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Why we choose suicide | Mark Henick | TEDxToronto


Translator: Robert Deliman
Reviewer: Denise RQ I was barely a teenager
the first time I tried to kill myself. If I knew then what I know now, well, it probably wouldn’t
have changed very much. And it probably
wouldn’t have changed very much because sometimes
it doesn’t matter what you know, what you feel just takes over. And there’s so many ways like this,
that our perception becomes limited. In fact, our perception is its limits. And these limits are created
by our biology, by our psychology, by our society. These are the factors which create
that bubble which surrounds us that is our perceptual field,
our world as we know it. Now, this bubble, our perceptual field, has this incredible ability
to expand and to contract based on changes in any of those factors
which create and inform it. Most of us have experienced the challenges of the contraction
of our perception from time to time. Think about that time
when you got cut off in traffic. In the city, it was
probably today, let’s face it. When it happened, maybe you felt your heart rate
start to quicken, your face flush. You jammed on your brakes
in order to avoid a collision. And when you did, you focused in
on that one license plate as it sped by. Maybe the only thing to go
through your mind at that time was how creative you could be in the words you were about to hurl
out the window at that guy. Eventually, your perception
would have returned to normal. You would have relaxed,
you would have gone on with your day. You probably would have
even forgotten about it. But imagine you didn’t. Imagine you stayed there, stuck there,
in that narrow, dark place. Well, that’s what it can be like
to live with a mental illness. At least, that’s what it was like for me, at the depth of my own
mental illness as a teenager. My perception had become constricted,
and darkened, and collapsed. I felt like an asthmatic who had
lost his glasses in a hurricane. So, when I was sitting in that chair, across from my eighth-grade
guidance counselor, the only thing that I could think
was, “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not smart enough.” “You’re not enough.” And it didn’t matter if I was because these were
the constricted limits of my perception. So, when I held that eight-inch
chef’s knife in my hand, and I raised it to my throat, and I pressed it there and I felt
the blood begin to trickle down my hand, the only thing I could think
in that moment, “Nobody would even know you’ were gone.” I heard the guidance counselor
ask from across the room, miles away, it seemed like,
he said, “Mark! Please don’t.” I heard him, but I wasn’t listening. I just took a deep breath. “I don’t have a choice.” Had the guidance counselor
not reached for me from across the room, tackled me to the floor,
wrestled that knife from my hand, maybe I wouldn’t be here today. I think about that a lot. Now, not all days were that traumatic. In fact, most days I probably
seemed just like any other normal kid, if not a little quiet. And because the truth is, I was. In fact I was so normal, most people
would have never guessed. They probably would have even been
surprised to find out how I would hate the way the sunlight came
into my window every morning when I would wake up. And I know that some of you
know that feeling, too. I was so normal that a few years later, after not getting the help
that I so clearly needed, most people would have never known
that I was the one that had caused so much
commotion late one night when I tried to jump from an overpass. Then again, if they did know, I would
have been the last to find out anyway because that’s how
these types of things go. People seem plenty eager to talk
about mental illness and about suicide just as long as it’s behind closed doors
and in hushed voices. Well, this is the part that I’m doing
differently with you today by sharing with you my experiences, I hope to raise my voice,
and I hope to open those doors. And this is how I do it: I remember. I remember I was wandering
the empty streets of my hometown. I was alone this time,
unlike that other time, and it’s because I wanted to die alone. My mind was running, screaming,
shaking, collapsing in on itself again. When you’re in that place, and your perception
is collapsing like that, those old thoughts kept coming
back again, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not smart enough,”
“You’re not enough.” So, I walked up, and I approached
the railing to the overpass. I walked along it, I looked over, I came to a light post
on my left-hand side, and I stopped. “Should I hang in there
for just one more day?” That’s a phrase people always seem to ask themselves
when they’re suicidal, I have found, I asked it to myself
and others with whom I’ve worked, young people today,
they’ve asked it, too. It’s this instinctual word of hope, “Should I hang on there
for just one more day?” For what? To be that crazy kid? I’ve already held on for this long,
and things haven’t gotten any better. Why would I keep trying
what hasn’t been working? I’m not crazy. My perception was collapsing. It was squeezing out that instinctual hope
that everybody has inside of them. So, I climbed the railing in three parts,
like rungs on a ladder. I was being very careful not to slip. I climbed back down the other side again. I had very few choices in my life. But this, this was certainly one. And I needed something, anything,
that I could be certain about. So I turned around. I felt the railing
pressing against my back, just below my shoulder blades, I stretched my arms out
on its cool metal surface. I remember feeling raindrops
