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Suicide is a taboo subject for conversation. Particularly what makes a person want to commit suicide or what to say in the face of their pain.

“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.”
― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

Suicide is a subject almost everyone has thought of at some point or the other. Almost everyone has wondered what it would be like to end our own life or how it could be done without confronting the great fear - pain, suffocation or other discomforts. Yet suicide remains a taboo subject. The feelings behind suicide. What makes someone commit suicide. We can talk statistics or prevention or helplines, but in the face of actual pain that drives a person to suicide, we have no skills. There is a difference between contemplating suicide and planning to commit suicide. An important one. The first is a fairly common and natural response to unbearable negative emotions. The other is an irreversible action.

I admit I have often considered suicide. I have written about suicide before too. From a perspective of statistics, from a perspective of understanding widespread distress needing political answers, from a perspective of empathy when I read about suicide, from a perspective of failing to support and grieving when someone I know commits suicide and I have also considered suicide as an option to end my own life when I was very sad. Yet, whenever I have tweeted about the subject, I have immediately got responses that amount to stopstopstopstopstopstopstopstopSTOP! It is so immediate that it would be hilarious if the subject were not grave. I have got helpline numbers as replies, I have got advice to not let dark thoughts enter my mind.

Hello! I write and tweet and comment and contemplate issues of human rights abuse. How in the world can one do that without having any dark thoughts? If I were planning to commit suicide, why would I be tweeting instead of finding myself a rope? I understand that it can sometimes be a cry for help by a distraught person, but if the rest of the words are perfectly normal, where is the harm in reading to find out what is being said?

Because here is the thing. Even if a person were tweeting about suicide publicly as a last ditch call for attention and help, the last thing they'd need is to be told to shut up or a sea of platitudes. What they would be needing is an empathetic listener who cares.

What exactly is this fear of talking about suicides?

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I admit I have spent a great deal of time contemplating committing suicide over the years. As in killing myself. I have been in unhappy relationships involving heartbreak, I've been in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic, I've been a broke single mother of a disabled child. Despair and depression are no strangers. And yet I am here, typing this post.

I have actually found thinking about suicide in great detail helpful. Instead of fearing the pain of death (and thus possibly taking a rash step "while I have the courage" maybe after a glass or two of vodka), I've gone and researched methods of suicide. What would cause the least pain? What are the consequences of failure? What is the best method so that it causes least pain and least risk of failing and living with permanent damage? And anyone who knows me knows that when I say research, I mean obsessive information finding till I am convinced I know the subject in and out without actual experience. Enough to make a very well considered decision. On and off, when I'm in utter despair, I've gone and rechecked all the information. And yet here I am, typing all this.

Is this a guarantee I will never commit suicide? No. But it pretty much guarantees that I have given it thorough thought and not found it a better tradeoff for now. It guarantees that if I do it, it will not be a thoughtless impulse, but a decision I take about my life after considering all options I have.

So how has contemplating suicide helped me?

By giving me an option. By giving me an exit from the pain. By giving me the concrete information that if all this gets unbearable, I still have the option to exit. In the process, a miracle happens. I am no longer cornered by my despair. I always have the cheat route out. And because I know that, I am never out of options. I lose the fear of making attempts to change my circumstances that could fail.  Just allowing myself to spend time thinking about ending myself is a catharsis. If no one else, at least I am acknowledging how bad things are. I am listening to myself. It helps me feel heard. It gives me a vocabulary for describing my situation when asking for help. No, I don't mean "I am suicidal, help me or else." I mean "This, this and this is the reason for my despair. I am not able to see functional ways out. I need help." - because hello, I've gone through all the reasons in my contemplation and have them now sorted out in my head.

And sometimes, in a very cynical way, the contemplations have saved me. If I don't care whether I live or die, why not try this one last thing or the other? If I hit a dead end, I can always die.

“Killing myself was a matter of such indifference to me that I felt like waiting for a moment when it would make some difference.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Here is an example how. When I was younger, my emotions were more volatile. Taking what I felt seriously and giving it serious thought helped me see things more clearly and invariably, I ended up thinking that if there was any hope, I could use it and if there wasn't, well, I could always die. But the well thought out option being there and not at any threat of being taken off the table gave me the confidence to know I could opt for it any time and there was no need to do it right now. I could afford to wait and see. I am truly grateful no one immediately tried to stop me at such times, or I'd have been tempted to use the opportunity before someone blocked it from me.

Now I am older. I have a young disabled child. Whoever knows me knows that I'd chew my arm off before I allowed anything to harm him. Well, losing a mom would definitely harm him. So suicide is totally not an option any more. At least while he is alive. He needs me. Period. Again, if I hadn't thought this through, I could have been at risk of giving up without considering the impact.

