13 July 2013

The Atrocity of Sunsets

Scoop - my old mate from Australia sent me an article the other day about suicides. The act of killing oneself. 

I can think of nothing sadder.

The article Scoop sent me made specific mention of Singapore. Singapore is not my home however it is the place where I live. There were some statistics and comments provided by an organization called the Samaritans of Singapore - SOS. There were also some numbers provided by the World Health Organization. I found them alarming and despairing. Despite the hustle and bustle and bright lights of Singapore there is an intensity and sadness about the place.

There is a lot of pressure to achieve. 

According to the World Health Organization more than one million people commit suicide each year and every year. Deaths by suicide per annum are greater than all the casualties of wars and murders combined. I did not know this and I find such statistics to be horrific. 

It is beyond tragic. 

Life can be a bitch sometimes but we need to live it and cherish it and I don't think that anyone who commits suicide wants to die - they just do not want to live. They want the pain to stop and they do not know how to deal with it. The banishment of pain is something we all have to endure at times but surely death by one's own hand is not the solution. 

The Samaritans of Singapore have been around since 1969. They provide a 24 hour intervention hotline for the public which is manned by trained volunteers. They also provide a 'Postvention' service that offers grief and bereavement counseling for the affected families and friends of people who have committed suicide. 

When people kill themselves they may end their own pain but it must be inherited by those that they leave behind - albeit in a different form. The sadness of such an impact is beyond my comprehension. I would imagine that this is a dark and a perhaps unrecoverable legacy of anguish and shock and devastation. Torment and torture. I have lost family and friends but never before have I been touched by anyone who has suicided. I hope that I never am. 

I am not sure how I would cope. 

The Patrons of the Samaritans of Singapore are Government Ministers from the Department of Culture, Community and Youth. There were four hundred and eighty seven suicides recorded in Singapore in 2012 and it is estimated that up to five times that number attempted the act. Perhaps more. The Samaritans of Singapore reported that this was a thirty percent increase on the previous year.

Suicide is on the rise on the Island. 

The statistic from the SOS report that I found to be the saddest was that there was an increase by nearly eighty percent of suicides and attempted suicides in the 20 to 29 year age bracket. Young adults who are so sad they no longer wish to live. The loss of a child under such circumstances is incomprehensible to me. The loss of a child under any circumstance in fact. The depths of such grief and sorrow and despair that must be experienced by the parents of a child that has committed suicide must be unfathomable. 

How could they ever recover from such a loss? 

SOS also reported that their intervention hotline received approximately 40,000 calls last year and there were a similar number the year before. That is a lot of despondent and distressed people. Suicides constitute over two percent of all deaths in Singapore. It is also listed as a criminal offense on the Island. Survivors of suicide attempts face a jail term of up to one year as well as a substantial fine.

Can a punishment in itself be a crime?

I think so in this case.

The American poet Sylvia Plath committed suicide in 1963. She was thirty one years old. She is buried in a tiny village that sits on a hillside in the county of Yorkshire - in England. The village is the home of my ancestors and Plath is my favorite poet. Her words move me in ways I can not adequately describe. I have visited her grave. Plath's poetry is alluring and exquisite but her torment can be read in nearly all her prose. 

It is as haunting as it is harrowing.

Amongst the copious beautiful and sad and despondent works that Plath scribed there are many indications that she was not happy in this world. She was tortured and it reflected in her art. Here are some examples:

“The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it.” 

“I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it.” 

I desire the things that will destroy me in the end.” 

“I couldn’t see the point of getting up. I had nothing to look forward to.”

“People or stars regard me sadly, I disappoint them.” 

“I have taken a pill to kill the thin papery feeling.”

“The thought that I might kill myself formed in my mind coolly as a tree or a flower.” 

My how that woman could write and how ethereally she portrayed her agony of living. However there is no beauty in death. I find it terribly sad that there are so many people out there who seem so unable to find something to live for that they feel compelled to take their own lives.

Plath penned the words that are the title of this post in her poem "Elm". She wrote:

"I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets".

A sunrise invariably follows a sunset and a new day always dawns and there is always a reason for living.

Like the thought of suicide - it simply breaks my heart.

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