under my fingers. I looked down at my shoes. My running shoes were old,
worn out, tired. My heels were on the concrete,
my toes were on nothing. I looked past my toes to the ground,
50 or so feet below, and on the ground, I saw
a rusted out chain linked fence topped by three strings of barbed wire. As I was standing there in that moment, the only thing that I could think
from my collapsed perception was “How far out would I need
to jump from this bridge so I wouldn’t land on that fence?” Because I just didn’t want it to– I just didn’t want it to hurt anymore. In that moment, my entire life
was completely in my control. And when you’re living
in a hurricane like this, all the time, that’s a really unfamiliar,
but really satisfying feeling. To feel like you have control
over your whole life. So I stayed like that for a while. I just stood there in that feeling, experiencing that feeling of having agency
over my life for a change. Eventually, I was brought back
into the present by a man’s voice over my right shoulder. I talked to him for a while, but, even today,
I don’t remember about what. He was wearing a light brown jacket,
but I don’t remember his face. I didn’t look back long enough,
and I never saw him again. Before I knew it, I could see flashing
lights from the corner of my eyes. I looked to my right and to my left, and there were three police cars
on either side blocking off the street. There were crowds of late night gatherers,
gawking at me from either side. This was two or three
in the morning, I guess. Either they came home from the bars or they just walked up
to see what was going on. A male voice from my right side, I heard
him scream to me, “Jump, you coward!” OK, that’s enough. Again, I took a deep breath in and as I did, my arms
seemed to rise from the railing like they’d suddenly
become weightless and unburdened. I could feel the edge of the concrete under the arches of my feet
begin to shift. I started to pitch forward. And as I did, I felt the wind blow around my body,
and on my face, and through my hair, and it felt free. Then, an arm reached around my chest,
a hand grabbed the back of my shirt. The man in the light brown
jacket later told police that my body was completely
limp when he grabbed me, and he dragged me
backward over the railing. Can suicide really be a choice
if it’s the only choice available? We ask ourselves,
“How can it be the only choice?” “How can it even be a rational choice?” And hopefully we wonder,
and we ask ourselves how we can help. Well, we can start to help by better appreciating
that our mental health is contingent on the state and the flexibility
of our perceptions. Whether we have a mental illness or not, how expanded or how contracted
our perception becomes impacts the choices that we make. When I was standing on that bridge, my perception was so collapsed
that I only had that one choice. When we encounter
the suicide of somebody else, we always seem to try to rationalize it. I hear it all the time. And I think that’s
because we’re uncomfortable with feeling helpless
and with not understanding. But since we know that our perceptions
are created and continually informed by our biology, by our psychology,
and by our society, we actually have many entry points for potentially helping
and better understanding suicide. One way that we can help is to stop
saying that people “commit” suicide. People commit rape, they commit murder,
but nobody has committed suicide in this country since the early 1970s
when suicide was decriminalized. And that’s because suicide is a public
health concern, not a criminal one. And it’s a health concern, we know that. 90% of people who die by suicide have
a diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of their death. And we know that, with medication,
with psychotherapy, these treatments work, so we need to make these treatments more available
and in an informed way, to everybody. And we can be a part of that change,
whether we have a mental illness or not by taking charge of our own mental health
when we go in for our annual physical, we make a point of doing
an annual psychological, too. At both the individual and the societal
levels, we can challenge our old ideas like that old idea of saying
that people “commit” suicide. When I first started out doing this, I used to beg for somebody to do
something about suicide and stigma. Well, that’s not acceptable anymore. So instead, I’ve started doing something. When a leading cause of death
among new mothers in the first year after childbirth
is suicide, that’s not acceptable either. When our First Nations Inuit
and Mantis communities are being ravaged by a suicide rate 5-6 times higher
than the national average, that’s not acceptable. When almost a quarter
of 15 to 25-year-olds who die by suicide, that is not acceptable. So, like I said, when I used
to plead for people to do something, and that’s not acceptable either, well, you’re here
and you’re doing something already, because you’re changing
the way you think, and that’s what changes the world. So, for those of you who might be thinking
about suicide today, good. Keep thinking about it. And then, start talking about it. And then, start doing
something about it, too. And for those of you who might
be contemplating suicide, I know that there’s a hope
somewhere deep inside you. I’ve felt it, too. Keep that hope alive. We need you. We need you to be leaders
in this conversation, whether we are ready to have it or not. And trust me, if you’re anything like me, it’s this conversation
that’s going to keep you alive, every single day, as though you’ve got just one more day. Thank you. (Applause)

