“Anyone can commit suicide… but you wanna’ know what takes real courage? Keeping your mouth shut no matter what you might be feeling. Holding it all together when the stakes are this high.” The words of President Frank Underwood played by Kevin Spacey in the hit Netflix series ‘House of Cards’. In this scene, a gay activist who had been imprisoned in Russia killed himself with the first Lady’s scarf, after she tries to convince him to make a statement apologising and thanking the Russian President, in order to grant his release. Underwood is confronting his wife Claire, played by Robin Wright, inside Air Force One and is ultimately playing the villain of the scene. Because society predominantly holds the opinion that suicide is selfish and cowardly, the audience is forced to accept the opposite opinion when the villain is seen to be holding society’s view. Claire suggests that the suicide was just and brave. Therefore, the audience believes this opinion to be true even though it’s not exactly what they believe.
Suicide is the 15th leading cause of mortality in the world. Every year, 800,000 people die from killing themselves. In fact, more people die from suicide than from being murdered, killed in a traffic accident and animal attacks combined. And yet, the media covers murder, shark attacks and car crashes far more than suicide. There’s only one reason for this and it’s because society believes that suicide is a selfish act.
45 per cent of suicidal deaths are a result of imbalances in brain chemistry. The other 55 is psychological with love, money, embarrassment and shame being the main reasons. What the causes tell us is that humans need a list of things to keep us stable and ultimately happy enough for us not to take our own lives. Those things are: Love, self acceptance, meaning, hope, status, pride and forgiveness.
The other day, the singer Morrissey said “I think self destruction is honourable. I always thought it was. It's an act of great control, and I understand people who do it.” Morrissey is known for being a depressive. His music and lyrics shows us this. He reaches out to people who feel the same way. Not just people who are depressed but people with depressive minds. People who don't see ‘the point’. What society wants us to believe is that you have to be depressed to kill yourself. Society doesn't understand that.
What suicide tells us more than anything is that humans are fragile creatures. It’s a human trait to takes one’s life because we have built civilisations that make us need things and not having what we crave makes us suicidal. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said “We should be mindful of the fact that no man is ever very far from the state in which he would readily want to seize a sword or poison in order to bring his existence to an end.”