I believe anger can affect one's mind to the point of suicidality, based both on U.S. Statistics and my own experience. Let us focus through the lenses of some known facts prior to linking or imagining them to be either causal or attributable to suicide trends and statistics.
- 90% of all suicides result from clinical depression (often accompanied by substance abuse).
- Their are many human conditions and environments that foment clinical depression.
- The simplest definition of clinical depression is "anger turned inward."
- Suicide is essentially an act of anger against oneself.
- Anger must be mentally and physically purged in non-injurious and non-damaging ways.
- Clinical depression has been the #1 disability in the world since 2010 according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is now the 2nd leading cause for disability claims in the U.S.
- The remaining 10% of suicides are usually situational and rapidly carried out.
Let us first address the 10% population. Intense, immediate and horrid situations can cause individuals to self-destruct. Here are four historical examples:
- Judas Iscariot plans and sells out Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver. When the terrible transaction is completed, Judas immediately goes out and hangs himself. In addition to the shame associated with his treachery, Judas likely suffers an instant and great anger at himself.
- Japanese Kamikaze pilots find themselves in a losing WWII conflict yet are sworn to honor the direction of Emperor Hirohito by calculatingly and dutifully crashing their planes into U.S. warships on suicide missions. These sorties are unique in that they are carefully planned yet offer little time or opportunity for clinical depression to set in during the short time required for them to complete their gruesome missions.
- Again in WWII, a concentration camp prisoner is forced to watch all of his family being slaughtered. In utter disbelief and grief he runs back to his bed, grabs a crudely whittled wooden shiv and plunges it into his heart-clearly a situational act of suicide.
- A rich financier first hears of his total loss of wealth during the Great Depression and jumps to his death from his 14th-story window. This is a fleeting, situational and unreasonable act.
It could be argued that a mass-murderer killing himself after his grisly act could have planned the deed or not, but usually the former is evidenced by a suicide note. The notion that males are more violent than females is supported when one considers that, as of 2012, the National Safety Council revealed suicide is the 6th leading cause of death for all Americans while it is only the 19th leading cause of death for female Americans. The fact that 40% of those who complete the act have made at least one previous attempt indicates that there is a process (like anger-driven depression) having taken place over time. That 90% of these may relate to anger-based depression is worth exploring.
Demographic factors for suicide, in descending order, include being white, American Indian, male, elderly or a combination thereof. Nearly 37,000 U.S. suicides occur each year accompanied by 500,000 attempts. Men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women and constitute 73% of all suicide deaths. As of 2001, self-murder rates per 100,000 Americans showed white males accumulating 19.5 suicides as opposed to a total of all other genders/ethnicities confirmed at 5.3 self-killings. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for college students. One American dies by his or her hand every 14.2 minutes. The American suicide rate increased 1.6% between Y2K-2009.
Anger, violence and/or depression can derive from job loss, feeling trapped, loss of face or freedom, purposelessness, diagnosis of a terminal condition (the AIDS patient suicide rate is 20% higher than that of the general population), hopelessness, shame, guilt, humiliation, abuse at the hands of others, despair, legal stress, abandonment issues, loss-of-control, broken relationships, business or school failure, or psychiatric disorders. American Indian suicide rates are 2-3 times higher than any other American ethnic group. In the case of the American Indian, the anger at being relegated to life on a reservation and government welfare and a high rate of joblessness has sapped personal esteem and resulted in abuse, depression and substance abuse. All three are precursors for suicide.
The latest Centers for Disease Control suicide data date back to 2009, yet more recent studies, as of 18 January 2012, show the elderly suicide rate as 2.8% higher than that of the total U.S. population. Anger-driven depression and resentment among the elderly can easily result from loss of or alienation by family, failed dreams, impaired health and eroding mental and physical capabilities. Based on age alone, the elderly (65+ years) exhibit 16.1 suicides per 100,000 people relative to the overall U.S. population's self-destruction rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people.
A sharp increase of 28% in workplace suicides between 2007 and 2008 only were 94% male, 78% of whom were white and working primarily in management. Workplace technological and knowledge half-lives have likely increased under the pressure of employee obsolescence compounded by the unending demands of new technologies, changing personnel values and behavioral requirements, and pressures to achieve higher productivity.
