What the Corona virus cannot take away

When we reflect on 2020, it seems that as human beings we have lost so much. In the material world, we have lost the third spaces we were used to visiting for leisure and social connection. Some of us have lost our homes due to evictions or foreclosures. We have lost physical contact with familiar faces. Some have lost their very lives through succumbing to the corona virus and other diseases. It is normal to grieve for the things we have lost.

Thank God we are more than human bodies.  We are spirits made to reflect God’s image, housed in souls and resourced with human bodies for our limited time on this planet. Napoleon Hill, author of several books which explored the power of mind over matter such as ‘Success through a Positive Mental Attitude’, identified the fear of ill health as one of the six basic fears. It raises the question of what is it about the mere thought of ill health that generates so much fear and anxiety?

There are those of us for whom ill health has been chronic, it’s all we’ve ever known and so the prospect of yet another sickness fills us with dread. We may wonder – would this be the final straw which breaks our already tenuous connection to the land of the living? Undeniably, sickness is a wake up call to the fact that we are mere mortals whose lives on earth have an expiry date.

For those who are used to good health, the prospect of becoming ill will fill them with a sense of dread as they would regard an unfamiliar and invisible enemy. Having never fought such an enemy, they might no doubt wonder if they would be strong enough to withstand and overcome it.  For the employed and sole breadwinner in a family, it would be an unsettling interruption to working life.  Indeed, even those whose immune systems render them asymptomatic,  would be required by their employers to self-isolate. This gives rise to  another basic fear – the fear of poverty.

When will we return to the new normal? History shows that over time, all societies change. Although it may not be obvious, society is always evolving incrementally. On this occasion, Covid-19 seems like an 8.0 quake on the Richter scale, destined to change our cultural landscape forever. It has jolted us out of our normalcy. What has become evident is that we now live in parallel realities. News platforms and pundits peddle different opinions. It’s difficult to know what to believe.

Ultimately, we can only live in our own physical space and headspace. It might be worthwhile to step aside from these news outlets and back into our personal reality. This is where we have the most control. We are always presented with a choice, but our choice will impact our mental health and the mental health of those around us. This is the perfect opportunity to choose positive mental patterns of thinking:

  • Self-affirmation: instead of berating yourself for being unhealthy or sick, begin to envisage yourself as healthy and strong.
  • Expectation of survival. Instead of perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy that you are bound to catch the virus or even to succumb to it, begin to tell yourself that you will survive it.
  • Project positivity not negativity into the future. Even if you have the corona virus, nurture  a hopeful outcome of yourself recovering and returning home.
  • Avoid engaging in an endless cycle of ‘what if’s’. It’s alright to calmly prepare for  future possibilities, but don’t escalate the negatives.
  • Focus your attention on being proactive not passive. For example, draw up a plan of action for improving your health, and take tiny steps each day in the direction of a worthy goal. The opposite of fear is love. Can we love ourselves enough to look after our bodies now in such a way that they will be better equipped to handle any virus or germ which may threaten them?
  • Decide what we believe, and what words we will allow to accost our ears and invade our souls? Will we spend more time listening to the scaremongers on the news or those who seek to educate us on good health and how to achieve it.

Of more importance than when the lockdowns will end, what regional tier you are living in or  whether or not you test positive for Covid-19, is what type of person will you be on the inside in the midst of all this confusion and uncertainty  on the outside? There’s a secret place in our hearts that no one can access except God (Psalm 91). Prayer is the best vehicle for our fears because confidentiality and safety are assured, and when we truly surrender to that Higher Power, the God of grace, we are sure to find the comfort we desperately need.


Robin Williams: His Legacy of Laughter & Sadness

Who would have thought that behind the funny face and well-timed quips lay a complex interplay of struggles which would lead to his tragic demise. He chose the limelight of the stage in which to enact his improvised personas for the amusement of his audience, but in the end his toughest role was his real life – the third act in the final stage of his life.