Stephen Childs

100 Comments

  1. Well, I dont wanna live because i feel late and failed. I want to start all over again but you only come to this world once and your genetics are predetermined. Your potential, your voice, your way of thinking, your status… You have so little effect on yourself. And when you are a failure, you are a failure. I only feel lucky when I am succesful at something. Not because I worked hard and earned it. I was just lucky. I cant admit it even to myself but I am lonely. And I am scared that this loneliness will last forever.

  2. I want darkness.. I cry every night and my friends push me away bc I'm depressed. I cry at night so no one hears. I go on drives so I can cry so no one hears.

  3. Not to be ë m ö but I’ve decided to give myself three months to find reason to not die

  4. Suicide is one of the most basic human rights there is. Locking suicidal people up involuntarily is not care, it's brutal and selfish. Forcing someone into the hospital because you would hurt if they died is selfish, you don't care how humiliating it is or how much pain they're in. And the government only "cares" enough to do this because dead men don't pay taxes

  5. All the real suicidal people are dead, it's not that hard to succeed. The "one more day" types are drama queens seeking attention. Surviving a true attempt is exceedingly rare

  6. Depression makes life partially dead and helpless it sucks hard 😣😣😣😥😥

  7. One of the best TED talks on suicide. Nothing more, nothing less. Thank you Mark.

  8. You certainly hit my nail on its head mister. The just one more day is the only reason I still exist.

  9. i’ve been jumping from med to med for 4 years and it’s really not worth it

  10. Only 20% of people who commit suicide have a mental illness. The fact that you are alive means you are gutless and very bad at planning.

  11. "….90% of the people who die by suicide have a treatable cause…." Too bad I'm among the remaining 10% cause I have a chronic un-treatable physical illness that is destroying me day by day. Suicide seems like the best way out. I wish they talked more about people like me.

  12. People with suicidal thoughts please look into getting SPECT scans and a good psychiatrist. I also recommend watching the channel "Life after losing my son to suicide". Life is worth living, is your perception of it what's not letting you see it.

  13. If I kill myself my family would be so sad. I just wish i was never born.

  14. This made me cry multiple times. I've been struggling with suicidal thoughts for years and it's almost a foreign idea to NOT think about it at this point. All I hear inside of me is "you're not pretty enough" or "you're not smart enough" or "you aren't kind enough" or "you're not working hard enough".
    And it devours my thoughts until that's all I can think about, it's always there.
    I have help right now for my anger issues at home, but I still haven't found a voice when it comes to the suicidal thoughts.
    Something inside of me keeps telling me "hold on for one more day" even though everything else screams against it. I always choose to follow that voice, and I dread waking up in the morning, I dread doing normal tasks everyone finds easy, and what's worse is I can't express it to anyone from fear. It keeps me silent, so when I snap out of frustration due to the fighting inside my own head everyone gets mad at me and it makes it worse.

    Out of all the speeches I've heard, this one is going to stick with me.

  15. People Don’t Want to Kill Themselves They Just Don’t Know How to Kill the Pain!!!!!!!!!

    Every Thunderstorm Runs Out of Rain!!!!!!

