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Insight: Why suicide

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The first law of nature is self preservation. A baby born clasps its mother to avoid falling down to death. We normally run away from danger for the sake of dear life. Inspite of the obvious, now and again we read about someone having committed suicide, Why?

Suicide means killing oneself on purpose. Its study is called Suicidology. The man who has made known study of suicide is the French sociologist Emile Durkheim whose findings he published in a book simply called Suicide. He decided to study the mystery of suicide when his best friend deliberately destroyed his own life.

Another study of suicide has been made recently by an American called Eric Marcus and published as Why suicide. His father committed suicide when he was twelve. Thus suicide is grave enough to demand the attention of great scholars.

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Durkheim studied society or social relations in terms of egoism. anomie and altruism. Egoism exists where society is not sufficiently integrated at all point to keep all its people depend on it. The isolated person who finds no moral or material support decides to end his or her life.

Anomie springs from the lack of collective forces at certain points in society that a group established for the regulation of social life. Again individuals do not benefit from social bonds.

According to Durkheim, altruistic suicide results from insufficient individualism where a person disregards his own value and kills himself for the sake of group solidarity. Durkheim felt that suicide was common in primitive or under developed societies.

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Looking at the religious groups of his time in Europe, he identified egoism with Protastantism. He noted that Protestants placed high emphasis on acquiring knowledge. He also identified egoism with highly educated liberal professional and intellectual elites. Egostic suicides were also seen to be more common among unmarried men and persons without families.

Durkheim reasoned that because Protestantism allowed greater freedom to individual thought and judgment it had few common beliefs; Protestants were better educated and committed suicide more than Catholics and members of the Church of England. Jews were also highly educated but suicides were rare because the Jew sought to learn not to replace their collective prejudices or ideas on reflection but simply to be better armed for the struggle.

In multi-racial United States Eric Marcus links suicide with a variety of other considerations. He finds more suicides among white Americans than African-Americans. He attributes this to the fact that white Americans are born and grow up in sheltered life. When they suffer economic hardships, they are unable to endure them. Blacks on the other hand have got used to hardships since childhood. There are more suicides per 10,000 populations among native Americans than among whites and blacks, suicides are more common in certain States of America than in others.

Very common, apparently altruistic, suicides are the suicide bombs that take place in some troubled spots of the world. It is said that these people engage in suicide bombing because they believed in rewards after life.

Some people commit suicide to relieve themselves from chronic illnesses. They may take excessive tablets. Before the invention of ARVs, many people, who realized they were HIV positive took their lives. During the 1929 stock market crush in New York, high-ranking business people committed suicide rather than face bankruptcy proceedings.

Is suicide sinful? Is it illegal? Some religious organisations said it is sinful. Should a person who has attempted suicide be prosecuted? There is no justification. He or she should be given counseling on how to cope with the problem he is facing. To prosecute him is to compound his mental agony.

What about a person who assists someone to commit suicide? A very sick granny asks her granddaughter to bring her rat poison, saying I must get out of this. Should the grandchild be accused of manslaughter for having complied with her grandmother’s wish?

Endemic suicide means that society lacks solidarity. Our university sociologists should do research on why many people these days commit suicide in Malawi. Are suicides more common in broken homes, poverty-stricken ethnic groups or certain districts?

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