0154E: Contemplating Suicide

One of the bigger news items as of late involves the apparent suicide of a UP student over her inability to pay her tuition. Current school policy had her file a formal Leave of Absence for the semester given her inability to meet her financial obligations. Let's not bring up her name anymore, shall we?

Like any other major issue, the social media web is afire with various opinions and comments and the usual wave of secondary comments targeting the initial commenters and so on and so forth. This will go on for a while.

Suicide is a complex issue and it's far too easy to voice an opinion that is taken to be offensive when phrases or lines are taken out of context. Or there's just the challenge of social media commentary in general when a complex opinion is reduced to a 140 character statement. I still hold that everyone is entitled to their opinion - it's the free nature of the internet after all. And I don't think one necessarily has to have contemplated suicide in order to understand it - otherwise the entire mental health industry will have no right to do what they do for so much money.

To blame a suicide on any single reason of course is potentially irresponsible. Suicide is one of those situations that is systemic in nature - there are multiple factors that contribute to the problem and all of them work together to create the unite pressure cooker of emotions that lead to the tragic end. So yes, her financial situation and her needing to stop her education were definitely major factors. One can also consider her thinking that her job prospects would be severely limited without a college degree or just the negative experience of being "strongly recommended" to file a Leave of Absence after all of her hard work.

Are there improvements that need to be made in our public education system as well? Of course, that goes without saying. but they too are just making the most of a bad situation. Limited government funding of public schools like the University of the Philippines have led them to make some pretty harsh decisions about how to remain afloat. Yes, the STFAP system needs some serious retooling to make it more effective and less, well, government-like in nature. And maybe the LOA policy wasn't the best idea.

On a personal level, I feel that how we can best contribute to the betterment of society with respect to suicide is simply being better friends - better neighbors. We live in such a fast-paced life that we lose sight of everyone else and think mainly of our own problems. We often feel too ashamed to bother people with our problems and so we carry the load on our own, much to our detriment. One of the hardest lessons that we need to re-learn in our adulthood is how to ask for help - something that we seem to spend most of our childhood trying to grow past.

But the signs are there to be seen - if we all pay more attention. When we see friends in need, do we bother to ask how they are and offer our help as often as we probably should? Do we bother to care about our friends, colleagues and classmates as more than just casual acquaintances? Do we overly rely on social media updates to determine how others are doing instead of reaching out more directly via phone call, email or even a chat message?

So enough with the armchair opinions and acting like pseudo-experts from the comfort of our homes. Let's focus on solutions and not just constantly poke a dead horse. Let's think about what we CAN do as opposed to what we think should have happened.

Reach out to a friend. Care about someone else. Spread more love in the world. And even the little effort of being there for someone else when he or she is in need may just save someone's life.