  16. Scares of the mind far exceed the scares of the flesh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. The Voyage of Return

    I set sail across the desert to leave the pain of misery.

    Searching for the ocean, I have heard so much of its splendid beauty

    and tranquility.

    My sails were full of the hot desert air as I passed motionless dunes.

    I remember what was said to me when searching for content afar.

    “For man is never content as he seeks contentment when he cannot seem to find it.”

    I looked out across my bow and noticed an oasis drawing near. I saw

    a weary traveler with camel at hand, getting drink from the cool.

    Our I eyes had met and I let down my sails and it mysteriously drew me there

    and coasted to his near.

    He asked me, "Son, where does your journey take thee?"

    I replied, "Far away from the pain and misery and to the great ocean of

    splendid beauty and tranquility:”

    He turned and drank another drink from the cool, looked back at me

    and asked, "My Son, what is the heaviest load a man can carry?"

    I pondered, what an odd question he was placing upon me, and could

    not think of a satisfying answer.

    He knew I was alone and puzzled. He spoke, "A grudge, my Son -for he cannot see clearly ahead because of his pains and becomes an inmate of the past."

  18. This is a relevant topic. I'm not sure how safe it is is though, to release this to the public as it takes more than half of the video to get to the point we search for when we're watching.

  19. When you can’t do anything about your depression because your parents think it’s a joke for attention

  20. I'm so scared of getting help, but I don't wanna end up like this. Actually, I don't know what I want.

  21. A few years ago my sister put a gun in her mouth and blew her head off after her only two children were killed by a drunk driver

  22. he forgot to mention all the big pharma suicide pills that are being prescribed

  23. To everyone here offering simple solutions, I present to you the following subreddit:

    /r/thanksimcured

  24. I've never attempted suicide, but I've spent countless moments examining myself and only coming up with the idea that my life is nothing more than a negligible statistic. Years of dread and apathy crushing my frame of mind to a single conclusion: I'm better off to the world dead. Self harm is a struggle I can't find myself out of and at several points I fantasized about cutting just a little deeper. Just a little more blood. Just a little more pain to get all these bad thoughts set to a lower priority, if not completely eliminated for just a brief moment. I can't take my own life, but I can't bare the burden of life either, just as nobody could possibly sprint an entire marathon.

  25. Suicide is not always a result of mental illness. Sometimes, suicide is an option for dealing with a bad situation or bad circumstances. Sometimes, it’s just time to leave. You’ve done all you can do, and now, it’s time to go.

  26. The only reason I'm here is for my dog. Once she's gone, all bets are off.

  27. I finally understand my own suicidal thoughts, I wish I had seen this 6 years ago.

  28. I have days where I want to end it all. But I have my family, my life to live. That reminds me to keep on going and I know God is out there. Life is really simple.

  29. There's enough hateful, spiteful people. Too many jerks. When they say "emo" you yell psychopath!

  30. I hope I get to where you are. I am not there. My husband, the true love of my life died and I have lost hope. I wish I had strength. I have lost faith. I am fighting it for 7 years. He was the love of my life

  31. Yes, Mr. Henick, we choose the outcome of suicide because it is predictable and guaranteed. Our self-hatred and disgust continues if we are not successful. We are NOT feeling 'sorry' or 'dismal" about ourselves. I am always appreciative of a/the parent(s) role in the beginning/upbringing of a brilliant person who has self-esteem and a positive/great self image…..not all humans are "cut out to be parents!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

  32. If you’re trying to go get some coffee or something, hmu.😩
    I feel like we could some really good talks about our miserable experiences with depression…

  33. How do you decide if you want to live or die because right now im stuck in between both

  34. If anyone needs a friend or someone to talk to, I'm here. I love and care about yall and I want to help 💖

  35. Why even live if the person who your closest to doesn't even care even when you threaten and attempted suicide. Heck i even cut myself in front of my mom several times bs mom if you find this i want you to know its mostly your fault.

  36. I don't want to be in this world any longer. I know I need to be strong for my family. I know I need to be strong for my infant son.

