Welcome to Anarcho-Punk.net community ! Please register or login to participate in the forums.   Ⓐ//Ⓔ

Depression and Suicide Amongst Radicals and Anarchists

Discussion in 'Anarchism and radical activism' started by cheyannepiacenza, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. cheyannepiacenza

    cheyannepiacenzaExperienced Member Experienced member




    Jan 1, 2011
    http://anarchistnews.org/content/depres ... anarchists

    "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes."

    — William Gibson.

    The Problem of Suicide: You Are Not Alone

    As the survivor of an arduous suicide attempt I've subsequently come to contemplate this subject a bit more than most. Throughout the years I've seen friends, family, and loved-ones take their own lives. Each time I hear of another suicide I am reminded not only of my own attempt, but also the attempts by those I've known. To be perfectly honest... my response is probably indicative of some PTSD. But I'm more than a decade removed from my major depressive episode and I feel that the subject of depression and suicide ought now be addressed.

    It should be pointed out that suicide is now a leading cause of death in the United States. Amongst the young adults it ranks as the second or third leading cause of death (depending upon the specific age range examined). In other segments of populations around the world it is also a primary cause of death. Economic factors seem overtly connected with suicide in many nations. Certain professions have a higher rate of suicide than others. And, for U.S. soldiers, suicide has proven to be more deadly to them than combat. This problem of suicide could accurately be described as a public heath crisis or an epidemic.

    While a variety of factors contribute to individual instances of suicide and the overall suicide rate, I believe that progressive radicals, anarchists, and social justice activists have somewhat unique psychological factors that can also come into play. Although they are probably just as likely to suffer from problems like social isolation or drug dependency, I believe that those who are informed about the myriad of crises that humanity currently faces are given an extra punctuation in terms of reasons to be dismayed. So, in addition to any personal problems they may have, they are also aware that the world seems to be going to hell in a proverbial handbasket. And while I personally believe that's a fairly accurate assessment of things, I don't advocate suicide as a response to this reality.

    Life Under Siege

    Particularly for younger radicals, as well as for younger people in general, I think the idea that things can suddenly and dramatically change is forsaken. Since they haven't experienced as much of life, it may not be as clear to younger people that situations can, and do, often change. The world is not static and, as terrible as things may be overall, or as bad any particular personal situation may be, it's bound to change -- even if we're just talking about gaining a different personal perspective on things. We are all bound for new experiences, new insights, and new ways of looking at things. And, in your darkest hour, it should be remembered that the next hour may serendipitously be your brightest. Life undoubtedly can be, and often is, a struggle. However, as a radical, as a person who has a conscience and is informed, it behooves us all if you keep up the struggle.

    In a seeming paradox, life in nations under siege actually see suicide rates drop (WWII Britain, for example). And, if it might help you, perhaps you should consider that the entirety of the world today is somewhat under siege. I won't go into detail here again about the numerous problems that humanity collectively faces -- suffice it to say that there are serious problems in this world and each of us has our own thoughts about what needs to be changed and how that can happen. Life and truth and beauty are constantly under attack, and these are things worth fighting for -- things worth living for.

    When a progressive radical commits suicide it's equivalent to a fascist putting another notch in his rifle. It is equivalent to the war machine rolling its tank treads over another freedom fighter. This, I hope, is reason enough for many to avoid death at their own hands.

    Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down

    As radicals, people are often subjected to mockery and derision. Expressing concerns about the state of the world can often lead to plain ridicule. This mockery and scorn can come from any number of sources -- friends, strangers, family, or the media. And this derision can be, without a doubt, depressing. But while some individuals should perhaps to be held accountable for their ignorant insensitivity, I'd suggest that this phenomena of callous ignorance is just a subtle part of the system's overall psychological warfare -- which it wages every day on every front.

    The underlying nature of the system is to reduce empathy within the general population so that it can produce more mindless workers and consumers. It's subtle, but this is what allows modern society to continue down the unsustainable path that it is on. This is what allows bona fide psychopaths to attain the highest positions within the highest offices of the land -- be those governmental or business. The value-free attitude of a twisted post-modernism scoffs at sincere concerns about the world and it perpetuates more business as usual.

