Mental Health

A Hidden life- Death and Suicide rates low in severely underprivileged groups

“I think you can say that when there is a suicide the entire family becomes totally unhinged. And even though we all seem to go back to normalcy, something has been broken forever.”

Johanna Reiss, (Author of ‘A Hidden Life’)

The tragic topic of suicide is rather personal to me as I have lived through a family member’s depression and suicidal behaviours, and spent much of my time trying to analyze and digest the thought processes and behaviour behind those times. As a parent, one is forever changed when tragedy involving a child occurs, and I have no magic answers for dealing with it. It leaves a permanent scar, for which there is no miracle cure, only perhaps some amelioration of the pain, over time. To say nothing of the mental pain of the sufferer, themselves.

If one looks at the bigger picture, it is interesting to note that suicide occurs less in impoverished or difficult circumstances, as opposed to those who have sufficient resources or perhaps, those who have or are perceived to have, ‘comfortable’ socioeconomic circumstances.

Can this be a key that will save lives and give those who suicide, hope where there is none?

Johanna Reiss explains it in a better way than I could:

the middle class and the upper class are much more likely to commit suicide than those who have to find their daily bread, so to speak. (In) Elie Wiesel’s book, I had read… In concentration camps, the biggest goal for most of them was to get the next crust of bread. And they were already being punished by the Nazis and so they didn’t think they had to punish themselves too. And so there were very few suicides in concentration camps, which is strange when you think about it, it surely seems like a place you’d want to get away from.”

I think a really important thing to remember in prevention of suicide is for the sufferer to remember they are never alone, are never abandoned.

 “In my own case, having been abandoned by my father in a way – he never was much of a father, …. The only person who never abandoned me except when he died was Johan Oosterveld, the farmer in the Upstairs Room, the man who saved my life. He was always there for me. He even left a closet, in his attic, with a hole that you could crawl into, where I had hidden from the Germans. Because he always said: ‘You never know – it might come in handy again, and then Annie, you can come back from New York and you can get right back in there.” .

And the other thing about suicide is that if a person feels that somebody totally needs them, they often manage to hang in there, somehow.

“There has to be a reason for people to stay alive, there has to be hope, and there has to be somebody or something that is so important that you couldn’t possibly leave it. Elie Wiesel wrote: (he was a boy in a camp) that he was considering running into the barbed wire once, but he didn’t because his father needed him. And that’s the only time he mentions the allure of suicide.”

Something to ponder over during Mental Health Week.

2 thoughts on “A Hidden life- Death and Suicide rates low in severely underprivileged groups”

  1. An excellent post, Amanda … containing much to ponder about indeed ! It had never occurred to me, the discrepancy between societal levels in suicide. But it makes sense !


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