psyche-thumbThe recent report on a Boholano priest committing suicide, although this finding by the Police was refuted by the NBI autopsy, jolted this religious province. If it is true, how can a priest, a servant committed to God, do such an atrocious act? Suicide, for us Christians, is a big sin.

Indeed, it is unthinkable that a person will decide to end his or her life. We are naturally predisposed to preserve our safety, security, and survival. We are a specie that naturally avoids pain and embrace pleasure. Hard to believe, but the fact is that suicide is real and has even escalated. And the religious is not exempted to this.

The latest data from the World Health Organization in 1993 showed that an average of 2.5 males and 1.7 females among 100,000 Filipinos committed suicide. We ranked number 90 among all the nations in the world. Not yet a cause for alarm then. But after two decades or so, a recent study in 2011 by the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation indicated that at least 1 Filipino commits suicide everyday. Now this is truly something.


But why would one kill oneself? No single explanation could easily account for this self-destructive behavior. Edwin Shneidman, a clinical psychologist and a leading authority on suicide, described ten characteristics that are commonly associated with completed suicide. His list includes features that occur most frequently and may help us understand many cases of suicide. Here they are.

  1. The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution – Contrary to common belief, suicide is not a pointless or random act. Suicide, for those who think of ending their own lives, offers a way out of some unbearable dilemma or an answer to an otherwise insoluble problem. The thought of suicide is somehow preferable to an emotional distress or disability which the person fears more than death. Attraction to suicide as a potential solution increases when a member of the family or a relative also died through suicide.
  1. The common goal of suicide is cessation of consciousness – Suicide offers oblivion to an otherwise disturbed and distressed consciousness. The endless streams of these kinds of thoughts move the person to seek an end to it by killing himself or herself.
  1. The common stimulus in suicide is intolerable psychological pain – Shame, anger, fear, guilt, sadness, and the like, are excruciating negative emotions that frequently serve as the foundation for self-destructive behavior. These emotions may arise from conflicts, loss, disability, and other sources.
  1. The common stressor in suicide is frustrated psychological needs – People with high standards and expectations are especially vulnerable to ideas of suicide when progress towards these goals is suddenly frustrated. In addition, people who blame themselves of their failures and shortcomings may come to view themselves as worthless and unlovable, increasing the likelihood of suicide.
  1. The common emotion in suicide is hopelessness-helplessness – More than anger and depression, a pervasive sense of hopelessness, expressed in pessimistic expectations about the future, is more predictive of suicidal behavior. The suicidal person is seemingly convinced that absolutely nothing can be done to improve his or her situation. No one else can help.
  1. The common internal attitude in suicide is ambivalence – While most people who contemplate to commit suicide are sincere in their desire to die, they also simultaneously wish that there is another way out to the dilemma. In other words, they have ambivalent feelings about their decisions.
  2. The common cognitive state in suicide is constriction – A suicidal person has a rigid and narrow pattern of thinking that is comparable to tunnel vision. He or she is temporarily unable or unwilling to engage in effective problem-solving behaviors and may see his or her options in extreme, all or nothing terms.
  1. The common action in suicide is escape – According to Baumeister (1990), suicide provides a definitive way to escape from intolerable circumstances which include painful self-awareness.
  1. The common interpersonal act of suicide is communication of intention – Those who commit suicide have most likely told a person or two about their intention to kill themselves. About 80 percent of those who completed suicide have provided verbal or behavioral cues that indicate clearly their lethal intentions. So, let us seriously take all of these signals.
  1. The common consistency in suicide is with life-long coping patterns – During crisis that trigger suicidal thoughts, people generally employ the same response patterns that they have used throughout their lives. For instance, people who have refused to ask help in the past with their problems are likely to persist in that pattern increasing their sense of isolation.

Becoming familiar with these features may give us the opportunity to detect early signs of suicidal ideation and behavior. And with these we may save another precious life. Email me at or visit (By Kit Nemenzo Balane)


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