This is my humble attempt to honour the life of a dear friend. I’ll be sharing a topic, which many of us feel quite uneasy to talk about in broad daylight.
This being was a True Karma Yogi, an acclaimed international yoga teacher, working and living in Bali. He devoted his life to helping others. I only have fond memories of him. We were friends and in the course of several years, I witnessed his good heart. He started as an assistant teacher. He grew very quickly and naturally into the yoga teachers boots. When he started to support and teach in yoga teacher trainings things only got better. He was the first face to welcome you early in the morning hugging the trainees for the morning sadhana (practice). He radiated sunshine regardless of how tired he might have felt or whatever was going on inside him. He was such a beautiful support and friend for so many.
Recently the shocking and devastating news hit us all – he had passed away. What??? Was it covid-19? Did it happen in India? A motorbike accident? These were some of the many questions that people started to ask. No, it was not covid-19. Not India. He was in paradise island and the “Island of the Gods”: Bali. He had taken his own life.
My blog is (as we say in Finland) intended to “lift the cat at the table” – to strip off the veil of shame and guilt surrounding the uneasy topic of suicide and bring an open honest discussion to the daylight. How can we help others who may be harbouring suicidal ideations? Why with my friend, didn’t I see this coming? Could I possibly have helped or done more to prevent this? These have been the questions haunting me and I’m sure many others feel the same.
Let’s start with suffering. According to the many Spiritual traditions, in this life, in this human body, we are all suffering. Most of us have some experience of trauma. Like my beloved Teacher Lama Marut used to say: “You think you’re not suffering? If not right now, you ARE always half way suffering. Either you have just suffered or you are yet to suffer.”
Also the ancient texts like Bhagavad Gita teach us the very basics about life’s suffering – if you are born you are also going to die. Sickness, old age, death. Like it or not – suffering is inevitable.
So a yoga teacher is not an exception – behind the big sunny smile there can be a deep wound. There can be sadness & sorrow. Surrounded by a bunch of friends, in the midst of it, even a yoga teacher can feel alone and hopeless.
I was listening to Rambhoru Dasi’s lecture “Taking Suicide out of the closet” – I wish to share some of her points and facts about suicide.
5 misconceptions about suicide:
1. Myth: People who talk about suicide don’t really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts or completes suicide has given a clue or warning. Don’t ignore suicide threats. Statements like: “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead”, “I can’t see any way out”.
2. Myth: “Anyone who tries to kill themselves must be crazy.”
Fact: Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be – upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing – it is a sign of “mental illness” – not a sign of psychosis.
3. Myth: If a person is determined to kill himself, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: People with suicidal thoughts have mixed feelings about ending their life. They don’t want to die but they want to end their pain.
4. Myth: “People who die by suicide are unwilling to seek help.”
Fact: More than half who took their own life sought medical help 6 months before their death. The majority saw a medical professional prior to death.
5. Myth: “Talking about suicide will give someone the idea to kill themselves.”
Fact: The opposite is true. Bringing up the topic of suicide and talking about it openly is the most helpful thing you can do to help.
Probability comparison: suicidal death causes
1 in 3 deaths: depression
– loss of hope
– unable to see another way to relieve the pain
1 in 5 deaths: mental illness
– people suffering from psychosis or bipolar might be hearing voices that command them to kill themselves
1 in 8: substance use
– drugs & alcohol can be a influence – causing more impulsive behaviour
1 in 12: break-up
– the termination of an intimate relationship
1 in 16: unemployed
– unemployment causes 45.000 suicides a year worldwide – now during the pandemic just think how this situation has exploded!
1 in 22: traumatic stress
– traumatic experiences inc. childhood abuse or war trauma
1 in 26: A CRY FOR HELP
– suicide attempts are not a cry for attention but a cry for help: sometimes people attempt suicide not so much because they really want to die, but BECAUSE THEY SIMPLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO GET HELP.
I have personal experience of this from the past, from someone very close to me.
1 in 37: cyber bulling
– especially teenagers can experience bulling online
1 in 39: financial problems
– the pandemic has put an immense financial strain on many people’s lives worldwide. Amongst others, yoga teachers were really hit badly. A year + is a long time with hardly any income and still all the bills to pay.
1 in 42: chronic pain
– having an illness with no hope of cure , people feeling they have no control of their own life
1 in 63: family violence
– physical- and/or mental violence within one’s own family
And the long list carries on. I’ll mention just a couple of more examples:
1 in 183: discrimination
1 in 1245: social isolation
1 in 2500: migraine
1 in 18.000: accidental suicide
– deadly teen choking games
The 3 measurements of Mental Wellbeing
Mental wellbeing has three measurements according to Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, both professors of psychology at the Rochester University. Their theory, which was published in the mid 1980’s, is that humans have three psychological basic needs, which have to be met in order for the individual to grow, develop and experience a sense of wellbeing. These basic needs are autonomy, capability and communality.
There’s also been research about the subject in Finland by Frank Martela from Aalto University and Katariina Salmela-Aro from the University of Helsinki. The following principles I’ve translated from their text in Finnish into English.
Everyone wants to be the main role in his/her own life. When a person experiences that he/she can have an influence on his/her own life and is able to make choices, the need for autonomy is achieved. Ie, a person is able to have a job, which is satisfying and he/she has an influence on the way of working. At the core of autonomy is how rules and practices are established in the work place. If rules feel arbitrary and senseless, it eats up autonomy.
Autonomy is connected to inner motivation ie the will power of the individual to do things. If autonomy is lacking then the motivation becomes something that is steered from the outside. In this case it feels like someone is pushing you in the wrong direction. It’s important to remember though that compromises are part of life – sometimes one has to do things that don’t always motivate. However autonomy doesn’t get fulfilled if a person does everything only due to outside pressure. “Then one feels at the mercy of the others.”
I bring about, I achieve, I can, I am able. My life has a direction. These are some of the expressions of capability. There is the feeling in life that one moves towards his/her goals. Not always necessary with big steps but still moving. One doesn’t always see one’s own proceeding. That’s why it’s important to get feedback. Especially in the corona time while working more from home – it’s difficult to recognise one’s achievements and goals.
Capability is experience of being skilful at what one’s doing, and also that a person learns and develops. Too difficult or too easy tasks don’t fulfil this need for capability.
It might sound like a cliché however it’s true – everyone needs someone they can call even at the middle of the night. In communality the key is that a person has developed important and deep relationships. We need to have people around us and people who, also in their turn, care of us.
Communality doesn’t happen from social media followers – the quality of the relationships is far more important than the quantity.
To have one’s own psychological basic needs met can be detected from one thing: To feel good and everything seems to be pretty okay.
I had another look at depression – major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. Depression is a severe illness that impairs a person’s day-to-day functioning. Untreated depression can have an array of consequences. In the United States alone one in five adults will struggle with a depressive disorder at some point in their lifetimes. However, only 41% of depression sufferers will receive help for their illness.
I personally know many people who’ve suffered from severe depression and many who have recovered. I am one of those myself – even if we Finns are proven to be “the happiest nation in the world”. What you see is not always what you get.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from depression, it is crucial to reach out for help. Talk to a friend or call a helpline. There are many free domestic help lines where you can call and talk with a real person. This is the link for a service where you can type your country and get local help: findahelpline.com/
And remember, regardless of how bad you might feel things are,
“Every sage has a past. Every sinner has a future.”
I couldn’t see the light at some point in my life. Now I KNOW that there is light.
In the loving memory ~