either cannot read into the behaviour changes of the suicidal sender or they observe these changes but do not communicate with the victim effectively in order to get to the root of the problem. We can therefore see one major problem in the communication of this problem, the parties involved generally find themselves on different levels of experience with the issue leading to the negotiation of shared meaning fracturing.

Berlo’s Model

This model is an adaption of the Shannon and Weaver model of communication. It is a linear model that has the sender, the message, the channel and the receiver. The model attempts to give factors that affect each of the four components of communication and it further elaborates that these factors determine whether communication is effective or not. It can be used in analysing those who have a negative impact on the victim’s life. The perpetrators have certain attitudes towards the victim and also according to the social practices of the region that the sender originates from, they have a certain animosity towards the victim. With this in mind they voice out their message that shows intolerance, inferiority of the victim, etc. Various channels are used to propagate this message namely: social media, their bodies, their words whether spoken or written down. This leads to bullying and discrimination of the victim due to certain prejudices and preconceived notions. As seen in a survey conducted in the USA 28% of students overall who reported being in a physical fight anywhere and on school property during a 30-day period were higher for self-identified gay, lesbian, or bisexual students (meganmeierfoundation. org, 2018). This leads to the victim decoding this to their being useless, inferior and it ultimately causes great mental, physical and emotional pain that they feel a need to escape from.

Furthermore, the Berlo’s Model discusses how communication with a suicidal teen can also be seen as an issue in the encoding and decoding of the message. In the similar way that Schramm’s model discusses field of experience communication is effective or ineffective depending on how the message is encoded and decoded. The victims communicate their loss of interest in life through various means including losing interest in most things, antisocial behaviour and rebellious behaviour. This is oftentimes decoded incorrectly as people deduce it is just a normal phase for teenagers and they decide to wait it out, or they get angered by the behaviour and enforce strict measures on the victim. Our observations prove that the meaning was not sshared effectively between these two parties. Encoding and decoding of the message were disrupted leading to communication being ineffective. Ultimately the evidence above suggests that communication and teenage suicide are interconnected. Suicide has very deep roots in communication and these models have given a clear illustration of that.

Consequences

Emotional

A successful suicide creates primarily an emotional impact. The loved ones left behind are struck by emotions such as grief, sorrow, regret, guilt, shame amongst many others. According to Leder “Every suicide leaves behind six or more suicide survivors who are people who have lost someone they care about deeply and are left struggling with their grief and inability to understand. ” (Leder, 2018). Suicide leaves people torn apart emotionally by the loss of their loved one. In some cases, the family feels shame as they feel their community is judging them and blaming them for said suicide. Emotions of such depth could lead to suicides connected to the first event. Some people learn to grow accustomed to these emotions, but others never quite get over the emotions.

Social

The society left behind is also impacted majorly by this loss of life. Teenagers are seen to be the future of each community, so it worries said community when someone who should be looking forward to a bright future commits suicide. It also leaves conflicting ideas on suicide as some members of the society believe those who committed suicide deserve sympathy, but others believe that those who commit suicide are selfish (Huddle, 2011). It also creates social responsibility and awareness as people band together to attempt to prevent further cases of suicide. In other cases, the loved ones left behind attempt to raise awareness so that less people have to face the grief associated with suicide. Websites such as meganmeierfoundation. org were created to let societies that suicide amongst teenagers is a real and very serious issue. This has also led to awareness events at schools and universities such as the mental health awareness week that was help at Strathmore University from the 13th to the 17th of August 2018. This shows how this has become a major social issues.

Recommendations

We as communication students have attempted to come up with possible solutions based on the problems we saw being presented by this issue.

They are as follows:

Forums

The first possible solution is the creation of public forums to raise awareness on the graveness of suicide. These forums should also discuss how serious issues like mental illness and teenage depression are especially in African countries. Discussions on recognising the signs of impending suicide should be a part of these forums. This eliminates the issues on field of experience as those around the victim will have a relatively similar field of experience and can solve the problems with more ease.

Buddy System

There are several platforms that already exist on the internet of such a form. This is the creation of online chat rooms for those who are suicidal or in other similar situations. It encourages the victims to connect and have someone who understands their situation in a more intimate way. Victims will no longer feel as if no one understands them. It is completely anonymous meaning that there is no fear, judgement or prejudice. Platforms such as this one removes the barrier of field of experience and difficulty in expressing oneself fully. As time progresses these could create friendships that could help several people recover from their sorrows.

Assurance

This recommendation is on two levels. Firstly, to try reducing destructive intrapersonal communication the victim has to employ positive self-assurance. One such method would be keeping a “Love Myself” diary in which on good days they write what they love about themselves and on days where the world seems hard they can look through this diary. Furthermore, personality tests that record one’s strengths and weaknesses could also be used so that victims are able to enhance their strengths in a bid to find their purpose on Earth. Secondly the people who are directly involved in a possible suicidal person need to constantly reassure the sad parties. This constant reassurance gives victims more reasons to live as they can confidently say they have people who will support them unconditionally. These people need to also be able to not judge anything that is said between them and the victim.

Reducing Prejudices

In America 2012 more than 66% teenagers reported having been bullied because of their race. In addition to this 64% of students who had enrolled for weight-loss programs stated they experience weight related discrimination (meganmeierfoundation. org, 2018). Statistics such as these could be reduced if schools and communities were provided with days to understand the damage that their discrimination has. There could also be a chance to understand how different is beautiful so as to reduce the statistics of discrimination.

Conclusion

In a nutshell we have observed that no matter what reason a person may decide to take their life one way or another it is due to poor and ineffective communication, whether it is interpersonal or intrapersonal. Even the aftermath of a person who takes their life is upsetting and causes a lot of suffering in the family and friends. We should therefore try and promote more public awareness of how prevalent the situation is as well as having a society which wants to help prevent this tragic occurrence. There are various myths and misconceptions about a person who is suicidal and not many understand the emotional turmoil that they are going through. Depression could be declared as the root of all the causes that drive a person to end their life with the combination of different factors. Therefore, it is highly recommended that we look deeper into a situation rather than at face value. In turn we might even end up saving a life.

18 March 2020

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