Research Blog

A Dose of Hope

Posted on Sep 9th, 2014

While there are many tragedies in life, few are sadder than when a human being takes his or her own life. According to the World Health Organization, over 800,000 people die by suicide every year. This represents one suicide every 40 seconds. By the time you finish reading this blog, somewhere in the world, four people will have died by suicide. According to one report, there are seven to ten people who are directly affected from one suicide. With those statistics, suicide directly affects nearly 9,000,000 people across the world every year. And while it’s easy to get lost in the enormity of these numbers and forget that we are talking about people, let’s go back to the four people that won’t be with us anymore at the end of this blog.
Imagine a young person, somewhere in the age range of 15-24. What might their life be like? They ostensibly have their whole lives in front of them. They are inquisitive, at their peak physical condition. Can you think of a young person in particular? See their face. Say their name. In the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds . How about a person between 25-34? If they live in the United States, they may have completed college and begun their career. Maybe they have gotten married or have just become a parent. At 34, they could be in a position to effect positive change in the world around them through volunteerism or charitable donations. Do you know someone this age? They are more likely to die by suicide than die in a car accident. See their face. Say their name.
Do you know someone who is between 35-44? Like the members of the 25-34 age group, suicide is also the 2nd leading cause of death in this group. What might life be like for someone this age? They might be coaching their kids in soccer, or going to see their child in a recital, or finally able to take a vacation. They might decide to buy a home, or pursue a new career. They might be leaders in their faith community or in their job field. Their health is still probably pretty good. See their face. Say their name. How about someone between 45-54? In the United States, suicide drops as the 5th leading cause of death among those in this age group. It’s not necessarily that life is getting much easier, because they are more likely to die from coronary heart disease. Perhaps their perspective on life has changed. At the top end of the age group might be first time grandparents. Think of someone you know in this age group. See their face. Say their name.
Now think of someone over 55. Suicide among older males is a leading cause of death. Health problems start to become harder to ignore. Loneliness sets in as more and more important people in their lives pass away. Yet, many older people lead very happy, satisfying lives. See their face. Say their name.
These are people. The four people who will not be here when you are through reading this are people who mean something to someone. They all had the same human instinct that is innate in all of us – to survive. So what happened? What trumps the raw, primitive instinct to survive? Some would say, and I would agree, that they lost hope. But that seems like such a trite, pithy thing to say. What does it mean – to lose hope? I would argue that much like the same way that brain waves, oxygen, water, blood, and healthy cells are vital to physical wellbeing, hope is the blood, oxygen, and water of the soul. Suicide represents the complete and total surrender of all domains of human existence – mind, body, and soul. It would appear that hope is pivotal to the foundation of a healthy soul. Medical science seems to have ideas on how to maintain mind health and body health, but not so much information on the maintenance of soul/spirit health. I would argue that, when weighing options, a person on the precipice of suicide sees no other viable option. It becomes their only choice, not simply a choice. Anecdotally, when I have spoken to people who feel suicidal and posed the question “Do you really want to go ‘poof’ off the earth or do you simply want to be out of pain?” 90% of them say they want to be out of pain. The majority of their pain is emotional, not physical; although, physical pain can cause one to become desperately depressed. Neither emotional nor physical pain is to be ignored; one type of pain is no more severe than the other. Survival sometimes comes from will, not merely instinct. Sometimes, one must find or manufacture the will to hope, the courage to put that concrete-laden foot in front of the other one more time. And then do it again.
If you are one of those people on your last “hope cell”, you are not alone. All is not lost. There are people who can help. If you know someone who is low on “hope cells”, offer a hope transfusion, or point them in the direction of others who can. Hope, like love, is a precious commodity in this world. Hope can be cultivated and nurtured. It can be shared with and bestowed upon others – like a security blanket. It costs nothing to offer hope. It doesn’t have to be systemized nor privatized. Hope is not political; hope does not have to be religious; hope is archaic. Hope does not require a certification, hope can be synthesized by the common being through collective experience. Hope fits all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, languages, cultures, and orientations.
Save a life; offer up a dose of hope.
Michael Corbin

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