At some point we will all go through an adversity for which there seems to be no help on the horizon. Whether professionals, parents or life partners – all lack the resources or insight necessary to help you overcome this gigantic hurdle. Williams’s hurdle was more gigantic than most. No amount of money, fame or privilege was going to rid him of the “terrorists in his mind”, as the Lewy Body Dementia which took over of his brain was so aptly described by his widow, Susan Schneider Williams.

Posthumously, he was diagnosed with the second worse case of dementia – Lewy Body Dementia, but at the time of his death he was labouring under the doctor’s misdiagnosis that he had Parkinson’s disease. Either diagnosis would have sent chills down the spine of any human being; even the most seasoned of comedians would have struggles to joke about such a menacing outcome.

But in the months leading up to his death, his increasing tally of debilitating symptoms, translated to the ultimate death sentence – he just didn’t know how to be funny anymore. Williams, who is best remembered for his outstanding performances in films such as ‘Dead Poets Society’, ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ and ‘Good Will Hunting’ for which he received an Academy Award, in the final months of his life was confronted with a role for which there was no script or rehearsal to prepare him. This was reality, raw and uncut – the loss of the tools of his trade – mental acuity, quick wit and a razor-sharp memory. Also, as a comedian he was also known for his physical humour, and he was losing control of his bodily movements. His comedic style was often described ad manic; this coupled with his recurrent bouts of depression throughout his life, raises the troubling question of whether Robin was also suffering from manic depression.

What seemed to come so easily to Robin, may not have been as easy as it looked. Williams attributes the stress of stand-up comedy as his reason for experimenting with drugs and alcohol. He would struggle with addiction for more than two decades. Robin has been quoted as saying, “Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes. Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.”

It is often thought that comedians are the happiest people in the world. After all, how can those who bring laughter to others not be full of happiness themselves?  But is their choice of occupation in fact a coping mechanism? He may well have endured a childhood of emotional neglect. This would explain why he was drawn to comedy – an attempt to dispel the loneliness of his childhood. He created characters and conversations in his head to cope with the loneliness of being an only child. His parents were wealthy so Robin lived in a big house, and was often looked after by a nanny because both parents worked. He was also bullied in school when he was in the sixth grade.

We were so busy laughing, we were so awestruck by the genius of this comedian with his inimitable talent that we didn’t notice the sadness and his subtle cries for help. But we are not laughing now. We are still reeling from the shock of his sudden departure and wishing he was still here.


Self-inquiry: a key to self-liberation

Imaginary Interview with David Webb, suicide Attempter and Suicidologist

In 2002, David Webb addressed the Suicide Prevention Australia Conference in Sydney. Dr Carla devised an interview format as the best way of presenting the insights he shared.

Dr C: Describe some of the feelings you experienced when you were suicidal.

DW: I used to sometimes feel invisible. Despite the joys and wonders of this extraordinary gift of life, I was thinking that it’s not worth it. The psychache is unbearable. It was not a case of having a problem because as far as I was concerned, my problem was my life. This struggle lasted for four years.

Dr C: where do you think the medical profession might be getting it wrong in the treatment of the suicidal?

DW: they want to give you a pill to fix your broken brain. By viewing it as an illness of depression, it pathologises our most human qualities so that we suppress symptoms without addressing the causes. Also, the scholars want to put you into categories of suicide contemplators, attempters and completers when in fact the boundaries between these categories, from my experience, were not that significant.

Dr C: Having survived a suicide attempt, what is life like for you now?

DW: I struggled with knowing what to call myself because a’suicide survivor’ in the strict sense refers to someone bereaved by suicide. There was no way of reaching out to my fellow survivors without a name for us.

Dr C: you have said that suicide is studied from all these various perspectives – biological, psychiatric, psychological, sociological. What perspective do you bring to it as a suicidologist?

DW: I see it as a crisis of the self – the self killing the self. Psychology provides no unified agreement on what constitutes the self. It is assumed that the mind is the essence of our being. Descartes famously stated “I think therefore I am”.

Dr C: what were some of the spiritual insights you gained which helped in your recovery?