    I'm just tired of living a life that feels so.. meaningless and draining. Every day it's a struggle to just open my eyes. Because all I want is to not wake up.

    I find both selfish and selfless reasons to end my life. I want to end my life so my family and friends don't have to deal with my melodrama and depressive attitude. And yet I also want to end my life so I don't have to deal with the daily challenge of still living.

    I'm not sure what to do

  37. I see a lot of people in the comments saying that they want to die and such. Are you sure? If I pointed a gun towards your head would you not scream and beg for mercy? Would you stare down my barrel in peace or in distress? There is a major difference between depression and suicide think about that are you depressed or do you actually want to die? Either way I encourage you to search for help suicide is a permanent solution to a problem you are experiencing now that could go away tomorrow

  38. It's annoying the way he talks he raises and lowers his voice at every moment

  39. If you are reading this, you are enough! I love you for who you are. Not even joking. If you ever need anyone to talk to comment below (:

  40. Why not right, you did your best but still useless.
    That's Anxiety and Depression.

  41. Death isn't the problem. Life is the problem. Your entire life is just one long emergency. We all are just sitting here watching our inevitable impending demise. Our entire life is just the flash before our eyes before we go out. Life is completely empty and meaningless if death is always at the doorstep. Which is why our entire species should be focused on the sole project of immortality. There I said it. Somebody had to.

  42. Bipolar 2 here. Aftee countless depressions and several suicide attempts I have gotten «good» at depression. I still feel hopeless when depressed. I still feel like there’s no way out. But somewhere, far far away in my mind, a faint voice reminds me that it gets better. That is my experience, that time and time again has given me just one more day. One day at a time. That has shown me that things do get better. And Thea do. So if you’re reading this, especially if you’ve recently been told that you’ve got this or that diagnosis, please trust me; it gets better!

  43. My nieghbors driving me nuts with noise so much its unbearable. i just wanna shoot myself in the head to make to stop

  44. The problem is too high expectation towards life and comparing to another ppl. No we do not need met another expectation. In life we have bad days and good one, and this is beautiful. But is never worth to just end was given ONCE!. You do not have someone to talk talk to God everysingle day, ask him for help and strenght. 🤗❤🏵

  45. I made up a saying that saved me from attempted suicide. I invented this, and gosh I was so close to doing it
    As long as you’re alive, you have the ability to change something, or someone’s life. Your life, your mum’s life, your loved one’s lives, it doesn’t matter who’s. You may think you have nothing left for you but pain and stuff, but at the end of the day, what are you, a bloody prophet? You will never truly know what the future holds. And the power is in your hands to choose. But life is simply the opportunity to change and grow. And that thought saved me.

  46. Omg so many of these comments are people who are just looking for attention. Not all of them, but some of them. To those people I say Jesus come on some of these are actual people who have endured brain-crushing emotional pain to the point where they believed there was nothing left for them, and somehow your validation is more important than these people’s well-being? Screw you.

  47. I just cut myself and get over it, I am a dude who cuts himself. I've tried anti-depressants and councilling but the thing that keeps me away from(commiting not alive), is cutting. It's s helluva not drug, adrenaline kicks in when im doing it and then when I see my wound, self-inflicted, woah the rush it's addictive. If you have depression just cut yourself every once in a while cuz oh man does it feel great.

  48. Once people realize everythings a lie they crumble. Feminism and me too destroyed marriage and courting. The government lies to you. The media lies to you. They only want u as a paydispencer. And this is good living? Some just say deuces. And go ahead to the next life. Others try and lie to themselves or bury head in the sand.

  49. All Through Depression, There Are Many Causes To Suicide…

  50. i dont understand suicide, but some dont understand addiction, so to each his own

  51. Suicide is a good thing. You realize just how much you hate your life so that you can change it. It’s basically you have to do something right or plan a successful suicide.

  52. The many times I lay in bed at 2-3-4 in the morning wishing I could will myself to stop breathing..,
    knowing no one, not one person would cry for me or miss me.

