One million people approximately take their lives worldwide every year. In Ireland, recorded suicides between 2000 and 2011 totalled 5,979 and suicide rates appear to be escalating. Up until now the reasons put forward for suicide have focused almost exclusively on individuals as if they were somehow flawed. Our book, Understanding Suicide, refutes this.
Supported by much research, we outline the power and influence of social structures that constrict and limit countless individuals who do not, or cannot meet society’s requirements. Far from educating individuals to be true to themselves and to reach their highest potential, society only rewards those who maintain its dysfunctional system. Those who feel excessive pain because they can’t fit into such a system may become depressed, alcoholic, turn to self-harm or suicide. When this occurs, society has failed them. In fact, we have all failed them. In this book we propose a new perspective that instils hope, facilitates positive change and allows for the development of an authentic self that more closely represents our intended calling in life.
Understanding Suicide has been written for the general reader and is filled with stories and insights by real people about many aspects of society’s dysfunction. Throughout the book we use the concept of the Suicide Box to represent society’s defective and limited view of the full spectrum of human pain that includes suicide. This view, that also curtails individual expression, has been fostered throughout history by various social institutions including politics, religions, the law, education, work, mental health, the family and the media.
"I've talked about suicide on this show from time to time over the years but this book is something else and brings something new to me personally...This is a seminal work...I promise you that light went off with me and it will go off with you too" - Gerry Kelly, presenter of the award-winning radio show, Late Lunch, on LMFM.
"An incredible read" - Fran Curry, Tipp FM
"A remarkable book" - John Masterson, KCLR 96FM
The Suicide Box Concept
Suicide is the most extreme manifestation of pain that a human being can ever express. Although individual reasons may be infinite, the deep-rooted causes lie deep within society’s beliefs and practices that are reflected and personified within the Suicide Box. Due to socialisation, most of us unconsciously accept that society’s accepted norms are truths, and that failure to fit in with these identifies an individual as flawed or inferior in some way. When people feel that they have to hide their true identity because they don’t fit into society, suicide may become an option to take away the pain of isolation.
A New Perspective
This book offers readers a new perspective for understanding suicide, and outlines a blueprint for education, familial and social interactions, where the importance of emotional expression and the embracing of human diversity in all its forms are championed.
Questions and Answers
Since this is a new perspective readers may have a number of queries relating to issues raised in the book. We have included some questions and answers that may give further clarity.
What is the main point of the book?
We can all make and are born to make a unique contribution to society. Instead, we are born into a pre-ordered societal structure into which we are expected to comply with. The unique mix of natural abilities are prejudged by external structures, and values are positioned on a sliding scale, according to what contribution they can make to essentially enhance the political and commercial landscape. Another essential feature is that this status quo must be maintained and reinforced. The main thrust of progress is to keep the wealth pyramid intact and increasing so that the effects of progress will be felt all the way to the bottom in the same way as a rising tide raises all boats. There is no attempt at a distribution of wealth.
There are too many people among us who feel so much pain that they need to end their lives. Far from seeing this need for suicide as an individual flaw this book looks at the narrow parameters within society that make it too difficult for many of our beautiful people to feel they belong. It is therefore our society that needs to change.
What’s different about this book on suicide?
A big difference is that this book does not focus on the individual. It moves from the implied assertions that the individual is somehow flawed within a naturally developed society to the opposing view that society is flawed, by demanding that individuals fit into its limited parameters.
While writing this book we undertook an analysis of global research in the areas of socialisation, mental health and suicide. Many studies indicated a need for sweeping social change that supports the assertions in this book that have sadly never been implemented. This highlights the reluctance for change in spite of the overwhelming unnecessary pain experienced by so many among us. A collective selective blindness ensures that the denial remains steadfast.
The book offers a new perspective for change. Much change requires an attitudinal shift at institutional, community and individual levels. It does not require vast sums of money to be thrown at it as has been the only top-down response in the past. Ironically it is this attitudinal change that must form the vital basis for the change required before any other material change takes place.
Is it a self-help book?
The Book could be regarded as a self-help book for the non-suicidal among us to help us see a bigger picture that may stem the tide of maintaining a society that facilitates and enables unnecessary human pain that too often ends in suicide.
What is hoped to be achieved by publishing this book?
The primary hope is that the book will generate a new direction for dialogue around the topic of suicide that seems to have arrived at a plateau with little success in stemming the tide.
Is it not unfair and harsh to suggest that we are all complicit in the facilitation and enabling of suicide, self-harm and unnecessary human pain?
If there is a way that we, as a society, can reduce unnecessary human pain, that is at epidemic proportions, including 500 to 600 dying annually by suicide then it would be unfair and harsh not to attempt to rectify this, even if it may mean society as a whole accepting responsibility for maintaining a structure that fostered such destruction.
Is this book saying that we, as a society, are to blame for suicide?
One of the reasons we decided to write this book was because of the realisation that most explanations for suicide were focused on the individual. All our myths and stigma built up over centuries seems to lock us in to a mind-set that blinds us to anything outside of this tiny circle of whys? From this view we began to formulate the metaphor of the clifftop to represent what we are doing about suicide in society. We wait on the clifftop with the hope of preventing suicide when someone arrives to take their life. However, few look at their journey to the clifftop. We now know the effects a traumatic childhood has on a person’s life. So we are saying that we, perhaps, mainly unwittingly, have to share the responsibility for accepting structures that facilitate and enable self-harm and suicide.
How are the institutions dysfunctional? Is society always to blame?
It would be difficult to apportion blame in any meaningful way as our lives are so enmeshed in the fabric of the society into which we are born. If our awareness is truly heightened then blame will not be relevant for the work we have to do. We can certainly look at what it is we are doing that is facilitating and enabling suicide in our society. It becomes obvious when we look at the dysfunctionality of our state institutions. Our elected government officials often profess to strive for positive humanitarian change prior to election but invariably face towards the fiscal world when in positions of power. Maintaining the status quo with all its blatant inequalities and unfairness seems to be the sole aim. Our educational system is focused on a narrow intellectual intelligence with the aim of supplying a jobs’ market again to keep the economic world abounding. This is to the detriment of individual human development of which intellectual intelligence is only a tiny part. We are creative beings, social beings, psychological beings, cultural beings, conscious beings, etc. However, of most concern here is a dimension that separates us profoundly from all other species on the planet: our emotional selves. This is the dimension that when ignored or suppressed, produces the mountain of unnecessary pain that results in suicide and self-harm. Yet, our schools largely ignore this vital component of what it means to be human.