DW: I realised that my hopeless ness arose from an absence of meaningfulness. I felt my life was without any meaning and purpose, and there was no hope of it ever being otherwise. I thought, why put up with this pain, when there is absolutely no point? It was a combination of hopeless ness and helplessness. Spiritual self-inquiry is what saved my life. I asked myself the question – “who am I?”. I came to recognise that Descartes dictum was flawed and that in fact it is the opposite, “I am therefore I think”. I am a human being first not a human doing or thinking.

Dr C: What is the way forward in the study of suicide?

DW: the self and self-inquiry need to have a seat at the table of suicidology alongside these other fields of study which rely on the scientific method. You can never know another person’s pain and no scientific instrument can measure the severity of my pain against yours. It is not physical, objective or even rational. Spiritual wisdom, spiritual ways of knowing and spiritual practices need to be included in the conversation.

Dr C: what are some final thoughts you would like to share for all those who may be struggling with suicide as you struggled?

DW: Healing and recovery begins with telling your story. This helps to overcome the shame, stigma, denial, self-doubt and fear which combine to create a very real and powerful taboo against talking of our suicidality. Stories of survival and recovery will also help you to feel less lonely and spark a light of hope at the end of the tunnel of hopelessness. But to tell our stories we need a safe place where we can speak up and truly be heard. This space needs to allow all of that person to be present without fear of negative judgements.

*Psychache is defined by Edwin S. Scheidman as psychological pain arising from frustrated or thwarted psychological needs [The Suicidal Mind (Oxford University Press, 1996)]


Caroline Flack – The Fear Factor

Caroline Flack’s suicide has sent shockwaves around the internet. It confirms that we should never allow our externals to define us. By all appearances, Caroline had everything to live for – fame, beauty, love, friends. Yet, it clearly was not enough. Perhaps she allowed her troubles to overshadow all these positives, and she reached the point where she felt she had no choice but to kill herself.

Caroline was entertainment magic. From the co-host of CBBC, co-host of X-factor, winner of ‘Strictly Come Dancing 2014’, performer in West End musical, ‘Chicago’ and host of reality hit show ‘Love Island’, her obvious charisma and infectious laughter lit up a room and won her legions of fans.

Yet, the manner of her death begs the question – on what paradigm did she base her life? Did she compare it to a merry-go-round with constant amusement, or did she see herself as a ‘clown’ in a comedic production? Speculative as it is,  a clown has a limited shelf life when accusations of physical abuser begin to surface. Suddenly, the laughter stops and the work becomes unsustainable. She stepped down as the host of ‘Love Island’ and was not fired,  suggesting that the mounting pressure of the bad press and negative social media commentary had become too much.

Despite the fact that her boyfriend, with whom she continued to be in a relationship, wished to withdraw the charges, the Crown Prosecution Service  decided to forge ahead with the criminal trial. She had pleaded not guilty to the charges of assaulting her boyfriend.

Like all entertainers, she wanted her audience to feel good not badly. The one who brought the sunshine was suddenly shrouded in shame. No doubt, that was what she thought.

This unfortunate aspect of Caroline’s life put her under the glare of the media spotlight. She magnified the looming court case in her mind to such an extent that it became a monster which threatened to destroy everything she had worked so hard for all her life.

The truth is that even if Caroline had been convicted, she would have risen from the ashes to fight and win another day. This one incident did not have the power to define her life, unless she permitted it to. There was so much more to Caroline that one moment of weakness or misjudgement. Unfortunately, she was so busy grappling with the monster whose primary weapon of torture was fear, that she could not see this truth.

But will she be remembered for all her many acts of public performance which brought the feel-good factor or  for her final act of surrender which has left us feeling so sad? That final act was never in the script. Even Caroline could not have envisaged that her life would end so tragically.

The clue of what may have driven her over the edge is the date of her suicide. Valentine’s Day holds a lot of expectations for a lot of people. They either feel blessed by ‘Cupid’ or terribly let down. It was the day after Valentine’s Day. Unable to communicate with her partner and sweetheart due to the court’s restraining order, and missing him intensely, she sunk to the depths of despair.

