An Introduction to Suicide

It's World Suicide Prevention Day. This morning, a high school student went out with a self-inflicted gunshot, which sent ripples through the city. It's clear that we have to talk about this, but you can't slay your enemy if you don't understand it, so I'm going to help you understand a bit of what it's about. It's still a taboo subject in most places, and it's uncomfortable to talk about because it implies suffering, which we don't like to deal with. That's all right, that's instinct, but you're going to have to forego that instinct for a little while.

Let's talk numbers first. I'm going to refer to the statistics on suicide in the United States, but note that this will vary per country. The rate is 13.32 per 100,000 individuals, which gives 123 suicides per day, of which 51% are done with firearms. men die by suicide 3.53 times more than women, with white males being 70% of total suicides, and with the highest rate being those in their middle age. If we look at the numbers in Mexico, we'll see that around 80% of suicides are men, which makes a greater ratio between man and women than in the U.S. Keep in mind that women attempt suicide more, but they tend to use weaker methods like pills, while men typically use more efficient methods which get the job done.

The great question is: Why? Why do something as irrational as suicide, something which goes against one of the pillars of our existence: The will to live? We're meant to do our best to survive, after all, so wouldn't this be the very last thing that we'd try to do next to literally anything?

We like to explain things that are hard to feel empathy for by separating ourselves mentally. Nobody likes to think that they have mental issues of any sort, so they'll be quick to say that suicide is almost exclusively a mental health problem. It's the same sort of logic that makes you think the Nazis were beasts who couldn't possibly be human when the truth is that under the right circumstances, you could've done the same. What Carl Jung called the shadow self is uncomfortable to face, especially if it's comprised of mainly your negative aspects. Would you admit yourself a beast, or prone to suicide if you were troubled in some manner?

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” Victor Frankl 

Currently, there's a popular sort of meme which goes into depression. You go into Twitter, and it looks like half of the population wants to have sex and half the population wants to die. There are different degrees of suicidal thought that range from passive to active, with the most passive being something along the veins of "I'd rather be dead" to the more active being "I'm going to kill myself at 'x' place and 'y' time", with memes about depression being passive, just not the bare minimum.

Keep in mind that most people aren't actively looking to die, but developing an indifference to staying alive. 

Sometimes you're poking fun at yourself, and sometimes it's a cry for help. Part of it is the fact that it's becoming more socially acceptable to express your grief, part of it is a coping mechanism, and the truth is that humor is what gets a lot of taboo subjects into the public spotlight in the first place.

There's also the social reality to consider. It's a common situation now that people make less money than their parents, sometimes by a wide margin, and what seemed to be the American Dream is slowly slipping away.

Picture this: You're not reading like a rockstar, but you've got family, friends, a nice enough job, you make enough to live comfortably. You're waiting for the next season of your favorite show, or maybe the second part of Infinity War, there's music you like, books you enjoy, all in all, you're living in a relatively good situation. Then you find out that you get a terminal illness that won't be noticeable to you at all regarding physical symptoms, and that you don't really have any way to fight it, and the truth is that you're not really affected by the news. That's the mental state that you'll find a lot of people in.

Maybe you'd think that person's missing love. So, what, he or she goes to a bar, festival or whatever, and find a life partner there? Maybe on tinder? Maybe travel and find someone abroad? It's not exactly easy, and for most men, overrepresented in the statistics, about 80% of them, any sort of chance at love would be a blessing, and it wouldn't be optimal.

Maybe we look to the future, but what do we see? A planet that's been ravaged by humanity for the last century? In my city, we get to see our mountains bombed for making cement, and we have to live in a nearly consistent dust cloud, and the guys who pocket the money get to see their children develop leukemia and other diseases. Maybe it'll eventually be worth it on a personal level, but all we've got for a crystal ball is a shitty present that was sold to us as a bright future.

If the point of living is "just to live", then is that really a point? Jordan Peterson, one of the most intelligent people, recently come upon the public scene with the strength of a typhoon, speaks a lot about the purpose of life, which can be summarized as "find the heaviest cross you can find, and bear it". This can explain why you'll see suicide as a more common problem in the developed countries, as the third world usually doesn't have time to ruminate on their mental health issues and, rather, has to focus on actually surviving.

