Literatus: Attempts to forever

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013


ONE of the few important sideshows in the final days of the Lord before His Passion was the death of Judas Iscariot. He was a man who had chosen life when he followed the Master and later chose a tragic way of escaping the demands of his conscience.

Science, including health science, however, has no definition of the term “conscience.” Psychoanalysis equates it with the superego, the evaluator of the ego (segment of personality that reality dominates) against an ideal standard.

Mental health sciences do have an equivalent of the phrase: “disturbed conscience.”

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And that is guilt, a remorseful awareness of having done something wrong, or violated a moral standard. Psychoanalysis describes it as a feeling of tension between the ego and the superego.

A healthy dose of guilt is good. It motivates a person to correct his mistakes, especially when it relates with other people, but also with the self. Dwelling excessively in one’s failures however can bring about resentment and depression. And this must be the final journey that Iscariot took before he died.

In a recent study on suicides in Korea, Yong-Sil Kweon and his colleagues at the Department of Psychiatry of Uijeongbu St. Mary’s Hospital, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, corroborated the role of depression, one of the few recurring findings in this study and in past studies, across different cultural contexts.

Common findings between these studies are predominance of females (71.4 percent in the Kweon study); diagnosed depression (78.6 percent); precipitated by interpersonal conflict (39.3 percent); and strongly impulsive personality (78.6 percent). These four characteristics can so push people to commit suicide, even those who had no history of mental illness (78.6 percent) or any previous attempt at suicide (71.4 percent).

A quick Google search to check for the Cebu experience with suicide showed similar characteristics, except for the gender. News reports on suicide deaths and attempts in Cebu Province within the first top 50 search results showed 14 cases of male suicides compared to only four among females. More than three-quarter (79 percent) of the male suicides happen below age 50, largely (37 percent) due to relationship problems and issues. Eighty percent of female suicides, while only 44 percent of male suicides occur during adolescence and young adulthood (ages 10-29).

What makes Cebuano men more susceptible to the idea of suicide than women? Are Cebuano men so devastated with relationship problems they will commit suicide to escape them?

What makes adolescent and young adult women twice the vulnerability of men to desperation that leads to suicide? The answers to these questions, dear readers, are something you need to look closer yourself.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 17, 2013.

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