Perhaps the findings of her inquest, and in time, the revelations from those who knew her and communicated with her in her final weeks and days on this earth, will help to shed light on what drove her to this fatal decision. Until then, as survivors, we would all benefit from bearing in mind that there is always a way through the seeming quagmire of the challenges we face in life. We just need to hold on for one more day.

Caroline Flack image 2


Film Review of ‘Crooked House’

This is a film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel of the same title. This book has a lot to teach us about the dysfunctional family dynamics which could potentially lead to suicide. On the face of it, it is yet another of Christie’s ingenious murder mysteries. This time the detective on the case is not Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple but Charles Haywood.

Main characters

The deceased’s granddaughter, Sophia, sought his help on the suspicion that her grandfather had been murdered and that “the killer might still be in the house”.

The deceased’s sister in law is Edith, a formidable character whose introduction involves using an armed weapon to kill moles which are ruining her beloved garden.

Sophia’s younger sister, and the other granddaughter is Josephine – a precocious, opinionated and ever-present observer and recorder of the comings and goings in the house. She has been largely ignored by her parents, and left to her own devices. We suspect she knows a lot more than she is letting on to the detective.

Sophia’s father, Phillip, is reluctant to ask questions. He gives the detective a prickly reception, and shows a distinct lack of grief for his father’s death.

Both sons, Phillip and Roger, cast aspersions on the deceased’s second wife, Brenda. Not only does she behave like the quintessentially dumb younger wife, but she is 37 years old which means she is younger than the deceased’s children

Plot twists

some out of the ordinary things happen. It turns out the last will and testament was not signed even though witnesses attest to having witnessed the signing themselves, witnesses who would have no vested interest in lying.

suddenly the plot intensifies when someone attempts to kill Josephine. Somewhat prematurely, the widow, Brenda, and her lover, Mr Lawrence are apprehended into custody after a letter which appears to have been written by her , is found in which she mentions her wish that her husband should die.

Lady Edith receives a prognosis that she only has two to three months to live.

Josephine is released from hospital and shortly thereafter her nanny is found murdered by poison in a hot chocolate that had been made for Josephine. Charles questions Josephine intensely, and she lets slip that Brenda and Mr Lawrence were not in fact responsible for her grandfather’s murder. this questioning is witnessed by Edith who takes Josephine out of the house on the pretext of taking her for an ice cream in town. This is against the police instructions that no-one should leave the premises.

Charles and Sophie follow in hot pursuit as Edith drives at a frenzied pace away from the house but not in the direction of the town as remarked by Josephine herself. She drives determinedly into the quarry, and the car explodes much to the horror of Charles, Sophia and the viewers.

Mystery solved

This murder-suicide may have been undertaken with the best of intentions but was a sickening illustration of how those who no longer value their own lives, are more likely to think little of taking another’s. When Edith discovered Josephine’s journal, it became clear that Josephine had in fact been the murderer – her grandfather and nanny.

Edit felt she had nothing to lose, and that Josephine had to be stopped before she continued her killing spree. She also could not countenance the scandal that would descend on the family and the terrible life of reform that awaited Josephine, were the truth to be revealed. she therefore took the law into her own hands.


Had Edith taken another path, she may have been able to support Josephine and the family through the dark days of the scandal that would ensue. By pre-empting justice, Josephine quite literally got away with murder. She was only a child but quite clearly precocious enough to know exactly what she was doing.

Paul Kalanithi, the neurosurgeon who died after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, braved his final days with courage because he had a vision of the legacy he wanted to leave for his loved ones, and the world. His example is in stark contrast to Edith’s.

Josephine was the product of neglect. She was so desperate for attention that she was willing to stop at nothing to assume a position of power over those members of the family who made her feel powerless and insignificant. Murder was her ultimate weapon of choice. Morality can only be taught in the context of love and acceptance.

