Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 64, Tuesday April 21, 2009



Dear Madam,
Nobel Laureate Earnest Hemingway committed suicide. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was famous for his novels attempted to commit suicide; his wife Zelda also wanted to end her life. After being back in London, Robert Clive killed himself with a pistol. In our country retired secretaries Amiangsu Sen, Rezaur Rahman, ex-General Manager, HBFC Dewan Abdul Haque, and several universities students committed self-immolation in recent years.

My question is- why some people, even after achieving prominence, decide to end their lives, curtailing the chances for their contribution to society? Is their any psychological interpretation for this kind of incidences or behaviours?
- Syed Naquib Muslim, PhD

People commit suicide for various reasons. Life situation, personality, attitude, social support, mental health status, etc., tend to work together to make a person suicidal. When fear of life becomes greater than the fear of death, profound hopelessness and intolerable psychological pain pushes a person over the edge.

Suicidal thinking is often part of depression and hopelessness is at the core of it. People commit suicide when their thinking process is muddled, judgement is impaired and negative emotion overrides the intellect. It is easy to get trapped in the mistaken beliefs of depression that we are totally powerless, there is no hope and nothing can be done to change it.

The basic human desire to fight for life is lost and the temptation of “easy escape” or other fantasies about the consequences of suicide (e.g. hurting or punishing others, revenge against a person or an institution, etc.) drives them to look for a fast exit from a problematic or unsatisfactory life.

Strangely enough, the suicide rate is quite high among apparently successful people in society. Since this global recession has started some super rich billionaires have committed suicide after losing some money although they were still richer than any other average Americans!

This further confirms peoples' strange relationship with money. Actually, nobody is immune to mental illness. Depressive Disorder and Substance Dependency (e.g. alcohol, pain killers, etc.) are two of the leading causes of suicide. A fall in social status can also make a person susceptible to suicide.

A lack of access to society's power and privilege is also linked to increased suicide. People who are not strongly integrated into any social group have a higher risk of suicide (egoistic suicide).

After achieving a certain degree of success, expectation of others seem to go higher which demands the person to perform even better, thus success can become a stress factor in life. Besides, we rarely care to know about all the highways the person had to travel in life to become successful.

Going up in the “life curve” is fun and exciting, but when it reaches a plateau or starts falling- the sense of loss can be enormous.

People sometimes have a mindset that only success can bring happiness and they wait for success to be happy in life. Actually happiness is supposed to be created, not waited for. People addicted to success soon find themselves caught in the net of conformity. They can't find enjoyment in anything apart from being the centre of attention. They fly like moths around the candle until they fly in to the flame to end this enslavement.

After retiring from a successful career, failure to make proper adjustments can make life intolerably dull. When the party (best part of life!) is over, all the cheerleaders and crowds are gone, lights turned out then there one sits alone with plenty of idle time in hand. A person, who has invested all his sense of esteem in achievements and success, might start feeling very isolated and unimportant at this point. If one forgets to take care of the inner self while running after worldly success then the disconnected neglected inner self (inner child, authentic self, etc.) conflicts with the outer self (masked or artificial persona) at this stage of life.

Even death could seem friendlier in that altered state of a split mind. Someone said, 'life is not just about finding yourself; it is also about creating yourself'. I guess a hugely successful person might even start playing God while feeling consumed in this process of creation and destruction!

Suicide risk increases with age; midlife crisis is probably associated with it. In middle adulthood (35-70 years), generativity (being able to expand or grow in different areas of life, contribute to a better social cause, etc.) versus stagnation (feeling stuck, feeling degenerated/decayed, etc.) is the main psychosocial conflict one has to resolve to move on to the next level.

Ego integrity (feeling whole, unified with different ego states, feeling ready for a smooth transition from one form of life to another, etc.) versus despair (feeling lost, isolated, alienated from self, etc.) is the major conflict of late adulthood (over 70 years).

Loneliness, lack of adequate social support, chronic illnesses, cognitive dysfunction, etc. are other contributory factors in suicidal behaviour of elderly people.

Celebrities often find it difficult to manage life in front of public eyes; the stress of living under the spotlight takes its toll in different ways. The unnatural deaths of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and more recently Heath Ledger were all from drug overdoses. Mental illness among successful people is equally shocking to others.

The list of such celebrities seems to be an endless one! Their success/popularity/money couldn't protect them from mental illnesses and it is sad to witness how life can take a cruel turn after reaching the peak. It only reminds us of the fragility of human life.

By any chance, if you are concerned about your future, then imagine my situation- a study report suggests that among all occupations and specialities, physicians and psychiatrists respectively are at highest risk of committing suicide, and females are more at risk than the males! What a bizarre finding!

Well, I'm still in love with my life! In the worst case, if there is any sign of falling out of love, at least there is help available and mental health workers are supposed to be well trained in suicide intervention. Suicide survivors often regret their act after they come to senses. However, a history of deliberate self-harm or repeated suicidal attempts in the past makes a person more prone to completed suicide.

News flash

Furniture flare

Inaugurated on 16 April 2009, the Sixth National Furniture Fair 2009 began with a promise to cater for the needs of the consumers. On the Occasion Lt. Col. (Retd.) Faruk Khan , Honorable Minister of Commerce said, “I believe we are able to expand the market of our furniture industry both locally and globally if we can successfully combine the use of local raw materials, latest technology, timely and proper training and efficient utilization of skilled labour.”

A total number of 55 leading furniture manufacturers will be showcasing their products in the fair. Attractive discount and offers are available from most retailers. The exhibition concludes on 21 April 2009 at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre.


HARD Rock & metal band Warfaze recently visited the world famous cafe´ Barista to unveil their new album, where everyone enjoyed the taste of real Italian coffee (Lavazza). Barista has recently opened their 1st outlet at Jahangir Tower, 10 Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, Karwan Bazar, Dhaka.

Barista traces its roots back to the old coffee houses in Italy - the hotbeds of poetry, love, music, writing, revolution and of course, fine coffee. Drawing inspiration from the old coffee houses in Italy, Barista aims to open people's eyes to the simple pleasures of coffee.

The aroma of fine Barista coffee permeats in over 100 espresso bars across India, Sri Lanka the Middle East and Bangladesh. If you have any trouble finding one, they suggest you simply follow your nose.

Barista Coffee, a sister concern of (MRPL) MGH Restaurant Private Ltd. Bangladesh.



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