13 April 2005

When Stress is Too Much, Death Becomes a Strong Option

My Prayer
By Teodoro Borlongan

"God asked me to wait; I endured. God asked me to do right; I struggled for what was right. I kept strong outside, but stood alone. My unbearable fear, burden and pain for the sake of others and my family, I shared only with God.

"O where is Justice? Where is Truth? Where is Compassion? It is Your face, Lord, I truly seek. If not now, then after this lifetime. If not here, then in Your kingdom.

"I finished my race; I fought my good fight. I did not give up; I kept my faith. Yet death may still bear meaning or purpose for others, if not our lives.

"Lord, look upon us with mercy and love in our last moments of human frailty. Let me sing Your praise and glory forever in Your house."

[Philippine Star, 12 April 2005]

This was the last email of Mr. Teodoro Borlongan, 49, former Urban Bank president, who shot himself on the left temple (he was left-handed) at about noon yesterday using a .45 Glock automatic pistol.

What drives a person to kill himself? In what instances do we begin entertaining suicidal thoughts? When does Death become the sole option and solution to our problems? Why do we even consider Death as an answer?

Ted_BorlonganIn suicide cases, we are often left with more questions than answers.

I do not know Teodoro Borlongan personally, but from news reports I've read, I'd say he was a good and intelligent man.

He was a "recipient of the Ten Outstanding Young Men award for domestic banking in 1993," and he "graduated cum laude from the Ateneo de Manila University’s honors program with a bachelor’s degree in economics."

He was what many would describe as a successful man if career advancement and professional standards were the criteria used (which is often the case in our society).

But the emotional and psychological stress brought about by the closure of Urban Bank in April 2000 (5 years this month) and the pile of legal cases he unsuccessfully pursued might have been too much for him to handle.

In the August 2004 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, an article discussing suicidal risk factors said that suicidal behaviors are strongly associated with mood disorders. Here are excerpts:

The strongest predictors for future suicidal behavior were

  • a history of a previous suicide attempt,
  • a higher subjective rating of their depressive symptoms, and
  • a history of cigarette smoking
In addition, both pessimism and aggression/impulsivity traits predicted future suicidal behavior.

It would be useful for clinicians to evaluate patients with mood disorders for a history of pessimism, aggressive and impulsive acts, and substance usage, including nicotine dependence. Patients with these risk factors may need to be more aggressively managed to help protect them from future suicidal behaviors.

[American Journal of Psychiatry, Aug 2004 (Vol.161, No.8)]

In the January 2005 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, there was an article that pointed to debts piling up, as well as economic depressions, as possible risk factors for committing suicide.

Useful links about suicide can be found here and here.

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