Human Value

A prevailing message in this world is that human beings are expendable. Yet the fact remains that each human being is of value to someone else, and most fundamentally to God. Because the world has become a global village we are overwhelmed by the vastness of the world, yet the world has become accessible with ease of international travel. Our interests in our families and local community have been sidelined or de-prioritised by  an interest in world news and international affairs. As our interest in the world has grown in proportion to our interest in global domination, marketing and popularity, the individual has grown smaller and may consequently feel less significant.

Human life is of inestimable value regardless of age, gender, religion ethnicity nor any other means by which human beings categorise and rate one another

Sanctity Of Human Life

The Bible affirms that we are made in the image of God,  that not one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing about it and we are worth more than many sparrows; that even the hairs on our head are all numbered; that before we were formed in our mother’s womb God knew us; that all the days of our lives were written in his book before one of them came to be. It’s awesome that the God of the universe views each of his creatures as worthy of his love and care. The fallacy of deism, the view espoused by many in the nineteenth century that God spun the world into existence and then left us to fend for ourselves. Because of the disparity between society’s messages and God’s reality, we can struggle to rid our minds of society’s untruths. It is more difficult to actualise  or relate to a reality we cannot see than to one we are exposed to on a daily basis. God questions  how can you claim to love God whom you cannot see yet do not love your fellow man made in God’s image whom you do see? Please don’t just dismiss this truth. Allow it to permeate into the deep recesses of your soul where you have been harbouring untruths about yourself – that you are unimportant, your life is of little value, you are beyond restoration. On the contrary, you are significant, your life is of immeasurable value far beyond  what you can see and understand at this moment in time, and you can regain a sense of hope and purpose.

Suicide When Your Body Betrays You

The world is a better place because Professor Stephen Hawkings did not kill himself. Diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, and given a life expectancy of two years, no one would have failed to sympathise with his dilemma. But he defied all expectations and lived for a further 55 years with this vicious and debilitating disease. He passed away on 14 March 2018.

What did he do with this time? Rather than sit and sulk, and count down the days until his demise, he shared how his diagnosis inspired him to get serious with his post-graduate scientific research. In 1988 he published ‘a Brief History of Time’ which was a best-seller. He bought cosmology and quantum physics to the masses, who showed their appreciation through book sales reaching several millions. In 2014, the film ‘The Theory of Everything’, based on the memoirs of his first wife, Jane Wilde, was released, starring Eddie Redmayne who won an Oscar for his lead performance.

Beyond all his academic and literary achievements, his family with a wife and three children who survive him, it could be said that his ‘will to live’ was his biggest achievement and legacy to the world. He is quoted as saying, “Although I cannot move and have to speak through a computer, in my mind I’m free.”

Every day the death culture in which we live seems to dish up another account of tragically life-sapping proportions. I was saddened by the news that a perfectly healthy 89-year old British woman had her application for physician-assisted suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland accepted for the simple reason that she no longer felt she fit in to this modern, digital age. Yet another healthy 85-year old from Italy despaired of ageing and losing her looks, and so saw fit to end her life in the same way. These cases illustrate that people can be vulnerable for all kinds of reasons – skewed thinking, social alienation – but what it boils down to in all cases may be a failure to value the most precious gift we humans have – life. It is truly an anomaly that so many seem to lose it prematurely, struggle to hold on to it in the face of certain death whilst others toss it away so casually.

It is common knowledge that human beings have biological needs for food, water, and clothing as well as emotional needs to feel loved and valued; but what is usually overlooked is the spiritual need for hope. Human beings need hope as a plant needs water if they are to feel life is worth living. This factor is especially necessary during the challenging times of life, and will determine that we endure until the happy times come again. Happiness is not a prolonged continuum but comes in fits and starts when you least expect it. You might derive happiness from a succulent taste on your tongue, a sweet scent or a pleasant memory. It may come unexpectedly and pass just as quickly.

