Connections Between The Suicide Crisis And Education

Connections Between The Suicide Crisis And Education

David Francis

Guest speaker, Ray of Thought Maiden Conference, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State,

Nigeria.

September 21

st

, 2019.

davidfrancisef@gmail.com; about.me/davidfrancisef/

Topic: Connections Between The Suicide Crisis And Education

Abstract

Today’s global village is quite a sincerely complex one. This complexity had long before the

advent of the 21

st

century been foretold by philosophers and scientists, who cared more about the

margins between living and dying. Beyond the evolution theories of Darwin – the physics of

Newton, Kepler, Nash, and Einstein, the revolution of Marx, and Arendt – lies new and revisited

concepts like feminism, sexualism, individualism, and theories of governance. What anyone can

completely lay claim to is the underlying same-ness with which education in classrooms appear

everywhere. With this comes a crop of humans with minds seeking to break free, yet being

constrained by the four-walls of knowledge. This research is interested in assessing the impact of

education in bringing about new discoveries and growth for humankind. The research will not fail

to mention the recoveries through which 21

st

century education seem not to be at home with

namely: mental disorder. This conclusion shall not be without appropriate connections with what

goes on in the human mind as well as the statistics of suicides. What this research shall not do is

to describe the details of pedagogy. The research using an analytic and expository approach shall

depart with a conclusion meant for further discussion, for those who dare to live meaningfully in

a complex world.

Keywords: suicide, crisis, education.Introduction

With gadgets’ sophistication in the 21

st

century, one would think that humans would feel incredibly

connected with themselves and their neighbours. Unfortunately, there is a high level of deaths by

suicide worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed that 800,000 people die due

to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Though there is a staggering 79% of

suicides in low-and-middle income countries, we cannot also forget that another worrying percent

is found among so-called advanced countries. In other words, 1.4% of all deaths worldwide is

caused by suicide – and this is the 18

th

leading cause of death (as at 2016). This article is far more

interested in asking the ‘why’ questions. It shall do so by addressing why suicides in Africa most

notoriously is recorded among 15 -29 year olds, and even globally. More importantly, this article

is hopeful about creating connections between education and what it does, or does not do to the

human mind.

2Education

When talking about education people often confuse it with schooling. Many think of places like

schools or colleges when seeing or hearing the word. They might also look to particular jobs like

teacher or tutor. The problem with this is that while looking to help people learn, the way a lot of

schools and teachers operate is not necessarily something we can properly call education. They

have chosen or fallen or been pushed into ‘schooling’ – trying to drill learning into people

according to some plan often drawn up by others. Paulo Freire (1973) famously called this banking

– making deposits of knowledge. Such ‘schooling’ quickly descends into treating learners like

objects, things to be acted upon rather than people to be related to.

There are many definitions of this term “education,” as there are many educators all over the world

today. From low-income countries to high-income countries, there is always that search to know

more, through the walls of a classroom. Many theories of educational pedagogy have emerged

34

since the beginning of this century. This is even so because of new beliefs and philosophies that

have emerged as a result of some awakening. Many African philosophers are aware of this

awakening including Leopold Sedar and Julius Nyerere, but have preferred to stick to what they

called “negritude philosophy,” and the “Ubuntu philosophy.” Richard Dowden, like few

journalists like him I do admire, may understand how so important connections are to the African,

and how so infectious they are too. Whether it is the black man calling for pride in his skin colour,

or a black man calling for community consciousness, the conscience of the African is neatly titled

towards ‘we’ as against ‘I’. “Give the African man bread, he will eat it with his brothers and sisters

in mind. Give the European man bread, he will eat it and think of his tax first.”

Education, as we understand it here, is a process of inviting truth and possibility, of encouraging

and giving time to discovery. It is, as John Dewey (1916) put it, a social process – ‘a process of

living and not a preparation for future living’. In this view educators look to act with people rather

on them. Their task is to educe (related to the Greek notion of educere), to bring out, or develop

potential. Such education is:

Deliberate and hopeful. It is learning we set out to make happen in the belief that people can ‘be

more’;

Informed, respectful and wise. A process of inviting truth and possibility.

