Image is from HuffPost
A Strange Phenomenon
Strangely, suicide seems to be more prevalent in first-world countries, or countries who deal with more temperate and sustainable living conditions. Consider this map. On it you can see the distribution of suicides per population across the world. What you’ll notice is that many developed nations in the “First” or “Second” world have greater rates of suicide than nations in the “Third” world. Certainly the distribution isn’t even. Some first world countries have very few suicides, some third world countries (North Korea comes to mind) have worse rates of suicide. China, India, and Russia seem to be the three countries that have the greatest problem with this issue. Europe and the United States follow quickly thereafter. But in Africa, there is hardly any suicide. The southernmost tip is colored white, indicating the lowest rate.
That seems strange, doesn’t it? In a nation ripped apart by constant tribal contest, shifting regimes, and apartheid, suicide is at its lowest. The sun is always hot, lions, hyenas, and snakes abound, conflict is continuous, HIV rampantly plagues the country–and yet it has the lowest rate of suicide. What in the world is going on?
Understanding The Disparity
There’s a parable about a young girl who rescued a squirrel and peeled the nuts it liked so it didn’t have to exert itself. The squirrel’s teeth grew too long and it couldn’t eat, so it starved to death and died. The moral of the story is that sometimes that which seems like drudgery is that which keeps us alive, and gives us a reason to go on living. If you’re a parent in the middle of a political crisis and fighting off AIDS, you can’t kill yourself because you’ve got a family depending on you providing protection.
Is this the solution to first and second-world suicide? Well, yes and no. See, the other thing you’re more likely to find in third world countries is close community connection. Because of the difficult circumstances which define life in these areas, people are forced to rely on one another. In this way a village is less like a small town in America, and more like a large family that’s centrally located. Everyone has a part to play, and everyone in the community cares about everybody else. There may be infamy, there may be aggrandized rumors, but what is fostered here is identity.
People know who they are, and what makes them worthwhile. They have a stationary mooring point. If you want to break it down, you could distill the concept to caring about your neighbor like you care for yourself. Now who does that in America today? Or Russia, or China, or most of Europe? The developing world seems caught up in catch as catch can, dog-eat-dog thinking, and the indefatigable “look out for number one” argument. All these things serve to do is isolate people from community and encourage selfishness, which naturally leads to depression. Let’s face it: everybody at their core has some dark nature which doesn’t reconcile with personal image. Without a community to be involved in, that inner darkness takes over, and it can be hard to find the will to live.
Meanwhile, when you’re in a community, in a group, with people who care, you’ve got a reason to exist. The best thing you can do to prevent suicide is reach out and include people. Make them part of something. Keep people from isolation if at all possible. Even the hermit must come to town for supplies; so chat him up at your general store. This helps prevent suicide.