Our life’s purpose is not to be invented but discovered because we were conceived in the mind of our Creator – an act suffused with purpose. Discovering that purpose is not always straightforward, but it is safe to assume it already exists. The Bible is a life-affirming book which makes it clear from the onset that God regards each life as valuable and that value derives from God-given purpose. We are told that “all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). It is not for us – God’s creation, to regard the life which He created (including ourselves) in a casual and indifferent way. The psalmist writes “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

We can so easily fall into the trap of thinking that our life’s value is dependent on what we do, and what people think of us. For example, rich lists correlate peoples’ worth with their earnings. This attitude of being ‘self-made’ contradicts the inescapable truth that we do not will ourselves into existence. Something totally outside our limited understanding decided we should be conceived into existence a miracle indeed considering the overwhelming odds against conception. We are all walking miracles! It stands to reason therefore that since we did not determine the act or timing of our conception or birth, then why should wepresume to determine the type or timing of our own death. The journey of this earthly life is never easy and requires trusting the Creator from start to finish.

Yet, self-determination has become the order of the day. We are endlessly writing lists, planning our future and charting our own course. We cannot choose our own purpose, although many do try to chart their own course. The result is we can become prone to distress and disillusionment when things do not turn out the way we had planned. We can end up looking for meaning in many activities, achievements and relationships which were never meant to satisfy the deep longings of the human soul. If these things can make us happy, then it stands to reason that they also have the capacity to make us sad.

Many would agree that human life needs to be cherished from conception to its natural end. The Greek philosopher, Socrates, argued that human beings belonged to God, and therefore suicide was the destruction of God’s property. In his seminal work entitled The City of God, St. Augustine of Hippo made the logical case that the commandment “to love your neighbour as yourself” puts the “self” on par with the “neighbour”; consequently, whatever you wouldn’t do to your neighbour such as killing, you should also refrain from doing to yourself.

Today, the subject of suicide is no longer taboo. Prior to the revocation of section 1 of the Suicide Act 1967, suicide was against the law. Now the subject of suicide and assisted suicide hardly seems to raise an eyebrow. There have been many attempts to legalise assisted suicide in recent years in the UK. Although these attempts have failed so far, in the next parliamentary session a bill is likely to be introduced once again in the House of Lords. The view is now commonly held that those who kill themselves must be suffering from a mental or physical illness which so impairs their quality of life that life becomes unbearable. If suicide is made legal only in the case of terminal illness, this will surely be a slippery slope to allowing it on other grounds in the future.

Without knowing it, we have placed people in categories where some peoples’ lives are deemed more worthwhile than others. For example, those who are weak or disabled and who cannot contribute to society in the normal way, are regarded as a drain on society. Should such people decide to end their lives, this may not be deemed a great loss to society although the family and loved ones left behind will greatly mourn their absence. We easily forget the intangible qualities which people bring to their families and friendships. These cannot be adequately assessed in purely financial terms. Those who are contemplating suicide because they think their family and friends will be better off without them need to hear the survivors’ stories. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they are left with a never-ending trail of regret, sorrow and wounds which never heal. So much for the theory that our life is our own and has no impact on others! Society benefits from having to care for the weak, disabled and dependent because by so doing, we develop compassion and patience, and are reminded that we are inter-dependent beings meant to find our deepest satisfaction in communion with God and one another.

As we have seen with abortion and the delivery of poor elderly care, the erosion of the right to life always starts with the most vulnerable in society. Any barrier which is erected to stop such erosion must start with the foundation of the sanctity of human life without which human viability becomes subjected to the vagaries of human opinion. Such a society must be avoided at all costs.

Lessons From Bridgend

It is troubling when anyone commits suicide but even moreso the young who seem to have their whole lives ahead of them. The death of youth spells the death of promise and possibility. It seems cruelly ironic that whereas given the opportunity so many would like to have a another chance to relive their lives, there are those for whom life has barely begun yet who are willing to throw it all away. From January 2007 until February 2012, there have been seventy-nine suicides in Bridgend in North Wales, the victims ranging from 13-41. The town has quickly earned the reputation as a suicide hotspot. In journalists’ attempts to grab attention, they may be giving the wrong impression to any impressionable residents that the town is somehow cursed, and that for troubled youth who live there, they have no option but to take this fatal step.

