How to kill yourself without committing suicide*

“Close-up of wilting rose flowers” by Silvestri Matteo on Unsplash

I can answer the question from the headline in one sentence. Here it is: If you want to kill yourself without actually doing yourself bodily injury…

Don’t love people.

One sentence does not an article make, however, so allow me to elaborate, with the help of some anecdotes and scientific studies:

The Long-Lived Pennsylvanian Pioneers

In the 1960s, doctors found that a close-knit homogenous Italian-American community in Roseto, Pennsylvania, had an unusually low mortality rate from myocardial infarction (heart attack), compared to neighboring communities.

Rosetans smoked poisonous cigars, drank wine freely, worked in toxic environments, cooked their sausages in lard, and ate cheeses loaded with the worst kind of cholesterol. They also faced the stress of discrimination from their neighbors. So how did they manage to stay so freakishly healthy and long-lived?

Researchers who studied the Rosetans concluded that the Rosetans’ traditional, cohesive family and community relationships were sustaining them. No one was lonely or too unhappy or stressed. Every family home consisted of three generations, nobody was marginalized. There was zero crime rate.

In other words, the Rosetans kept each other alive. They depended on each other and formed tight-knit relationships with everyone in the community, a factor which proved more potent than even diet or wealth in keeping them alive.

The Orphanage Study

In a study discussed in the book Born for Love by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz, about a third of babies placed in the barest orphanages, where they receive little to no affection or touch, will literally die. And half of the remainder will develop mental illness. Orphans left in such institutions will develop behavioral and psychological problems and lose IQ points the longer they stay in the orphanage.

The authors found that physical affection is needed to stimulate the immune system and the production of growth hormone, and without this, babies’ bodies will start shutting down. Babies’ brains need constant touch, cuddling, and rocking, and without that, they will exhibit “failure to thrive.”

The Blue Zones Study

In 2005, National Geographic published a cover story by Dan Buettner, an author and educator who defined five seperate geographic regions where people lived longest and healthiest lives. These five regions included: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and the Seventh-Day Adventist population in Loma Linda, California (USA).

In 2008, the article became a book, Blue Zones, and in it, Buettner distilled 9 lessons for promoting health, happiness, and longevity. Of these lessons, 3 of the 9 had to do with socialization/relationships (#7: belong to a spiritual community, #8 make family a priority, #9 find the right tribe).

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Loneliness is increasing

According to multiple studies, loneliness is increasing. And loneliness, they say, is as dangerous as obesity and smoking to your health and well-being.

When it comes to loneliness, quality of connection is more important than quantity of friends. We need people we can depend on, and who can depend on us.

The internet does not really help. Those who are lonely in physical life are more likely to turn to the internet for socialization, but internet relationships/friendships tend to be shallow and unreliable. Internet — gaming, social media, email, etc., is not a good long-term solution for loneliness. But there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of attention given to the growing epidemic of loneliness.

Part of the problem is that loneliness carries a lot of stigma. No one likes to say that they are lonely. It sounds terrible, it makes people feel like they are losing face, like they are a failure. But sometimes, you know, someone has to take the first step…

So here goes *takes a deep breath*

I am lonely

You can’t see me right now, but I am not crying. Or grieving. I’m just sitting here, calmly typing a fact.

Ever since I got sick, my social world has shrunk to previously unimaginable smallness, for a variety of reasons.

At the moment, I’m dealing with it with internet help, even though I said earlier that’s not a good long-term solution.

The reason I write this is because I suspect there are probably others out there in a similar situation. You might be stuck between a rock and a hard place, you might be sick, you might have just gone through a betrayal and find it hard to relate to people…whatever the reason, you are lonely too.

I get it.

But neither crying nor internet surfing can solve this problem.

There are no quick fixes

Sometimes life can feel too hard to bear. That’s why, at some point, everyone needs someone to bear the burden with them.

And that’s also why loneliness is so deadly.

Everone can handle being alone when things are going relatively well, but storms will hit, at some point, and if you’re not prepared, with a loving cohort of folks who’ve got your back…then what?

Loneliness’ opposite is love. Loneliness kills, but love saves lives. Literally.

We all need to love and be loved, but love is not something that happens in an instant (sorry, Disney — that’s infatuation, not love).

Loving relationships take time and effort and intention to build, and maintain.

From my perspective, these are the things that can help with the building process:

Hugs, conversation, forgiveness, willingness to be vulnerable, courage to step outside your comfort zone, eagerness to give people the benefit of the doubt, laughter, songs, prayer, patience…and most of all, listening —not just the average distracted form of listening, but as Dr. Christopher Yuan once said:

listen to my heart, not my words

And if anyone else has any ideas, or feels lonely and wants someone to talk to, I’m here. I promise to listen.

*Disclaimer: Allow me to apologize for using such a dark headline and tone throughout this article. Obviously, this article is not about what is commonly known as suicide. Suicide is not something to be taken lightly, and if you were expecting such an article, allow me to point you to some other sources that hopefully will be more helpful.

But loneliness cannot be taken lightly, either. From what I understand of loneliness, it legitimately can kill — adults, as well as babies. It’s a serious problem, and has to be addressed. If you feel lonely, I hope this article will alert you to the magnitude of the danger and encourage you to seek ways to fight the loneliness. If you are not lonely, then I ask you to please look around you for some people who are at risk, and reach out. Thank you :)

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