  53. If you see street as a form of force that grow you, then its a privilege not a problem.

  54. People say reach out, why, they don’t really care. I once reached out to my sister that I was depressed, she said oh I’ve never had that. That’s it from there. People say if only they told me, yea what would they do, probably not much.

  55. I’m in that limbo state at the moment. Too scared to end it but living is excruciating, it feels so claustrophobic.

  56. Wait !! Dont do it !! Dont jump yet ! Wait for me and my other sad buddy !! Wait for us !! We will hold hands and jump together !!! Wait, dont do it yet !! Let's make this special!

  57. I felt like this a couple of times because I am a screw up like I mess everything. Sometimes I feel like I can't do anything right and a irritate everyone around me to the point where I feel like they would be better off without me but I would never be able to bring myself to do it because I no that will never be the answer

  58. My desire to kill myself is linked more to what I know than what I feel. Rational people kill themselves too.

    "Mental illness" blablabla. As if life couldn't go this bad and you had to be ill in the head to actually desire death.

  59. I attempted at age 31…my son was successful at age 33…i wanted the pain to stop. And i believe he did as well. Living day in day out not wanting to exist for so long since my attept was easier then…than it is today without my son.

  60. I have no place to go to end my life, I don’t want to keep burdening my family by having to cremate me or god forbid they try to have a funeral – it was be way more depressing than my life, no one would actually attend. If I had a quiet nice place to go, I would’ve killed myself by now; I know for a fact my family would be a lot better off and so relieved without me here

  61. You can have money, you can have love, you can have it all, but … theirs always something there that makes you want to end it all

  62. I don't want to wait one more day. I have so many ways to end it right now or within a few hours. Gun, OD of medication or even driving my car into a pole…which seems the safest. Yesterday my roommate lost a co-worker, after work, that pulled out into traffic, was T-boned and died instantly. I wish that was me. Maybe I can do that tomorrow…on purpose.

  63. My brother passed in his sleep two months ago! What a way to go! Fall asleep and wake up in paradise! My brother told me he wasn't afraid of death till the day he passed!

  64. It took me 12 years of depression, 6-7 of those years I had suicidal thoughts (while making a couple of half-hearted attempts) to eventually begin to dig my way out of it. After 10 years of trying to discover what is wrong with me and why I felt this way, I began to turn myself around, day by day, bit by bit. I think by understanding myself and the world around me, simply understanding how the world works, all of the corruption and all of the beauty, I was able to eventually be happy with myself. I felt misunderstood for the majority of my life. I'm 42 now and I am completely happy to be alive.
    I knew for the longest time that I saw and felt the world differently from other people. My depressive period was my inner confusion from what I expected from life due to what I was told life would be (brainwashing from my mother and TV), compared to what my life actually was. I couldn't understand why people didn't see the world the same way that I did, this magnified my depression. Throw in the fact that I was the product of a single mother that had also just been completely debilitated and wheelchair bound after a few strokes, plus my g/f of 2 years leaving me, and my 2 sisters living in different cities, I was all alone. It's fair to say that I hit the drugs and alcohol very heavily for 10 years to numb and block out my senses.

    I have recently discovered that I am an 'empath' after also discovering I am Typed as an INFJ (a type of personality that is only 1.5% of the population) under the Myers-Briggs system. This was the final piece of my puzzle. It explained everything, how and why I behave a certain way, how and why I think a particular way. It explained my anxiety, it explained my depression. Simply understanding much of my behaviour is programmed and that the way I read the world around me was totally normal for someone of my Type, it gave me tremendous internal relief. I've turned myself around and I've begun to look after myself, changed the way I eat, managed to lose almost 20Kg over the last 8 months.

    I feel like a new man.

    Anyone struggling out there, don't give up, there is a way out. Maybe the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) system can help you too. From what I can see through my journey, the INFJ Types can often lead self destructive lifestyles due to being misunderstood.
    Figure out WHO you are, WHAT you are and WHY you are. This should be the first step to your recovery.

    I seriously don't understand why this isn't taught to us in schools. It should be mandatory. I could have avoided all of that misery.

    I am aware that being aware of MBTI won't solve everyone's problems, but if it helps a few people then it was worth my time typing this out.

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