Suicide: Death by self

Part Two

Tyron Perez was on his way in show business when his manager, Douglas Quijano, died.  After that, his career dwindled. Later on, he found himself transferred to another television network.  He did some movies and television roles.

On the night of December 29, 2011, he was found dead inside a car.  After investigations, it was confirmed that he committed suicide.

On the morning of February 8, 2011, the former Armed Forces chief and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes was together with two of his sons and a bodyguard when he visited his mother’s grave at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina. He asked his children and bodyguard to go ahead and wait for him in the car. When they were no longer around, he shot himself in the chest near the heart.

Julia Louise Buencamino—the daughter of veteran actors Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino—committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling.  Her dead body was found by a household help at the family residence in Quezon City. “Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year,” wrote Dr. Gia B. Sison, a practicing medical doctor who specializes in occupational medicine and a strong mental health-advocate. “For every suicide, there are many more people who attempt suicide every year.”

A fact sheet circulated by the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), a prior suicide attempt is the most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.

“The Merck Manual of Medical Information” said suicidal behavior is an unmistakable signal that a person has feelings of desperation and hopelessness. Among those with high-risk factors for suicide are males, having painful or disabling illness, living alone, having debt or living in poverty, under bereavement, experiencing humiliation or disgrace and depressed.

Other high-risk factors: persistence of sadness even when other symptoms of depression are getting better, history of drug or alcohol abuse, history of prior suicide attempts, family history of suicide, family violence (including physical or sexual se), suicidal preoccupation and talk, and well-defined plans for suicide.

“Suicidal behavior includes attempted suicide, suicide  gestures and completed suicide,” the Merck manual states. “An attempted suicide is suicidal  action that is not fatal. If an attempted suicide involves a suicidal action unlike to have any potential of being fatal, it is called a suicide gesture. A person taking such an action [for example, ingesting six acetaminophen tablets] may be making a plea for help or attention without having any intention of actually ending his life. A completed suicide is a suicidal action that results in death.”

On August 11, 2014, the world was shocked when newspapers from all over the world reported that Oscar winning actor Robin Williams died. What was even more shocking was that the world’s famous comedian committed suicide due to depression.

“He has been battling severe depression of late,” his media representative Mara Buxbaum told CNN. “This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

“After anxiety, depression is the most common mental-health disorder,” the Merck manual said.  Statistics show that 10 percent  of people who see their doctors for what they think is a physical problem are actually experiencing depression.

“People who become depressed typically do so in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, although depression can begin at almost any age,” the Merck manual pointed out. “Depression affects a number of children and adolescents.”

An episode of depression typically lasts about six months if untreated, but sometimes it lasts for 2 years or more. “Episodes generally tend to recur several times over a lifetime,” the Merck manual said.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. Researchers and historians have speculated that a number of famous individuals suffered from depression. In fact, the Holy Bible records the depressive symptoms of such men as Job, Moses, Elijah, David, and Jeremiah.

“Depression is a devastating illness that affects the total being—physically, emotionally and spiritually,” wrote Frank B. Minirth and Paul D. Meier in their book, Happiness Is a Choice. “The emotional pain of depression is more severe than the physical pain of a broken leg.”  Unknowingly, depression is hard to detect among Filipinos as people often confuse depression for normal sadness.

“In the Philippines many people still think that depression is not an illness, but something that one eventually snaps out of, and that’s the reason so many people who are suffering from depression feel embarrassed to seek help,” said Sen. Grace Poe, who filed a resolution on the increasing incidence of suicide and depression in the country.

In Southeast Asia the Philippines has the highest number of depressed people, according to Sen.Risa Hontiveros, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.  In fact, one in five adult Filipinos suffer from mental or psychiatric disorder.  

“But these numbers don’t necessarily tell the entire story,” wrote Lila Ramos-Shanani in her column for Philippine Star. “According to the WHO, they probably represent only a portion of the whole, because suicides statistics are vulnerable to under-reporting in a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines.”

Some studies have shown that practicing members of most religious groups are less likely to commit suicide. Such people are generally supported by their beliefs and are provided with close social bonds protecting against acts of self-destruction.

“But religious affiliation and strong religious beliefs do not necessarily prevent individual impetuous, unpremeditated suicidal acts during times of frustration, anger and despair, especially when accompanied by delusions of guilt and unworthiness,” one study noted.

According to some studies, one out of four people complete suicide notes. These notes often refer to personal relationships and events that will follow the person’s death. Notes left by older people often express concern for those left behind, whereas those of younger people may express anger or vindictiveness.

The choice of suicide method is often influenced by cultural factors and availability and may or may not reflect the seriousness of intent. “Some methods [for example, jumping from a tall building] make survival virtually impossible, whereas other methods [for example, overdosing on drugs] make rescue possible,” the Merck manual noted. “However, even if a person uses a method that proves not to be fatal, the intent may have been just as serious as that of a person whose method was fatal.”

Drug overdose and self-poisoning are two of the most common methods used in suicide attempts. Violent methods, such as gunshots and hanging, are uncommon among attempted suicides because they usually result in death. Of completed suicides, a gunshot is the method most frequently used by males. Females are more likely to use nonviolent methods, such as poisoning, drug overdose, or drowning.

In the Philippines a study showed that the methods of committing suicide included shooting oneself, 40 percent; hanging, 30 percent; poisoning, 16.7 percent; and jumping from high places, 13.3 percent. In 73 percent of the reported cases, suicide was committed in their own homes.

Currently, there is no suicide prevention program in Philippines. Dr. Dinah Pacquing-Nadera in a paper, “Suicide in the Philippines: A Second Look at Rates and Ratios”, identified three major barriers to the development/implementation of national suicide prevention plan: 1) lack of factual data to cite magnitude of the problem, hence, lack of evidence to support need and fund for program; 2) competing interests within the health system where budget is limited; and 3) strong Catholic faith which frowns upon suicide discouraging families from reporting.

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