Grounded in a desire that at all may flourish and share in life. It is a cooperative and inclusive

activity that looks to help people to live their lives as well as they can.

I do agree with the philosophy of education of John Dewey. He gave meaningful descriptions of

what education is, or should be, including: education as a necessity of life, education as a social

function, education as direction, education as growth, education as conservative and progressive, education as the significance of geography and history, experience and thinking, thinking in

education, the nature of method, the nature of subject matter, play and work in the curriculum,

theories of knowledge, among others (John Dewey, 2001). Key in the quest to be educated is the

place of hope in the young and old. Mary Warnock (1986:182) puts it this way:

I think that of all the attributes that I would like to see in my children or in my pupils, the

attribute of hope would come high, even top, of the list. To lose hope is to lose the capacity

to want or desire anything; to lose, in fact, the wish to live. Hope is akin to energy, to

curiosity, to the belief that things are worth doing. An education which leaves a child

without hope is an education that has failed.

But then something comes up and threatens this hope – suicide!

5The Suicide Crisis

I read an article on Medical News Today by Dr Maria Cohut. There I understood the reason for

WHO’s “40 seconds of action.” It’s all about a campaign that will culminate on October 10

th

World Mental Health Day. There are indeed varied definitions of suicide. Among other definitions

“suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Mental disorders, including

depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance

abuse including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepines – are risk factors” (cf:

www.wikipedia.com/suicide.).

In Nigeria alone, “there are about 1.5 million persons with anxiety disorder(s). Nonetheless, there

are thousands of students who understand quite clearly what normal anxiety does. Their brains are

filled with angst – before the entrance to exam halls, inside the hall itself, and the days or months

that follow till results are released.

6Normal anxiety is seen in faces of people who, after submitting their resumè, will have to wait for

days or months for an email or a call. It is also seen in the face of a child who waits for the parents,

during visiting days at the boarding school. My anxiety was like all of these and even more!” I am

grateful for the courage of having to share a personal story of how Isurvived acute anxiety disorder.

You can read it via this link:

https://medium.com/@francisaquaticus2/how-i-survived-acute-anxiety-disorder-129033290886

Inside the mind of the 21

st

century person is that continuous desire to excel, to be more, in the

midst of millions of other persons, and of other dreams. It does in fact sound strange that in a world

filled with so much available potential and resources, they would still be millions who feel

completely alienated or left out, or rather still unsure of what the scheme of things are, or should

  1. These persons, mostly the youth, have found channels to vent their hopes, frustrations,

depressions, worries, confusions, and so on. For the many in every second, who cannot see these

channels of communication, their best way is to fall into the pit of crisis – of suicide – to end it all.

7Some of the most common methods that facilitate death by suicide, the top three being: hanging,

self-poisoning with pesticides, and firearms.

The Human Mind And How It Acts

We normally think the mind is a collection of our boldness, or what we cannot do, or can do. To

the average person on the street, the mind is simply a function. More descriptively then, “the mind

is the set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, imagination, perception, thinking,

judgement, language, and memory, which is housed in the brain. It holds the power of imagination,

recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in

attitudes and actions” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/mind). Beyond philosophers of mind like Plato,

Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Dennett, Fodor, Nagel, and Chalmers, we also have psychologists such

8as Freud, and James, and computer scientists such as Turing and Putnam, who have dared to

describe ideas different from the possibility of non-biological minds in the field of artificial

intelligence.

I did watch three movies that sought a robust description to what the human mind carries. They

are “Like Stars on Earth,” “The Three Idiots,” and “Lucy.” You can check these ones out. There,

you will see the fluid, yet complex movements of the human mind, and how it can change the

course of things. In the mind of every adult is a memory. Whether the memory is that of abuse,

neglect, hatred, love, audacity, or the memories of innocent innovations and wander. It is the mind

– this birthplace of everything thinkable on earth – that educators should hopelessly concentrate

  1. In today’s world, it is important that the educator refuse to forget the place of the social space

in any child’s development process. In thousands of lecture halls around the world, there are young

people seated there – the majority of them fall into the age bracket of 15 – 29 years of age. In those

classrooms are young people with dreams, with struggles, with a passion for something and a

distaste of another. There are also in those halls of knowledge, young people with relationship

difficulties (family, partners, or lovers) – and this is the naked truth. Beyond the distractions of the

world they find themselves, this is the naked truth. These young people are not robots or

programmed to be consistently being fed with ‘textbook words’ or ‘exams speeches’ – hash or not

– from teachers who notoriously fail at telling stories of our humanity, of vulnerabilities, and how

best those stories are important.