Suicide claimed more U.S. Military lives than the Afghan war as of January 2010. America's military community to date has suffered an 18% increase in suicides over the same period last year-nearly 1 troop per day. And, for every such death, at least 5 members of our armed forces were hospitalized for attempting to take their own lives. Anger-driven depression in Afghanistan is reported as the conflict having less and less relevance and validity as the war drags on and by a Pentagon that settles for an undefined victory and reveals to our enemy our troop tactics and removal on a date certain as weighed against the loss of life and well-being of comrades-in-arms, both mentally and physically. Anger-driven depression also arises from combat exposure, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and personal finance issues creating feelings of failure and anger at oneself for not being able to resolve these issues. Increased incidences of sexual assaults and domestic violence have also resulted. The same goes for self-medication with either prescription or illicit drugs or alcohol, fear of being perceived as weak by superior officers, or damaging a promising military career despite the fact that all 1.4 million active-duty military personnel have been encouraged to seek help for any potential mental problems. Besides, there is an overall macho attitude and culture. Statistics fail to include the mental issues that are sometimes attendant with oft-observed military members' risky auto and bike driving, some of which are bound to be anger-fueled and suicidal. Afghan veterans were more than 75% likely to die in auto crashes than the general population and 148% were more likely to die in bike accidents. All applicable statistical data have correlated strongly with military suicide rates. With PTSD, the anger may simmer for months before exploding either in-country or stateside against others or oneself.
What, exactly, qualifies me to write about these things and draw the conclusions I have, to tie anger to most suicides?
Well, I've been there and done that.
In 1984 I was laid off at the peak of my career from an Inc. 500 company that had reached number 17 on that prestigious list. Apparently I never got over the anger portion of the grieving process that situation instigated. Two unfruitful years of seeking further employment certainly didn't help matters. I castigated others using my sarcastic wit and bit people's heads off when confronted by them. My underlying anger progressed deep-down, unbeknownst to me. Mild depression had set in and quickly descended into clinical depression. I was barely able to dress myself, moved at the speed of a three-toed sloth and suffered disrupted sleep and eating patterns. One of my two remaining friends introduced me to his psychiatrist and I was placed on Prozac.
My mood began to lift after about 4 weeks. But anger remained beneath my emotional radar. After relocating to another state and still jobless, my clinical depression turned suicidal. My spouse and her extended family apparently didn't understand the importance of my continuing my Prozac regimen. Only the thought of my three young children finding me slumped over dead in a pool of blood prevented me from slitting my wrists (the blade edge dimpling the skin on my wrist was the last thing I remember). I then slipped into catatonia and was whisked away to the hospital.
My deep-seated anger wasn't addressed until after my first hospitalization where I learned to process it and rid myself of it. I was taught to take out my anger in a non-injurious, non-damaging way. I purchased two pumpkins, drove to a remote area, set them on top of the car fender and proceeded to bash the living crap out of them with my high-school Hank Aaron baseball bat, cursing at the top of my lungs at all those who had ever ridiculed, cheated or abused me in any way and sending them to perdition. As comical as it sounds, IT WORKED! Not only was my anger completely gone, but I actually forgave many of those "evil" folks I once hated. And best of all, I've experienced zero anger toward all challenging issues ever since that defining 1991 event! This phenomenon has also been mirrored in many of my co-patients over the years. For whatever the reason(s) behind it, anger is simply not worth hanging onto. Anger can kill!
What if there were a way to head off anger before it even begins? Well, here goes:
All human brains are wired alike when it comes to emotions. Here is the order in which our feelings and resultant behaviors occur:
FACT > BELIEF > THOUGHT > FEELING > BEHAVIOR
Here is an example:
Another driver cut you off while driving on the freeway (FACT). You are certain it was an intentional move on his part (BELIEF). That guy is a total schmuck! (THOUGHT). Grrrr! (ANGER). You drive up alongside him and fire off a digital salute (BEHAVIOR). There's a chance this act could put you in mortal danger.
The best place to but the brakes on anger is to control how we think about things, because we DO have power over our thinking.
The Holy Scriptures state: "As a man thinketh, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7)
In conclusion, I propose suicide rates can be lowered by positively addressing and dealing with anger either before or as soon as it begins to manifest itself. Whether a parent is training an angry child or an employee is responding to a dressing-down by the boss, the virtuous adult trait of personal responsibility must extend to healthy methods for ameliorating anger whenever it begins to take a foothold in one's life. If one hasn't caught it at the thinking stage, and whether or not it takes a primal scream, throwing fruit against a cinder block wall or a yoga session to deflect and resolve anger, one must have a plan of action with which to dissipate anger as soon as it begins to surface:
The King James Bible commands "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." (Ephesians 4:6)
Don't nurture your anger overnight or spend even one more hour with it. Don't swallow it, store it and become depressed. Get it out and get rid of it!
By holding onto reality, expunging anger, thereby avoiding clinical depression, the threat of suicide (and perhaps homicide?) will be rendered nil.