    And make no mistake... whatever the cumulative cause, psychological testing does show that empathy levels in the United States have dropped dramatically. Young people today, in general, are actually less empathetic than they were a generation ago. One can only imagine the social and psychological difficulties that a truly concerned bright young person must have today when dealing with a growing number of sociopathic peers! But these decent young people need to be aware that the problem is not with them. The problem is really not even the fault of their cold-hearted peers -- the problem is with the system that creates and rewards sociopaths. This is what needs to be recognized and this is why good-hearted people should not give up. Merely the continued existence of thoughtful and intelligent people is a strike against the system -- and that is why they should persist in an effort to undermine that system.

    For radicals though, the problem of persecution on a psychological level goes beyond just merely the day to day interactions with any numb or cold peers. Martin Luther King himself was famously sent a letter urging him to commit suicide. And although I don't specifically know how common this particular sort of tactic is... from personal experience I can tell you that such things still happen. When I was an outspoken young radical (with an overt tail) I had leaflets left on my doorstep promoting suicide "for the sake of the environment." And while I can't say for certain that this played a direct role in my own suicide attempt after the fact... it's possible that I may have missed similar psychological attacks directed towards me.

    This also relates to government infiltration and surveillance. It is clear that infiltration of activist circles continues today (perhaps more commonly than ever). But what subtle psychological effects does this infiltration have upon people? Consider that you are likely to pick up on some level of insincerity amongst your peers. If you begin to tolerate insincerity, or dismiss it, you may come to consider it a relative norm. Or, on the other hand, you may avoid common social situations where you'll have to deal with insincere individuals. Either way... this is likely to have an negative effect on you. And consider that it's not just you who is being subjected to this but, also, other sincere individuals will be subjected to the same situation and may respond by altering their normally good-natured manner of associating with people.

    In the 1960's some radical organizations had some of their meetings populated primarily by undercover agents. Now, 50 years later, I see little reason to doubt that this may still often be the case. In fact, the problem may be much more accute. Infiltration and surveillance works as a psychological attack upon progressive radicals. It's psychological warfare. Psy-ops.

    I preceded this article with a quote from Willam Gibson, the dystopian science fiction writer, and I believe his quote has particular relevance to anarchists and other social justice advocates. If you fall into those categories, and if you are feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts, consider that this may be exactly what was intended for you... by design. And, so, then, you should rethink your position. If this sort of thing makes you feel paranoid, well, that may be for the best if it keeps you alive. Besides, being paranoid in this world may often be the sanest frame of mind to have. But is it really paranoia if they want you dead? And do you really think that the government and corporate interests never want any activists dead or that they don't work toward those very ends?

    You Are Empowered To Live And Control Your Own Life

    If your life has gone to shit and doesn't seem worth living... think again. You can actually be part of something bigger and better. You can change your personal life (habits, diet, "friends") and you can work toward being healthier and having a healthier world overall. Even simple changes in your life can alter your perspective and give you reason to live. Your depression may persist... but don't let it dominate you and control your life. I don't mean this all to sound like some hackneyed self-help cliche, but if that's what it takes to keep a few radicals alive... I don't care if that's how it sounds. There are simple truisms that remain true even if they are repeated a million times.

    I don't want any more sincere and good-hearted people to kill themselves. And, at the rate which we are losing them, and at the rate which they are being outnumbered, the world can't afford to lose any more. If you are contemplating suicide... use your intellect to contemplate something else. You are in control of your own life, your own mind, and your own activities -- you can make a positive difference in this world by staying alive. Even if you've never met them... there are people in this world who want you to be happy and want you to live.

  2. JesusCrust

    JesusCrustExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Apr 17, 2010
    I was just gonna post this from infoshop, but apparently you beat me to it.


