Death by self

(First of Two Parts)

It was around eight in the evening when a security guard heard a big bang at the entrance-exit of the parking lot of one of the biggest malls in Davao City. He was at the ground floor at the time. So, he tried to find out what the noise was all about. He was shocked to see a bloodied man, wearing a white polo shirt and black cargo pants, lying face down.

The victim was later identified as Nestor, who was only 26 years old. Did he fall from the fourth level parking of the mall accidentally or did he commit suicide? The answer to the question was found in his Facebook account; he posted in his wall that he was planning to do it.

“I decided to go hindi dahil sa kasalanan ko ngaun… dahil matagal ko na tong plano, sana pala ginawa ko na noon di na sana ako nka gawa pa ng ibang kasalanan at makapanakit ng damdamin ng ibang tao,” he wrote. (“I decided to go not because of the mistake I did now… I had planned this before, if I had done it before I would have done other mistakes that would hurt the feelings of others.”)

A lady friend commented that he should not to do something drastic, he replied: “Dli ni sya dautan teh mao jud ni sya akong disisyon (This is not wrong, sister, this is really my decision).”

In Cebu City, a 17-year-old girl leaped to death from a seventh-floor from a school building.   “The administration and studentry are so shocked about the unfortunate incident that claimed the life of our student, Jonah Mae, who committed suicide by jumping out of the window…” said the official school statement.

A flashback. Before the incident, the student reportedly “displayed erratic behavior while attending her class.” She even tried to climb out of the classroom’s window. Fortunately, the teacher was able to restrained the student. She called the guidance counselor, named Marcus, who then fetched the student and brought her to the counselling office.

The guidance counselor contacted the mother of the student. While waiting, he asked some questions. From their conversation, he learned that “she has been physically, verbally and psychologically abused by her parents at home.” However, Jonah Mae did not elaborate when asked why.

He also learned that she tried committed suicide several times already. At one time, she ingested a dozen packs of monosodium glutamate. In another occasion, she gulped a dozen of amoxicillin and biogesic.

Then the mother arrived. “When Jonah sensed that her mother was around, she asked to go to the comfort room,” the official statement said. “Escorted by a guidance counselor to the women CR, Jonah quickly went inside the cubicle and locked herself up. And things quickly happened in seconds as she slipped out of the cubicle’s window.”

In 2014, the Geneva-based World Health Organization published “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative,” its first report on suicide as a public health issue. Suicide takes place as often as every 40 second, the report said.

An earlier WHO report said the Philippines has suicide rates (per 100,000) of 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women. This fact may be appalling for Filipinos but the numbers are way too small compared to those in Western countries.

In fact, the Philippines has one of the world’s lowest suicide rates. The 2000 Philippine Health Statistics from the Department of Health (DOH) showed only 1.8 per 100,000 people to have inflicted harm on themselves. In comparison, European countries had the highest figures which ranged from 30 to 42 per 100,000.

Suicide is a major contributor to premature mortality around the world. Approximately 32% of the world’s suicides occur in Western Pacific region.

“While acknowledged as an important and neglected health issue, it remains a low priority in most Western Pacific countries due to competing health problems, stigma and poor understanding of the condition,” wrote Maria Theresa Redaniel, May Antonnette Lebanan-Dalida, and David Gunnell, authors of “Suicide in the Philippines: time trend analysis (1974-2005) and literature review.”

According to their study, the incidence of suicide in males increased from 0.23 to 3.59 per 100,000 between 1984 and 2005. Similarly, rates rose from 0.12 to 1.09 per 100,000 in females. Among females, suicide rates were highest among the age bracket of 15-24 year old, while in males rates were similar in all age groups throughout the study period.

The most commonly used methods of suicide were hanging, shooting and pesticide ingestion. In non-fatal attempts, the most common methods used were ingestion of drugs or pesticide ingestion. Family and relationship problems were the most common problems reported.

“While suicide rates are low in the Philippines, increases in incidence and relatively high rates in adolescents and young adults point to the importance of focused suicide prevention programs,” the study concluded. “Improving data quality and better reporting of suicide deaths is likewise imperative to inform and evaluate prevention strategies.”

“Certainly, the actual rate in the Philippines is probably higher, with many doctors agreeing not to report deaths as suicides because of the stigma. But even if we could get the true figure, it would probably still be relatively low,” Dr. Michael Tan wrote in his weekly column in a national daily.

Suicide, the process of purposely ending one’s own life, has always been viewed negatively in most culture. But not in Asia, where 60% of all the suicide deaths in the world are reported from. In fact, two of the countries with relatively huge suicide rates are Japan and South Korea, which have a very high level of competition that starts right from childhood.

“Although some attempted or completed suicides come as a shock even to family and friends, clear warnings are given in most cases,” notes “The Merck Manual of Medical Information.” “Any suicide threat or suicide attempt is a plea for help and must be taken seriously. If the threat or attempt is ignored, a life may be lost.”

For health purposes, the Merck manual calls it as “suicidal behavior.” It says: “Suicidal behavior is an all-too-common health problem. Although most suicidal behavior does not result in death, 10% of people who try to kill themselves using a potentially fatal means do die from their actions.”

Suicide is for real and it is unfathomable why people try to cut their lives short. “It’s difficult to understand how a person could not give value to a survival instinct, which is to stay alive from a standpoint of a non-suicidal person,” wrote Dr. Gia B. Sison, a practicing medical doctor who specializes in occupational medicine and a strong mental health advocate.

Quoting a book, “Clinical Manual for Assessment and Treatment of Suicidal Patients,” Dr. Sison further wrote: “The thought of suicide most often occurs when a person feels they have run out of solutions to problems that seem inescapable, intolerably painful, and never-ending.” – (To be concluded)