“Tonight’s happy song, kinda like a walk in the park ..the sun coming through the window in the morning on a beautiful day… and you have nothing better to do than commit Harakiri, so…is this? Alright. This is called..Estranged..”
– Axl Rose, at a GnR Live Concert
Last morning I woke up to the news of young starlet Jiah Khan’s suicide. Possibilities and reasons were many. But whichever way you looked at it, the 25-year old hanging herself came as a shocker to most of us.
Now, to be honest, I have probably watched her in 1-2 movies, and even though she acted well and was very beautiful, I wasn’t exactly a fan.
But news of her death triggered a discussion with a close friend of mine, about what drives people to commit suicide. My friend was of the view that suicide is a cowardly way to go, irrespective of the magnitude of the battles one fights.
I used to be of that exact view until a few years ago. But along the way I realized I was wrong. Reading about similar suicides generated a curiosity. Questions like what factors could result in someone even considering suicide, can it be avoided, and what leads someone to intentionally race toward an eventuality that even the bravest of us fear and dread. Death.
“People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend.”
– Jim Morrison
While I was in college, my mom bought me a t-shirt that read ‘Life’s tough..but I haven’t hit the Panic button yet.!’
In light of why I’m writing this post, that line on the tee somehow doesn’t seem as amusing as it used to. Anyway, I boiled my thoughts down to 5 factors that I believe influence a mental imbalance, which in turn results in somebody ‘hitting the Panic button’ (here’s my definition of it, and let’s just call it ‘Panic’ for simplicity. And if you’re wondering, yeah you too can make definitions of your own).
Panic: a reaction to a combination of the 5 internal and external factors that could manifest itself either in a
- defensive way (nervous breakdowns, depression, suicidal tendencies, etc.), or offensive way (bursts of anger and rage, attacking people, etc.). Signs for both need to be identified and avoided.
Now here are the 5 internal & external factors which cause someone to ‘lose it’:
- the situation or circumstance: tough boss, harassment, etc.
- importance given to the situation: whether a situation or person affects you strongly, or you are indifferent to it
- duration of the situation:
- the strength or resilience: how much of a situation can you handle before you throw in the towel
- a balancing factor(s): someone or something that helps you cope with a difficult situation (family, friends, pets, hobbies or work)
And the math for these factors works something like this.
On the left, you have three negative factors, and two positive factors on the right.
That seesaw is mental stability. As you’re looking at it right now, the objective is to always keep the seesaw tilted to the right (where things go between well and manageable). The moment it levels off or tilts left, you’ve got a problem.
So whether it is you, or someone close to you, you have to be observant and aware of how strong you or that person are, how much they can take, and where you or they might need someone to step in (a balancing factor) to keep the seesaw tilted right. There are some problems one can overcome alone. For others, you have the option of facing it with a balancing factor, or of getting out of the situation (quitting a job, getting out of a strained relationship, escalating a matter at work, etc.) But whatever the factor, you need to understand what the problem is, how you are holding up, and what you need or might need to do if it continues. But you have to do something about it. And let’s not lose any more people to the swinging of the seesaw.
“I am troubled, immeasurably by your eyes. I am struck by the feather of your soft reply. The sound of glass speaks quick, disdain and conceals what your eyes fight to explain.” - Jim Morrison