More people die from suicide than from homicide in the United States. Males are at least four times more likely to die from suicide as are females. However, females have 2-3 times more attempts than males do. And females are much more prone to seek medical and/or psychiatric treatment than males.
Suicides are more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family, and/or individual crisis. Suicides also have a much greater frequency during holidays, when friends and family get together; those uninvited to such gatherings often feel despised and/or abandoned.
Now, the major cause of suicide is primarily due to the fact that the human is instinctively a pack/herd animal. And most suicides depend on herd/pack instinctive mechanisms. For instance, most suicides arise out a feeling or fear of being abandoned by the herd/pack, and/or fear of an attack resulting from herd/pack outrage, and/or fear of loosing ones place in the pecking order (social status), and/or the feelings of self-loathing and/or disgust resulting from the treatment (or fear of such treatment) coming from the pack/herd concerning a particular experience one has. In fact, under certain conditions, a person will literally self-destruct as the result of a particular experience.
For instance, it once happened that a New Zealand chief of high rank and great sanctity had left the remains of his dinner by the wayside. A slave, a stout, hungry fellow, coming up after the chief had gone, saw the unfinished dinner, and ate it up without asking questions. Hardly had he finished when he was informed by a horror-stricken spectator that the food of which he had eaten was the chief’s. “I knew the unfortunate delinquent well. He was remarkable for courage, and had signalised himself in the wars of the tribe,” but “no sooner did he hear the fatal news than he was seized by the most extraordinary convulsions and cramp in the stomach, which never ceased till he died, about sundown the same day. He was a strong man, in the prime of life, and if any pakeha [European] freethinker should have said he was not killed by the tapu [or tabu] of the chief, which had been communicated to the food by contact, he would have been listened to with feelings of contempt for his ignorance and inability to understand plain and direct evidence.” This is not a solitary case. A Maori woman having eaten of some fruit, and being afterwards told that the fruit had been taken from a tabooed place, exclaimed that the spirit of the chief, whose sanctity had been thus profaned, would kill her. This was in the afternoon, and next day by twelve o’clock she was dead. A Maori chief’s tinder-box was once the means of killing several persons; for, having been lost by him, and found by some men who used it to light their pipes, they died of fright on learning to whom it had belonged. So, too, the garments of a high New Zealand chief will kill any one else who wears them. A chief was observed by a missionary to throw down a precipice a blanket which he found too heavy to carry. Being asked by the missionary why he did not leave it on a tree for the use of a future traveler, the chief replied that “it was the fear of its being taken by another which caused him to throw it where he did, for if it were worn, his tapu” (that is, his spiritual power communicated by contact to the blanket and through the blanket to the man) “would kill the person.” For a similar reason a Maori chief would not blow a fire with his mouth; for his sacred breath would communicate its sanctity to the fire, which would pass it on to the pot on the fire, which would pass it on to the meat in the pot, which would pass it on to the man who ate the meat, which was in the pot, which stood on the fire, which was breathed on by the chief; so that the eater, infected by the chief’s breath conveyed through these intermediaries, would surely die. – From The Golden Bough /by Sir James Frazer
In regard to our above example we must ask, “What mental mechanisms within the human would cause him (or her) to self-destruct? And what type of indoctrination and/or treatment would be required in order to modify/or develop a mechanism/tendency capable of such function? And how can the human be made to overlook the obvious and falsely rationalize the effect of an experience?”
Three facts stand out in our example. 1. The spectator who observes the experience is stricken with horror. 2. The person who has the experience–once he (or she) had been advised the object was previously touched by the chief–falls into such an absolute state of depression and despair that death follows as a result. 3. The Maori would experience feelings of contempt toward anyone who stated that it was not the actual experience of touching the object previously touched by the chief that caused the death, but the irrational belief in such happening.
We know that the reaction of an individual to an experience has a lot to do with how others within the herd/pack (peers) react. Now this next example is directly related to our first example. For instance, you eat some food in a restaurant and the cook charges in from the kitchen and says it was discovered that a box of rat poison had fallen into the food. However, the cook was mistaken, not realizing your food had been served before the box of poison had fallen into the pot. Nevertheless, the emotion displayed by the cook and spectators, combined with the horrifying “news,” could cause you to suffer so much anguish and despair that you might stand a chance of having a heart attack. At that point, it could be stated that you died of an illusion. Yet, the death would have occurred as a result of the firm conviction that rat poison is poisonous to humans and the assumption such had been ingested. Still, the Maori perception that a touch of the Chief will “surely” cause death seems to be a stronger conviction than the belief that rat poison will “surely” cause death. Thus understanding is important as to how and why conviction can be establish without the necessary proof to support the conviction (bearing in mind the reaction of others isn’t proof).