In some of my more selfish and melodramatic ways, I've even thought "What will be, will be" If I am not there, someone or the other will care for my son, though I can't imagine who, right now. But then, in such a melodramatic moment, the desire is also to leave a lasting mark on the world when I die. And oops, it is not "orphaned kid in moment of despair". I'd like to be remembered for something better, thank you very much.

Whatever it is. Others may have their own reasoning. Still others may come to a well considered decision that suicide is actually a good choice for them, When my father was dying of Parkinson's, he had the option of looking forward to an indeterminate bed ridden existence with little control over his body, being bored out of his wits and too exhausted to do anything about it but to wait to die. He begged me to kill him almost every week. It is illegal and I have two more dependents, or I would definitely have arranged for him to be freed as per his will if it were legal. Others do it out of poverty. Starvation. When the alternative is to live in debt and watch your family suffer with no hope of ever providing for them in sight, it can be a brutal life to look forward to, and death may simply be a matter of running out of the ability to fight.

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank -- but that's not the same thing.”
― Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and other stories

Whatever it is, however it plays out, a suicide is not about dying or exiting the world, it is about escaping unbearable torment. A person who feels unheard and uncared for, is unlikely to respond to a panicked flood of platitudes that s/he has heard a hundred times that drowns their voice all over again, even in the contemplation of death.

How agonized we are by how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live. ~ P. Sainath

My suggestion is that we all examine what this fear is that stops us from listening on hearing that word. Because the lives of many around us could depend on how we respond to their pain. If someone has made a well considered decision to die, there isn't much we can do about it, but if someone is screaming into a void of despair, perhaps us offering a listening ear will give them the space to be heard, and in the process get a clearer view of their situation.

What do you think?

India Ink reported a follow up story of the child rape that shook Delhi in the wake of the gang rape of a medical student in a bus. The article, a thoughtful and responsible action of a reporter, who remembered the girl well after all of us had moved on is a tragic mix of a horror story, apathy of powers that be, exploitation at the hands of the media and an exceptionally inhuman society.

There is a part of me that becomes a raving lunatic at the thought of a child being brutalized. That part is in the driving seat right now. I make no guarantees on the coherence of this post, but I damn well hope I give words to many things you want to say too. I am going to quote from that article here. The parts I want to talk about.

“The passage for the stool would leak every half an hour,” said Gudiya’s mother, a wiry woman in her mid-20s, who wore a blue and yellow sari and had shabbily tied her hair into a bun.

The surgery was a success. Gudiya, seeing that she no longer needed a colostomy bag, pointed to her stomach and screamed in glee, “Papa, everything has gone inside!”

The resilience of childhood brings me to my knees in grateful astonishment. I am glad children recover so fast, because the world sure doesn't treat them well. That a child can find something cool about everything having gone inside again about a recovery from a brutal rape and being found two days later with extensive damage and objects still inside her is a miracle, and I hope that miracle holds. And I'm hoping enough of you feel like this that we can find a way to increase the chances of it being so.

This is a family already denied assistance when they needed it the most, remember.

After her father received the alarming call from his wife, he and his brother rushed home and looked for Gudiya. They went to the local police station. Dharmpal Singh, the officer in charge, shooed him away, according to Gudiya’s father. “Go and look for her yourself. Inform us if you find her,” Gudiya’s father recalled the police officer telling him.

Four days after Gudiya was admitted to the hospital, her parents went to meet Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of Delhi. Ms. Dikshit met Gudiya’s parents but left them with cold, callous words. “There are so many rape cases every day in Delhi. How many can I take care of?” her father recalled Ms. Dikshit telling them.

And the world has compounded it with its careless cruelty.

The police said the two men confessed to raping the girl, saying that Mr. Sah had stepped out of his room when he saw the 5-year-old playing outside. The police said he then offered her potato chips and lured her into his room, promising more. The child followed Mr. Sah into the room.

[...]

While Gudiya was being treated at the hospital, her father moved out of his rented Gandhi Nagar home and moved in with his younger brother in a distant neighborhood of Delhi. He couldn’t bear the callous and caustic barbs of his neighbors.

“People said that my daughter was greedy and that’s why she could be lured with a packet of chips,” he recalled.

A neighbourhood that forces a family to relocate with cruel remarks that blame a 5 year old for being brutally raped and left for dead is one I honestly hope burns in one of those ugly fires that flare up for no particular reason. Such people deserve to die. Or better still, be brutalized by things they cannot control when they innocently expect something normal. Call me a bitch. That is what I think.

