Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paganism and Suicide

 So, you know I have been reading my sociology stuff lately for class, and I came across the research that was done on suicides and who was more likely to take their life than others. A French sociology named Emile Durkheim examined official records of suicides and found that

 "[M]en, Protestants, wealthy people, and the unmarried each had much higher suicide rates than women, Catholics and Jews, the poor, and married people. Durkheim explained these differences in terms of social integration: Categories of people with strong social ties had low suicide rates, and more individualistic people had high suicide rates."
It was said that those who had more freedom were the ones who committed suicide the most. In the late 1800s, early 1900s, men has a greater range of freedom than the house bound women did. However, freedom weakens social ties and thus the feelings of dependance, the "but they need me" feeling. Of course, this also ties well with unmarried, since the man doesn't feel tied to anything.
Of course, women were allowed out to have jobs, but only specific jobs, like sewing. (source)
A century later, Durkheim’s analysis still holds true. In 2009, there were 13.5 recorded suicides for every 100,000  white people,0 which is more than twice the rate for African Americans (5.1). For both races, suicide was more common among men than among women. White men (19.2) are almost four times as likely as white women (5) to take their own lives. Among African Americans, the rate for men (9.1) was more than five times that for women (1.6). (source) Soooo.......
"Applying Durkheim’s logic, the higher suicide rate among white people and men reflects their greater wealth and freedom, just as the lower rate among women and people of color reflects their limited social choices."
Factors that would decrease the likelihood of suicide was connection to a community (such as the close knit community of Catholics and Jews), strong family ties and dependency (like being married), and having a strong support system. Women tend to "process their experiences with friends. They discuss their feelings, seek feedback and take advice," Humans are social creatures and must have social interaction to stay sane, or alive in this case.

How does this apply to Paganism? A big part of Paganism, specifically Wicca, is about the freedom of being able to do what feels right. Solitaries dominate our community, and we have been compared to cats more than once. The Pagans I know tend to be very well off financially (or are in college to become financially well off) and typically aren't married. And I would bet dollars to donuts that the majority of Pagans are white (at least in the US). Individuality, white, "rich", unmarried. The up side is that most of the Pagans I have met tend to be women. .......

But, do Pagans commit suicide? The only suicide that I recall would be Tempest Smith, 11 years ago. Pagans don't have a stance on suicide because there is no central guideline. Pattie says it well:
"Because there is no Central Pagan Doctrine, or Big Book o’ Pagan Rules, it’s hard to say specifically what the “Pagan perspective” on suicide – or much of anything else – is. There’s not any sort of doctrinal perspective that is universal to all Pagans."
There is the Wiccan Harm None rule, which Pattie explains. But not everyone follows the Rede, nor are Wiccan. So why then do we not hear about suicides? Is it simply because A) we don't hear about the people who aren't relatively big in our community, B) there is a low suicide rate within our community, C) the families who do suffer from the tragedy do not want their child known as a pagan, D) something I can't think of, or E) all of the above?

Let's say that B is true. I believe that one of the best qualities of our community is the ability to strongly identify with others and to help them out as best we can. Even online, Pagans are still connected by forums, support groups, social media sites, email, etc. I remember when I was just starting out; the Pagan forums were my life line, my regular connection with like-minded individuals to share beliefs, opinions, troubles and basically my life. Sappy, yes. But without that support, I probably would have slipped back into depression. One of the topics that would always fire up the forum boards was suicide, but the turnout wasn't so much about the topic of suicide itself as it was about supporting the potentially suicidal poster.
It's like a cyber group hug!!! (Sorry, I can't help it.) ;P
Another probable reason why might lie in our beliefs of the family. Belief in a Divine family, a spiritual family, and our personal families is a good chunk of what is taught. The Goddess - our Mother, the God - our Father, and our general "sisters and brothers." The coven family, the High Priestess and High Priest (our "parents"), the higher initiated as our "older siblings" and the newcomers as our "younger siblings." Our relationship with the two spiritual and Divine families are just as complex as our blood families, and harbor just as much emotions (if not more). The kind of "responsibilities" are deep and truly personal. I would do anything for my coven mates, and they would (and have!) as well.

And even being a community of solitaries, we are still a community of one. We help our own, from housing to community projects to contributing to our spiritual relatives. Please, I beg everyone who reads this -- keep it up. Keep reaching out to people, keep offering them your help no matter what their creed or color or gender, keep being the kind of person you want to be every single day. Keep making a difference.

If you are thinking about suicide, please reach out to someone. Actually tell someone "I am considering suicide." Don't assume that people will understand vague allusions. People can be dense (Hi, I'm dense) and slow on the uptake, but there are people here to help you. If you want to talk to a suicide councilor, call the Nation Suicide Prevention hotline toll free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you don't want to do that, you can always talk to me. You aren't alone. There is always someone there for you, no matter what. And there will always be someone who is afflicted by your death, so don't think you won't be missed. At the very least, I will miss you. <3

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