Here is another example of the individual’s reaction to an experience based on instinctive acquisition of emotions expressed by the pack/herd (peers): Say you saw a youngster running along and some bigger boys ran up and grabbed him. They slammed the boy into the ground, knocking the breath out of him, and busted his lip in the process. All the while spectators gasped in horror. Do you think this experience would be traumatic for the youngster? OK, now, what if a coach slapped the boy on the back and said, “good job son,” and a bunch of cheerleaders were jumping up down, screaming words of encouragement, and the spectators were clapping and hollering, “Way to go kid!” How do you think that experience would effect the cognitive processes of the youngster? Now be careful not to overlook the obvious and falsely rationalize the effect of the experience? The obvious was the reaction of the group/pack (peers) and the instinctive acquisition of the emotions they expressed. (Cheerleaders and crowds do have a causal effect on the attitude and functionality of a team.)
The behavioral school of psychology says the positive reinforcement during and immediately following an experience results in the individual seeking to repeat the experience. The cognitive school of psychology says the rationalizations of the individual to an experience determine whether the individual repeat the experience on not.
Cognitive models have two obvious problems. 1. The behavioral model hold true even when the individual does not have the language necessary to “rationalize.” 2. The findings of “split brain” experiments suggest that one side of the brain will “rationalize” behaviors originating from the other side, but which it is wholly ignorant of. In other words, apparently the cognitive rationalizing is done after the fact and has more to do with rationalizing a tendency that has already been acquired than it does with actually establishing a tendency.
In my last example of an individual reacting to an event according to the way others react is as follows: Suppose a man an his wife were driving along in their car with their young son and daughter in the back seat. A tractor-trailer driver runs a traffic signal and crosses in front of the man. The man cannot stop in time and his car rams under the trailer, shearing off the top of the car, and decapitating both parents in the process. One head lands in each child’s lap. And the child witnesses the twitches of life fade from the face of the parent.
Now note that chimpanzees have been known to grieve themselves to death at the loss of a loved one. And witnessing the gruesome death of another chimp has traumatic psychological consequences on others. In fact, it can be stated that in its initial stage, the psychological effect of an experience on a chimp is equivalent to the psychological effect the experience will have on a human, and vice versa. And any difference we see is the difference in how each had previously been conditioned to respond, and/or the difference in the way the pack/group (peers) respond to the experience. However, we humans have greater awareness than the chimp. We are aware that the way we react will affect the child’s feeling in regard to the experience. So we control our emotional reactions because the child will instinctive start feeling what we are expressing.
If the child had a religious background we could react by telling the child that mommy and daddy are now in Heaven with God. We give the child sympathy. But not so much so that the child withdraws into a shell of self-pity. I guess you could say we give the child “tough” sympathy in the sense of “tough” love. We give the child encouragement. We try to build the child’s sense of compassion for himself (or herself) and others. (Note I said compassion and not self-esteem, because too much self-esteem can result in overvaluing oneself in comparison to others, and that could be bad.) We don’t start ranting and raving within the child’s hearing about what a terrible thing happened to the child. We don’t start telling others within the child’s hearing that the child’s life is ruined. We don’t start ranting on and on within the child’s hearing about how death would be too good for the truck driver. Why? Well, for one it very possibly could cause the individual to develop such a state of depression that suicide would be inevitable. And secondly, we would be severely traumatizing the child. Sure we can pretend the truck driver caused the trauma; but in truth it would be our reaction to the event and our attitude that would determine whether the child is able to adjust or not; and it would determine the attitude and opinions of the child in regard to the event. Thirdly, the child could develop so much animosity for the truck driver (from the animosity we display) that he (or she) may grow up to be a serial killer of truck drivers.
What have we learned?
1. Should you happen to attempt suicide–or should you happen to contemplate the sensation of the quick flick of the cold steel across your wrist–it is pretty good indication that you have the mentality of a stupid herd animal. (But beware, the stupid herd will blame you or some scapegoat (such as the truck driver in our example) instead of accepting responsibility for their detrimental causal influence, should you happen to go for it.)
2. Your feelings about an experience are not based on something inherent to the experience, but instead on how you have been trained to respond and/or how others responded or respond to the experience.
3. Humans have previously been trained to such a degree so as to pretty much fall dead when a particular event was experienced. That capacity is still within each of us.
4. Humans have previously falsely rationalized the cause-effect relationship of an experience. That capacity is still within each of us. (Bear in mind, in its initial stage, the psychological effect of an experience on a chimp is equivalent to the psychological effect the experience will have on a human, and vice versa. But in the second stage, human language and peer-reaction may enhance or diminish the effect of an experience on the mind.)