It is hardly greed for a child to go anywhere on being invited or accept a treat from an adult offering it. She hardly went peeping into homes asking for treats. And even if she did, it does not excuse a rape in any way.

There is no such thing as asking to be raped. This child was callously harmed a second time by those around her. There is no excuse for such inhumanity.

After Gudiya’s initial treatment, the Delhi government’s Child Welfare Committee decided that as the girl needed several surgeries, she needed to live in a hygienic place. On April 20, the Young Women’s Christian Association in New Delhi offered free boarding and lodging to Gudiya, her mother and her infant brother. Her father couldn’t live there, as the hostel is meant only for women.

The YWCA hostel in central Delhi is a multistory building, but Gudiya, her brother, and her mother were restricted to their room. “I was asked to not go out of the first floor room allotted to us,” she said. The food on offer was very little, according to the young mother. “I gave my breakfast to the kids and ate my first meal when lunch was served,” she said.

They shared a common toilet with 12 other girls who were survivors of sexual abuse, but Gudiya’s mother said she was forced to clean the toilet twice a day because of Gudiya’s condition. “They said, ‘Your daughter keeps [expletive] all the time and that’s why you should clean up.’ ” YWCA administration did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Yeah, well, this is a no-brainer. The YWCA must be forced to comment. Also the Child Welfare Committee must be forced to comment if this is the quality of "help" they are giving a child who could have been saved far earlier if the police had done their jobs. They clearly do not understand the idea of "WELFARE".

Keep in mind, the state was doing no favors by helping this girl. Their rot was part of why she was in this state to begin with. Who knows how much damage could have been saved simply by the police arriving promptly and being visible in the locality instead of ignoring the complaint?

The brothers had been pursuing the police case, running between hospitals. Their meager savings were drying up. Her uncle sent his family back home to ease the pressure of feeding a larger unit in an expensive city.

“We all could not afford to live together, especially when both bhaiya and me have not been working for the last three months,” her uncle said, using the Hindi word for “older brother.”

[...]

On July 16, Gudiya was discharged from the hospital. Indian laws had nothing to offer by way of support for her rehabilitation. The family spent a few weeks in a relative’s one-room house until they could find a new place to live. They couldn’t return to their village, as scores of television crews had landed there after the incident.

“My elder brother has stopped talking to me. He blames me for not being able to control my daughter,” Gudiya’s mother said. “Everyone there knows what happened to my daughter.”

They sought refuge in the gift of anonymity Delhi provided. Gudiya’s father moved his family to a lower-middle class area on the outskirts of Delhi, where he began a new life as a vegetable vendor. “They wanted to move away from all those who knew what happened to Gudiya,” her uncle said.

This is a family that clearly is facing hardship for caring for their child. Living in a city is not cheap, and a bloodthirsty media has yet again done what it does best - advertising a rape without care as long as they don't print the girls name on paper. As if a person in Kerala knowing the girl's real name would make the slightest difference when the entire village who know her and can hurt her with their discrimination has been told live by numerous crews.

By: Rory Moynihan
By: Rory Moynihan

The treatment this family has received makes my blood boil, and I don't think some of these things still can't be fixed.

Here is what we need to make their lives possibly better:

  • A group of caring people in their area who will support them and accept their daughter to provide social contact and occasional interaction.
  • A good lawyer who is willing to do a few things to make sure the girl gets help - for free, obviously.
  • A group of volunteers from anywhere in the world who will go through every news report they can find on this case and nail every single media "outlet" that reported on the girl's village. There simply was no reason to do it seeing as the rape happened in Delhi, and the 5 year old was not the accused who needed to be traced or something.
  • The lawyer should send letters to each media house demanding a sum of money to be paid to the girl as damages, because their exploitative behavior has directly led to a situation where a brutalized girl is now living in a financially insecure family instead of being able to focus better on recovery among family in village. Any media house that refuses should get petitions and other ghastly publicity describing the consequences of their act and so on till they pay, or maybe we can take it to court? I have no idea, but this should be done. A good amount would be the ad revenues from the TV coverage and website ads for this girl's story. Nice amount for a poor family to find a decent home, yes? Also punish where it hurts.
  • Anything else that we come to know the girl could be helped by.
  • If we fail to get compensation from media for publicizing the girl's rape, we could perhaps start an online donation campaign to raise funds for this family? Inferior option. Amount will be less, also that money will be their right. This will be charity.

Do you have more/better ideas?

Please post links to any coverage you can find that appears to have gone and met real people related with this girl's family, neighbourhood, village, etc. beyond the immediate family and friends attending to her in hospital, who obviously knew.