Unfortunately, teachers are losing the education war because our adolescents are distracted by the

social world. Naturally, the students don’t see it that way. It wasn’t their choice to get endless

instruction on topics that don’t seem relevant to them. They desperately want to learn, but what

910

they want to learn about is their social world—how it works and how they can secure a place in it

that will maximize their social rewards and minimize the social pain they feel. Their brains are

built to feel these strong social motivations and to use the mentalizing system to help them along.

Evolutionarily, the social interest of adolescents is no distraction. Rather, it is the most important

thing they can learn well. (Lieberman 2013: 282).

A failure of educational pedagogies, or educators, to appreciate that the human mind is a village

of complexity – whether it is coming from young people’s complaints, their social environment,

their relational lives, and their lives after school – is a failure to keep hope alive. It is the failure to

dwindle the human capacity for a tidy wonder. For this reason, there are confident ways to help

the mind at first, and the human person at best address the pressure young people feel to end their

lives. Some of them are:

 Responsible reporting of suicide cases in the media

 Nationwide programs helping young people to develop relevant life skills

 Identifying those most at risk of suicide and offering them the coping strategies

 Restricting people’s access to the means for suicide.

These are the few ways we can agree that the human mind will birth whatever possible and positive

thing thinkable on earth, as far as hope is romanced.Conclusion

This article has attempted to address the question of the suicide crisis and of education most

notoriously for young people in Nigeria. It also sought out a nexus between this crisis and the place

of the human mind in the fight against suicide prevention. Statistics of suicide victims were roughly

given and a gateway to proper education shared in the light of relevant philosophies and

experience. It is quite recommended not to forget what education does involve. For first, we can

see a guiding eidos or leading idea – the belief that all share in life and a picture of what might

allow people to be happy and flourish. Alongside is a disposition or haltung (a concern to act

respectfully, knowledgeably and wisely) and interaction (joining with others to build relationships

and environments for learning). Finally, there is praxis – informed, committed action” (Carr and

Kemmis 1986; Grundy 1987).

11With these needed knowledge of what education entails, it is important that educators all over the

world sidle into classrooms and beyond them to provoke the young person’s capacity to wander,

and yet remain sane. The article is not completely exhaustive, but the hopes herein are to be

revisited over and over again by men and women everywhere who though alive, understand the

full weight of being human, and are being assisted to keep on living. For what is life without

education, and what is education, if it takes away life rather than add to it?

1213

References

Carr, W. and Kemmis, S. (1986). Becoming Critical. Education, knowledge and action

research. Lewes: Falmer.

Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Grundy, S. (1987). Curriculum. Product or praxis. Lewes: Falmer.

Dewey, J. (1916), Democracy and Education. An introduction to the philosophy of

education (1966 edn.). New York: Free Press.

Dewey, John. (2001). Democracy and Education. USA: The Pennsylvania State University

Liberman, M. T. (2013). Social. Why our brains are wired to connect. Oxford: Oxford University

Press.

Maria Cohut. (2019). Suicide. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/suicide/

www.wikipedia.com/suicide

Mark K. Smith. (2019). What is Education? Retrieved from http://infed.org/mobi/what-is

education-a-definition-and-discussion/

(Images from pixabay)

This presentation was made on Saturday 21

st

September, 2019 at the Multi-purpose hall, the

University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, during the Ray of Thought

(www.rayofthought.com) maiden conference. All rights reserved to the author/presenter

David Francis. Please all inquiries, questions, and so on, should be sent to:

davidfrancisef@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply