Suicide is one of the greatest human tragedies. It is also one of the most misunderstood, often being dismissed as selfish or irrational. This is probably one of the most dangerous reactions to suicide, as it creates a taboo culture around suicide. In turn, people who are considering taking their lives will most likely feel too ashamed about their thoughts to approach someone for help.

Because most people aren’t willing to talk about suicide, and because those who have attempted suicide are generally kept at arm’s length, it’s difficult to understand what goes through a person’s head before a suicide attempt. What is easy to understand, though, is that, at that moment, that person’s life must have been so awful that having no life at all seemed like a better option. I can only imagine how dreadful that must feel.

There have been many calls for the university to increase the levels of student and staff support offered, but I think that caring for people needs to start at a personal level, not an institutional one.

One of the most tragic things about the human race is that we tend to only start worrying about things when they become a tragedy. Ebola became a concern not when the first person died from it, but when it spread across international borders. Isis’s threat increases as it kills more Westerners. We only take notice of political instability in Lesotho when it threatens our own borders.

Empathy starts with individuals. It begins with genuinely caring about your loved ones and supporting them (really supporting them, and not just sending them a motivational quote on WhatsApp). After that it can extend, first to a more immediate community – like campus – and then to increasingly wider spheres of influence.

It’s easy to become bitter and despondent when the days are tough. Don’t let your heart become hardened – you never know who needs a part of it.


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