We need a revival of community spirit whereby people look out for each other and become each other’s keepers. Secrets and lies always precede tragedy. When the communication lines between family members, neighbours and best friends become closed, issues become buried and not resolved.Individualism is the philosophy which is ruling the masses. We feel no sense of loyalty or accountability to God and significant others. That explains why a young girl could choose to die in a public park without the knowledge of her parents to be a discovered by a total stranger. 

Rather than viewing it as a medical problem, Durkheim (1897) saw suicide as caused by the failure of people to become adjusted to or integrated into society and to absorb its values and norms. As a result, he maintained, people with strong group ties are less likely to commit suicide. They are more sensitive to the standards and expectations of the group, including opposition to group dissolution and suicide, and more susceptible to the enforcement of those standards. It follows that an important deterrent to suicide by distressed or depressed people is involvement and identification with others. [Death, Dying and Bereavement]

Suicide solves nothing, it causes a domino effect of misery and grief. It’s painful enough for the family to have to deal with a sudden death, but to add to that the knowledge that their love, presence or companionship was not enough to forestall self-destruction, usually gives way to deep-seated feelings of guilt.

They will be left with a legacy of guilt, shame and ultimate rejection. It may well be that Dale Crole, who was the first of the seventeen suicide victims, unknowingly modelled a way of coping with problems that captured the imagination of a community of impressionable youngsters.

Modern living with its electronic and digital conveniences, excessive advertising and focus on affluent lifestyles of the rich and famous, has conditioned many to believe that a life with suffering is not worth living. We are not taught that suffering is a part of the human condition. Of course, there is a certain kind of suffering that is needless, but we cannot afford to fail our children and future generations by leading them to believe that life was meant to be easy. The flip side is that there is a sweet satisfaction that comes from struggling towards a worthy and self-determined goal. 

How Technology Fosters Social Alienation

One of the most helpless situations would be to see someone kill himself or herself right in front of you without being able to intervene. This was exactly what happened when a 19 year-old Nebraska man shot himself whilst in an online chat room. This type of virtual communication, which has become the order of the day in our popular culture, may very well be what leads to these extreme acts of self-annihilation.

There’s a lot to be said for direct multi-sensory human contact. With it comes a person’s smell, touch, every expression and gesture in plain focus with the power to move to tears, inspire or repel. Sadly, we have become too addicted to screens in our modern age. As such we prefer to do relationships from behind the safety of a screen. I too have become enmeshed in this new normal by calling my husband from upstairs to ask him a question rather than make the effort to go downstairs and talk face- to- face.

We are missing out on the human sense of being heard. We are being reduced to voices and messages which can be played over and over again rather than mortal, finite beings who have a limited amount of time and energy to give. This what makes us precious – we will not be here forever and time is a limited commodity. Now thanks to the media, people can be uploaded and downloaded at will. We can live forever in cyberspace.

We fail to realise that the living, breathing human being who responds and interacts can never be cloned or reproduced. If we really value one another, we need to sacrifice our time and money to reach out to one another. You will never truly feel loved if no-one sacrifices for you. Individualism is the philosophy which is ruling the masses. We feel no sense of loyalty or accountability to God and significant others.

This nineteen year old may have been crying out for help but it is obvious that his communication with the other chat room users was not motivated by love. Love never seeks to leave such a brutal legacy. It seems more like an act of hatred or vengeance. If we truly love, we will want to stick around to be of service and to encourage the world-weary. Fellow-travellers on life’s difficult road.

We need a revival of community spirit whereby people look out for each other and become each other’s keeper. Secrets and lies always precede tragedy. When the communication lines between family members, neighbours and best friends become closed, issues become buried and not resolved.

Rather than viewing it as a medical problem, Durkheim (1897) saw suicide as caused by the failure of people to become adjusted to or integrated into society and to absorb its values and norms. As a result, he maintained, people with strong group ties are less likely to commit suicide. They are more sensitive to the standards and expectations of the group, including opposition to group dissolution and suicide, and more susceptible to the enforcement of those standards. It follows that an important deterrent to suicide by distressed or depressed people is involvement and identification with others. [Death, Dying and Bereavement]