The feeling of rather being dead, which can easily escalate into "I'll kill myself like this at this time", grows common as people come to be more isolated from the rest of society. If you can't find your place, and if you feel as more of a burden, an annoyance, than a boon, then you'll inevitably try to change that, whatever the cost may be, without considering the possibility that you indeed are loved by others who, at the very least, don't mind having you around, and would more than likely be devastated were you to leave them in any way, shape or form, especially through the permanent path of death.

What do people have to look forward to? If you're young, it's usually something akin to "at least forty more years of hard work", and all the time you'll probably feel something is missing. God is dead, but what substitutes him? The state? Corporations? What's left but powerlessness and dread? Why do you think escapism is so popular? Why the post-apocalyptic genre is seeing a revival, not as a fear of some Cold War rivalry, but as wishful thinking?

Even the present is a shitshow, especially with the advent of social media meaning that you're going to end up comparing yourself with everybody else's highlight reel, and the "Fear of missing out" will hit you like a freight train, with the unfortunate reality that you will end up missing out on some things because you're not a god, you can't be omnipresent.

If you can understand the mentality behind the last few paragraphs, then you can take the first steps to solve the problem. There's a whole slew of other problems, be it economic, social, romantic, what have you, that will contribute to a person's indifference to living or active death wish, and it'll take a systemic change to get rid of all that baggage, which means that it's more likely than not that this either takes a long time or doesn't get solved at all. I'm not here to tell you what to do; there's already a lot of good literature on it. I'm also not here to preach about the nature of suicide as a psychological or sociological phenomenon, but I do hope that reading this gave you a bit of insight into the mentality of the majority of those suffering from suicidal thoughts. Understanding the problem is the first step to solving it.

Further reading:

U.S. suicide statistics

Mexico suicide statistics

Jordan Peterson on fighting depression


5 Ways Modern Life Makes Us Sick

It's a no-brainer that the way we live nowadays is so different from our more primal days, so much that, were any of us taken back to those times, death would be more likely than survival. The same could be said about the reverse, but the lifestyle that humanity used to have was better suited for us. After all, we'd evolved around it.

When speaking of illness, there are two factors to consider, the physical and the mental. If we're dealing with a hierarchy of needs, though, and there is a hierarchy for everything, then we see that, to survive, the physical must be taken care of first.

5: Lights on

One of the main things that we lost with the arrival of civilization and technology is that of the natural cycle of the day, from campfires and torches to the screen on your cell phone. The world is getting brighter, and it's less expensive as we go along. Places which have never been lit are getting illuminated, and where there is light, it can shine far into the night depending on how late businesses close.

There are a few unintended effects on the environment beyond actual pollution. Insects can get attracted to buildings and leave their ecosystems. Sea turtle hatchlings go towards the light and can get snatched up by predators before reaching the sea. Trees bloom out of season, which leaves them vulnerable.

Humanity also pays a price. We sleep later and with less quality because melatonin is disrupted by artificial light. In fact, the way we rest has changed, for we used to sleep in two periods of around four hours that were separated by one hour or two of a near-sleep state, and it's a pattern that we acquire when we remove light pollution.

4: Just five more minutes

Speaking of sleepless nights, it's one of those issues where the health benefits are insurmountable, and at the same time, it can be devastating if you don't get enough. With our fast-paced, high-pressure lifestyle, some of us can barely find the time to sleep, and even when we do, we can struggle to get there. 

You'll have a harder time focusing on simple tasks, and that goes for general function in your brain, and that can lead to accidents if you're not careful. You'll be forgetful. Your mood will be volatile, so mind your manners. Since your hormones are all messed up, you'll also be hungrier and it'll be harder to control yourself. 

There have been recent findings that sleep deprivation can also induce suicidal thoughts. Granted, this is if you already have depression, but it's like adding gasoline to a fire that you're trying to put out, especially considering that some depressed people have a lot of trouble getting to sleep in the first place. 

3: Pour some sugar on me

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist and then convincing it to eat more sugar. If you live outside of the United States, then this isn't as much of a problem, but it's still an issue. 

A study published in JAMA found that adults who consumed over 10% of their daily calories from sugar were at a higher risk of heart disease and other conditions. Main sources of sugar were soda, juice, desserts, and candy. They also found that the more sugar you consumed, the more total calories you ingested in the long run, which seems like a no-brainer until you remember that sugar in itself has addictive properties. 

The lack of protein, fiber or any other nutrient that could come with sugar is also worrying. Empty calories are to be avoided if you want to lose weight, after all, or you'll still be hungry after finishing even a full meal if you're not careful. The average American eats over three times the daily limit for sugar, so it might be a good idea to check your habits and see what you can change about them. 