    As someone struggling with alcoholism, massive anxiety, and depression, this was a nice read.
  3. mrNILEpat

    mrNILEpatExperienced Member Experienced member




    Nov 27, 2012
    thank you for putting this up for people to read. this is really cool and i like that its on this site. and it did just give me a new perspective for things. thank you.
  4. cheyannepiacenza

    cheyannepiacenzaExperienced Member Experienced member




    Jan 1, 2011
    i like like depression, mental illness, and drug addiction aren't treated in a way of healing even in our radical community's .but yea thanks for reading it and thanks for yer new perspectives, whatever they may be!
  5. cheyannepiacenza

    cheyannepiacenzaExperienced Member Experienced member




    Jan 1, 2011
    *i feel like
  6. dickxcarmichael

    dickxcarmichaelMember Forum Member




    Jan 9, 2013
    in my personal experience i have found that while treatment for 2 of these 3 things can only truly come from within the sufferer, there is far more understanding/support for these "ailments" within the radical community than in mainstream society

    radicals suffering from these problems are right where "the powers that be" want them. trapped and isolated within their own tiny brain-sized prison. harming only themselves and those closest too them, while being of no great threat to the status quote. drug addiction/alchoholism is the biggest win-win scenario. you become useless and lifeless. a cog in a machine, a once freedom fighter, now a subjected to your own self-induced bondage.

    the radical scene recognizes that and is rife with people who've gone through it and came out alive.
  7. fubarista

    fubaristaExperienced Member Experienced member




    Nov 13, 2011
    I "survived" a severe depression, but I never regained the spirit I'd had previously. Surviving is just surviving.

    Everything in my life, and I do mean literally everything, had changed many, many times prior to that. But nothing has really changed since I realized that I wasn't going to kill myself and that therefore I would go on living until I died some other way. Interestingly, my living conditions have improved considerably. Apart from my thoughts and feelings, I'm indistinguishable from any other dispirited person.

    I can understand that simply having one more radical around is a reason for living, but I don't feel it. I don't feel much. I go on living because it is easier than suicide for me, that that doesn't apply to everyone.

    There were a couple of suicides I even applauded. Both were well-known authors and concentration camp survivors. Both left notes explaining that they had been watching the world turn fascist again and simply weren't willing to go through it again. I felt that both were justified in their assessment of things and their actions. Having seen the worst of fascism, experienced much of it themselves, and devoted their lives to opposing fascism, they knew it when they saw it happening again and I think they were right not to stick around for a rerun. Their writings survive. They contributed all that they could. Even if fascism vanishes from the world tomorrow, I don't think they were wrong. We all have the options of doing nothing or doing what we can, but nobody can do more than they can and nobody should be expected to.

    Along with the radioactivity and toxins in the air I breathe, there are microscopic living organisms. With every breath I take to live, I am killing myself and others. It is a harsh equation. If part of our goal is to alleviate unnecessary suffering, then suicide can sometimes be looked upon not as a victory for those causing the unnecessary suffering, but for our side, in having one less person suffering.

    Another type of suicide I applaud is when a person is ordered to kill someone else and kills themself instead. That's definitely a victory for our side. It is the ultimate disobedience to authority. There have been numerous cases of this among child soldiers in Africa, when a young boy was ordered at gunpoint to rape or kill his mother or sister. It is those who obeyed instead of killing themselves who were victories for the other side, and even among those who later escaped, recovery has been difficult and incomplete. How do you recover from that? By having a loving and caring community who understands what you did and forgives you? You never forget and you cannot forgive yourself. Survivor's guilt, I think it is called.

    Certainly we can judge those who take the lives of others, but when a person takes their own life, if we judge them are we not saying that their life was not theirs to take? That it belonged to us, the beloved community, rather than to them? Is that anarchist thought?

    I don't think I have the right to condone or condemn, but I think that I have a responsibility to try to understand, and that this goes beyond looking at things from my own perspectives. The luxury and privilege of perspective is merely due to the fact that this time it wasn't me. If it had been, I would have understood.

    Just some thoughts.