This morning I read an article titled, “Inside Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest.'” The 30,000+ reported suicides a year are not new to me, but the more intimate account of the forest stirred up my own personal thoughts on suicide. You should read the article I just mentioned if you’re unfamiliar with suicide in Japan. | photo courtesy of Rob Gilhooly
I’m not interested in addressing the high numbers or talking about the suicide issue from afar. It’s brutal and things are broken, that much is obvious. Since Mondays are the darkest days for most, I’d rather use today to share my own personal commentary on suicide and draw out a conversation from others, especially those in Japan, in hope that others find hope like I did.
Why do we commit suicide? I think that the French Christian philosopher, Blaise Pascal, had a general insight that leads in the right direction:
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”
I never seriously considered suicide until my dad died when I was eighteen. I went to bed in tears, agony, and despair every night during the summer of 2004. You can counsel despairing people away from suicide, but it’s hard to really understand it unless you’ve been to that dark place yourself. It’s hard for me to go there now, so I’ll just share the writings that capture where I was a decade ago.
This is the worst feeling I can ever recall in my entire life. Lying on the cement crying, flailing my arms every now and then, pounding the ground occasionally, and uttering audible cries of disbelief and confusion; all of which proved futile to killing the horrible feeling of unchangeable, helpless, claustrophobic sorrow. I felt like a man being buried alive, desperately trying to break out of his coffin and undo the mounds of dirt which had fallen upon him, only to find that the heaviness is too great and he will never escape what he must learn to call home, the grave. When I referred to freezing warm summer nights, this is what I meant. On this warm summer night, though my body flowed with warm blood, my soul shivered uncontrollably in a desolate tundra, ten thousand miles away from anyone to warm me, and without a hope in the world. I have never felt a pain from losing my father that comes close to matching this night. Nothing can save me that night, not even God; I always fall into the abyss and it is always colder than any feeling my senses have perceived, a coldness only the soul can feel.
“Just make it stop.” That was all I thought after losing my dad.
I think that when you can see a light at the end of the tunnel it makes your present suffering bearable; it gives you a reason to press on. When we lose this sense of light we begin to logically consider our last case escape from the darkness. Ultimately, I was saved from the darkness. In ways that I still cannot humanly explain, Jesus met me in my sorrow and gave me hope for living. He nourished me away from the ledge and brought me to a land of life. That’s my personal story, one that I will not share today, and I know that it is different for everybody.
So the questions I want to pose to you are:
a) Have you ever seriously considered suicide? If so, what was/is it like?
b) How do we help those who are hurting, especially in Japan?
30,000+ reported suicides a year is too big and impersonal for change. Let’s have more discussion at the personal level and do what we can now. Policies are far less effective than active people.