2: Just a little mad

As society gets better at remembering everything you do, it's less likely that you can lash out and get rid of any negative feelings in a quick manner. Instead, what most people do is hold it in. There's a sweet spot which will help you think more rationally, but it's hard to stay there. 

Anger is bad for the heart, and I'm not being metaphorical. Heart disease has a correlation with pent-up anger that never sees the light of day. If you can use it to be more productive and actually face your issues, then you'll get resolution and the effects on your health will be the opposite. This goes beyond any cardiovascular disease, for example, strokes can come from anger. Your immune system is affected as well. 

Anxiety and anger go hand in hand. If you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, then this just makes it worse, and more difficult to handle. Depression comes as a next step, and their relationship is pretty much the same. Try and find a way to let your rage and grudges go, and you'll find yourself just feeling better and living a longer life. 

1: Idle legs are the devil's plaything

Sitting. It can be comfortable, especially if you're overweight, better than just standing around all day, right? Well, no. It's not just about the lower amount of calories that you burn when you're on your ass, or its correlation to obesity, or its correlation to high blood pressure, or its correlation to high blood sugar, or its correlation to high cholesterol levels, it also puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease. 

If you're sitting over eight hours a day with no other physical activity, then you're just as likely to die as an obese smoker. Try to change small things about how you go through your workday. Get a standing desk. If you can't, take a rest from sitting every half hour. Stand up while watching T.V., talking on the phone, reading a book, playing games. Just the amount of calories that you can burn alone is reason enough to get off your caboose and walk around a little, even if it's just in circles.

There isn't any way we could revert back to the system that we used to have before modern life kicked in. The truth is that this has been gaining momentum for thousands of years, and it's likely that we'll come to adapt to it biologically given enough time, but meanwhile, it's a good idea to get a natural rhythm of sleep, watch your anger, and just stand around for a while instead of sitting around all day. 

Further reading:


An Introduction to Synesthesia

Synesthesia is pretty close to a superpower. Think about sense. How we process the world impacts the way life itself can feel. Go to a concert with a blind person, deaf, and normal person, and they'll all give you wildly different accounts of what they went to do. That goes for just about anything. Sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch.

Our senses can work together to paint a vivid picture of the world, but for most people, this is superficial. Food will taste better if you can smell it. You can predict how some texture will feel by sight alone. If you're in the wild, you'll rely on your sense of hearing because, by the time you actually see a predator, it'll be too late. We have more than those, of course, but today we're focusing on people who have a deep synergy between them.

Imagine running your hand over this bad boy

This is a tough one to diagnose, mostly because it's not a condition which gets in your way that much, and you could not even realize you have it until you realize that other people don't. Since it's something that always happens to you, then it never really seems off. Though some think of it as some sort of handicap, the truth is that synesthetes see it as a better way to perceive the world and even use it in organizational or creative endeavors.

There are two main forms of synesthesia. Projective synesthesia means that you see actual colors and forms when stimulated, and associative synesthesia you have a strong connection between the stimulus and whatever sense it triggers.

Seeing a letter or a number with a specific color or shade is the most well-known display of synesthesia, but there can be other variations. You can associate color with sound, for example, or you can see music projected on a "screen" in front of you, and even have a preference for a certain shape. Some see numbers as a point in space so 5 can be further than 8, but that'll be closer than 2. One of the least common forms of this condition is actually getting physical sensations that come from sound.

One of the more interesting ones has to do with sequences. You can associate a certain day of the week with one form of personality, some number might be a tranquil old man, some letter might be an irritating woman, but it's not been studied much.

A particularly strange one could be called an intense case of empathy if I've ever heard of one. Imagine that when you see somebody being tapped on the shoulder, you'll feel just as if they were tapping you. I wasn't kidding about the empathy either, it's been found to have a high correlation with this sort of synesthesia.

There are many more, at least 80 forms, if current research is to be believed, so it's likely that most of the population does have some variation of this, albeit one that's unknown or not highly researched. If you ever find yourself associating sights and sounds, numbers and colors, touch and shapes, or anything that isn't actually related, then pay attention, you might have some form of synesthesia.

Further reading

Wednesday is Indigo Blue

Psychology Today

Synesthesia’s mysterious ‘mingling of the senses’ may result from hyperconnected neurons