Driving Forces Emotions and Motivations Behind Suicide
Suicide is a universal epidemic that impacts families regardless of their background or upbringings. The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die from suicide every year, which comes to one death every 40 seconds (Crowder, 2018). Programs were created to combat this issue: websites listing suicide prevention hotlines and information about people who may commit suicide give resources to people who need it. Unfortunately, until more people are educated on the psychology of suicide, it will continue to be a prevalent problem in our society. It’s important to assess the motivation behind a person’s suicide, as well as the emotions they may have reported before the tragedy. Our OpenStax Textbook for Psychology describes emotion and motivation in a psychological context that can then be applied to suicide for further analysis.
Motivation is defined as the needs of an individual required to attain a goal. OpenStax College lists two kinds of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is doing things to get something from other people while intrinsic motivation is for self-gain. If you let your extrinsic motivations become your priority, you may lose interest in what makes you happy, leading to stress and confusion. People are usually in a healthy middle, with both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations inspiring them. Lack of motivation at all, though, can lead to low emotional energy, and it’s that low emotional energy that can drive people to suicide.
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According to the article Elevated Translocator Protein in Anterior Cingulate in Major Depression and a Role for Inflammation in Suicidal Thinking: A Positron Emission Tomography Study, a study conducted by researchers led by Peter S. Talbot found that suicidal thoughts can affect the brain. In their research they discovered that people who have suicidal thoughts have a type of inflammation in the brain. “The researchers found that activation of the microglial cells was particularly strong in the anterior cingulate cortex. This part of the brain is known to be involved in mood regulation and depression.” The article also discusses how many people who suffer from depression are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. In their study they found that people with higher level of depression are the ones with inflammation in the brain. When there is inflammation in the brain, a person’s thoughts are more likely to lead to suicide. All over the world depression is one of the top reasons for suicide deaths. People can get help when they suffer from depression, but not everyone has the motivation to seek help.
A significant amount of people who commit suicide never have a mental illness. As a result, many never receive professional help and are never screened or assessed to be at-risk. In the article Health and Psychosocial Service Use among Suicides without Psychiatric Illness by Yik Wa Law, Paul W. C. Wong, and Paul S. F. Yip , those who committed suicide despite not having a diagnosed mental illness experienced more negative life events than those in the living control group. This shows that environment and the social support that a person receives can have a substantial effect on whether certain traits are expressed, but this study suggests that these factors aren’t as effective in predicting if someone will commit suicide, regardless of if they have a mental illness or not.
Even people we view as currently successful may have been a victim of suicide. Artists, for example, have at some point been surrounded by a phenomenon called the “doomed artist.” Existential Nihilism is the belief that humans and even the world around them have no meaning, and it enabled and inspired artists to turn to suicide as their relief from pain. Meyers (2016s) assesses that “They thought that creative genius was closely connected to mental illness, and that the greater the genius, the greater the suffering.” (p. 3) Imagine a mindset where you’re convinced that the only way to truly succeed is to finish your own life. Famous artists like Vincent van Gogh, Alfred Henry Maurer, and Arshile Gorky all committed suicide, catching fame a year before or sometime after their death. In the article Pursued by Demons by Jeffrey Meyers, 4 artists that committed suicide are discussed. Meyers discusses a man named Jules Pascin, a wealthy Bulgarian artist who was born in 1885 and was a victim of suicide in 1930. “On June 2, 1930, in his Montmartre studio on the boulevard de Clichy, he made doubly sure of his death by slashing the veins in his wrists… tired of waiting for a slow death, he hanged himself with a thin cord that cut deeply into his neck.” (Meyers, 2016). Though he had been known to be critical of his art, Pascin’s disappointment in his work wasn’t the main reason for his death. A painter named Mo??se Kisling believed his suicide was because of childhood drains and heavy drinking. “Pascin suffered from diabetes, insomnia, despondency, and an obsession with suicide…He could not stand it anymore.” (Meyers, 2016).
Another person Meyers talks about is a man named Arshile Gorky, who had the most traumatic background out of the four artists. He moved to Van city in 1915 from eastern Anatolia, where he was born. He had witnessed 55,000 Armenians cruelly starved, tortured, raped, mutilated and slaughtered by the Turkish. His family had escaped, but had little food, and his mother had died in his arms after giving all of her food to her children. He had gotten married, but the marriage was short lived. He then decided to start his painting career but had limited resources and very little practice. He became an apprentice to many artists and had created a masterpiece called “The Artist and His Mother”, expressing his deep-rooted guilt and anguish over the loss of his mother. The last two years before Gorky’s suicide were the worst and could be a motive for his death. After being unable to overcome his childhood traumas, his studio in Connecticut burnt down. Two months later, he had an operation for rectal cancer. Then in a rage he had beat his wife, and that same month got in a car accident, and broke his neck. He was paralyzed in the right arm unable to paint again. “On July 21… he stood on a champagne crate and threw a rope over a rafter, removed his neck brace and replaced it with a noose.” All these artists died in different ways, “but their lives followed a similar pattern of early trauma.” (Meyers, 2016).
According to the article Cultural Differences in Shame and Guilt as Understandable Reasons for Suicide by Marisa K. Crowder and Markus Kemmelmeier, research has shown that one of the main reasons for suicide is shame and guilt. There has been studies where “individuals associate shame and guilt with suicide ideation and behavior according to their cultural background.” One of the reasons people feel guilt and shame is because they are being judged based on their background. In the United States, the highest suicide ideation rates are on non-Americans. The emotions behind these deaths are often a feeling of displacement. Feeling like they don’t belong in the country you live due to cultural differences can drive many to suicide. Immigrants often struggle with feeling like they have a place in the US when they move here due to cultural differences, and this can often contribute to the motivation of suicide.
Prevention programs may be more effective if they addressed the community by promoting awareness and seeking help. This could help people with suicidal ideation but without mental illness from being overlooked since they are not already receiving individual care. With more education to destigmatize suicide, we may see more people reaching for the help that they need and more cautious attention from the people around them. It’s important for people to know that they do not have to have a mental illness to receive help for having thoughts considering suicide. Regardless of whether or not someone suffers from a mental illness it is important for everyone to understand their motivations that led them to suicide, and what caused the emotions that brought them there. Only once this happens will it be possible for suicide to become less of a widespread societal problem.