Understanding suicide

Social IQ, humility and kindness can help us begin to understand a tragedy such as suicide

DR MARGARITA HOLMESThe only time I refused to talk about sex on TV was in 1991, when the creators of “Teysi ng Tahanan” called a meeting to discuss its first episode. That episode was to air a day after the American invasion of Iraq which Saddam Hussein threatened would be the “mother of all battles” and I couldn’t see myself extolling the joys of sex at the same time as countless people would be killed.

Happily, they agreed immediately. Someone  asked, “Could you psychologize Saddam Hussein instead?

“No,” I replied semi indignantly. “Only charlatans do that, with no more information than they can glean from the media. And if I knew the person, especially if I knew the person, I would comment even less, if even one thing was told to me in confidence (not necessarily by the person himself).”

However, here I am, writing about Kristel Tejada, a person I similarly know almost nothing about. I do know quite a lot about suicide (Margarita Holmes, Down to 1: Depression Stories. Anvil Publishing 2011). With your kind indulgence, I would like to share my reactions to some of the comments made about this tragedy, especially if research is relevant.

Examples 

Comment 1: “Too bad, nasayang lang buhay niya. Sana dumulong na lang siya sa media, like T3, Imbestigador, etc. It’s not about suicide, it’s about sending the message.” Too bad. She wasted her life.” (Too bad, she wasted her life. She should have gone to the media instead like T3, Imbestigador, etc.)

To which I can’t help asking because I really want to know: “What message, pray tell, did you hope to send by your comment above…especially since there was no indication she wanted to use the media for her own gains?”

Comment 2: “Nalito siguro ang bata…sana pumunta siya sa Channel 7…malapit lng yan sa UP” (Perhaps she was confused, the poor girl, she should’ve gone to Channel 7 which is a lot closer to UP.)

And, dear reader, if you can think of a sharper, more visceral response than “You honestly think your comment’s funny?…or helpful?” please let me know.

And then there are those who imply, or actually say, that Kristel’s suicide was a function of mental weakness:

Comment 3: “I was remembered the said of MY PROFESSOR in PNU during the time of my LET review session that some of the UP student commit suicide because of desperation, well, it is proven that some of the student in the University have No emotional Quotient but they have high IQ, sad to say it is Imbalance.”

ME: there are lots of people with very low or even non-existent EQ (perhaps even you, with your highly insensitive remark). If, indeed, a high IQ and low EQ = suicide completion, then the funeral parlors wouldn’t be able to cope.

Comment 4: “ndi nman lahat, talaga lang ndi nya kaya ang problema sa buhay…remember ndi lang naman siya ang nkaranas ng ganyan at ndi nagpakamatay.” (She just couldn’t cope because many have had similar problems and didn’t commit suicide.)

ME: What makes you so sure that she was not the only one suffering from the same situation? The tragedy of suicide is that no one knows really what finally brought the person to deciding death was better than life except the person himself/herself. It is arrogant to the nth degree to make pronouncements simply by comparing a 16-year-old girl you didn’t know to nameless others you might or might not have known.

Comment 5: “She should not have committed suicide. It solves nothing.” 

ME: But then, you don’t really know that, do you? You don’t know what she was going through and why she finally did what she did? As for “It solves nothing,” I wonder if she would agree.

This reminds me of the reply to that well-known saying “Suicide is just a cry for help.”  The sister of someone who committed suicide answered: “But sometimes you don’t need — or want — any help.” 

The most offensive of all, but perhaps only to people like me who believe one person’s particular morality should not be used as a basis to judge the actions of others: 

Comment 6. “There are much more challenging and more difficult situations out of UP. If you take your life, it shows the weakness of your faith in God.”

ME: In the end, I guess it depends on whether you believe in God, if your god is anything like my god, on what S/he is telling you, and if you are more prescient, sensitive, and able to read other gods’ minds as well as yours. I myself am a firm subscriber to Thomas Szasz’s: “When you talk to God, that’s prayer…when God talks to you, that’s schizophrenia.”

Social IQ

Look, I am not saying people shouldn’t comment, speak from their hearts and respond to what they read. I, for one, love it when people do, no matter how critical it is, of my piece.

All I had hoped to do (for this article at least) is share some insights based on research (I shall gladly supply the bibliographic citations to all who request them) that might put a more scientific subtext to such a complex tragedy if it is at all possible. 

Edward Thorndike made first use of the concept social intelligence but Dr Goleman, who also popularized EQ, made it much more accessible by his statement: “We are wired to connect.” 

Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge lets us impact the brain—and so the body—of everyone we interact with, just as they do us. 

In other words, social IQ is not just some touchy-feely concept from tree huggers, but has been proven by studies in neuroscience.” And in my mind, it is not just EQ and IQ, but SQ, humility and kindness that can help us begin to understand a tragedy such as this. – Rappler.com

 

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