Why we choose suicide | Mark Henick | TEDxToronto

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

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)

50 thoughts on “Why we choose suicide | Mark Henick | TEDxToronto

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. This video almost made me cry a few times. Thank you so much for talking about this. We are not alone. We have each other.

  7. It's not a mental illness, you weren't loved and the soul can not comprehend, for life. You are heart broken, has northing to do with the mind, it's spiritual grief

  8. I feel i am a mistake to my parents caz ik i wasnt wanted i was abandoned i got bullied caz of my skin colour my grandma in kansas is the only one who loved me and then she died of cancer…..i am 16 years old right now the one having me alive is my two lil bros my mom abandoned me aftershe kicked me out at age thirteen for summer i met her she said "travel back home without money hitch hike idc" my lil bro got the money ran to a dock on the beach far from home at 2 a.m and gave me the money crying go home its better there…me and my mom no longer speak….im living for my gf and lil bros i love them and thats the reason i havent fully gone yet after so many attempts. And thats not even a summary of my story

  9. ion even think am i enough anymore i jus think is there anything i love enough besides this girl who don’t love me that’ll make me wanna stay

  10. I honestly think the State doesn’t care how many of us kill ourselves, because they know they can import much more fertile breeding stock to replace those who kill themselves.

  11. Looking for a reason in this overrbunant info society to keep living at age 59 and never experienced love. I just want to push a button and die

  12. I'm just really glad that someone finally said something about how in depression you can intellectually know that the world can be ok, but you still feel like it can't.

  13. "Jump you coward" Really hit me hard. At 16 I told my parents I was suicidal and my dad (drunk at the time, usually more caring) told me to stop yapping and just do it then. wtf? That was 23 years ago. I still think about it, don't think the ideation will ever go away, but my life has gotten better. I did go and get treatment and it helped, different kinds work for different people though.

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

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

  15. I have a plan n means. I have no family. Bf left. I'm all alone. No one will hurt or miss me. I'm tired of hurting. Tired of being bullied and harrassed. Tired of being alone. Death will free me from the pain

  16. I've been cutting myself since fifth grade. I never felt like I could tell anyone without getting my parents involved, my parents who were always shouting at each other and who said things like "move to the city and get a job" in response to an ad they passed about how to prevent someone's suicide. I also had no real knowledge of mental illness, but I've always been pretty self-aware about my health, and while I'm thankful for that now, at the time it just made it worse because I knew something was seriously wrong, but I had no idea what to do about it. It made me feel like I could only watch everything fall apart. In seventh grade, I really dove into research and tried to figure out what was wrong with me, because even though I was much better off, I still felt horrible all of the time. In eighth grade, I had a terrible relapse. I had this little blue case of pins, sharp wires, even a piece of glass I stole from a classmate's broken mirror, that I'd use. I had it from sixth grade and only kept adding to it. "Sharper, it has to be sharper." The last time I slit my wrist, I got so lightheaded I was scared that I'd bleed out. But after I finally had the courage to tell one of my friends, I made a deal with her. If I could stay clean for ten weeks, I'd throw out the case. I made it. It's been a while since then, and I'm in a much better place, though I am nowhere near okay. I've tried some online therapists and they all seemed so robotic and unhelpful, they only made me feel worse. For now, I'm trying to hang on until I'm 18 and can get real help while being free from my bigoted family. I've taken a lot of steps on my own to improve my health, and I've made a lot of progress, but I know this won't resolve itself. But I never wanted to die. There are two reasons I cut myself. Sometimes, I need to make all the emotional pain physical, like it'll make it more bearable. Other times, I feel nothing, and I just need to feel something. Anything.

  17. Its the Best choice ever. I did it 3 Times it literally changed my life by 360°. I really reccomend it to you folks 😀

  18. My youngest daughter ended her own life last Monday, August 21, 2019. I've been trying so hard to gain some sort of understanding. This video helped more than anything else I've found, anywhere. My wounds are still new, my pain from this is immeasurable, but I am starting to gain some insight into how she must have felt… I want to say I wish I had known, but now I don't think it would've helped that much.. I could've tried to make it better, but maybe I would've done more harm than good.
    Thank you for this insight into suicide, you've helped me more than you know…
    R. I. P. Amanda Jo

  19. My best friend killed himself by getting drunk and jumping from an overpass onto train tracks, right in front of a train.
    Another shot himself in the head with a .40 cal with birdshot.
    Another hung himself.
    High school buddy shot himself in the head with a shotgun.
    There are many more , would take to long to write.
    All did it because they were going to prison. Yes they broke the law, but they didn't deserve to die.

  20. I came here because Iam at point that is far too low to measure…I was searching about suicide and found this video and then realized I dated the guy in this videos brother many years ago…hmmm what a synchronicity

  21. The scariest place to be is suicidal and you have told everyone, been to all the treatment centers, and still obsess about it and know this is all on you, for years past and years to come

  22. Morals&ethics aside and it's definitely a choice but I will never understand suicide logics anyways. It's pretty much manifestation of weakness.

  23. For those who think about suicide:
    I'd like to tell you what helped me go through it, I hope it helps you too.

    After maybe a year since I had lost any hope and interest in my reality for no particular reason, one night I decided to leave home and to go into a cave in the mountains close to where I live, probably the scariest place I could think of, I guess I just wanted to feel something, even just fear.
    When I reached down to the bottom of the cave, I sat down and turned off the flashlight. I'd rather not describe in detail what I felt then, just because the experience is personal and sometimes describing things with words is misleading. But It was the first time I felt there is something hidden, strange and powerful in nature. After a while I left the place and returned home feeling better.
    Then, the days after, I started to think if there was something I could do to fix my life.
    I hated the job I was doing, but I didn't have any alternatives to it, so I thought about what were my interests when I was a kid, I remembered I used to play with my parents' video camera, so I bought a camcorder, I started doing videos and I made it become my full-time job, which now I'm very satisfied with! The trickiest part was accomplished: finding out what my passion was.
    But then, once I had found my own stability, I realized that it still wasn't enough, and if I really wanted to feel stable I also had to take care of the environment surrounding me: my family and friends.
    This is what will help you the most, making somebody happy will make you feel a huge energy, provided you are surrounded by people who are able to give back the energy they are given, and I think we all are, to different extents.

    The experience you're having, staring into the abyss, will turn out to be invaluable, because if you manage to recover from such thing, you'll know what depression really means, and you'll really be able to help those who will go through the same state of mind.
    That's why if you recover from a suicidal tendency you make a favor to yourself and to us all.
    Brace yourself

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