Playing Russian Roulette


“Anyone who cannot cope with life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little despair over his fate…but with his other hand he can jot down what he sees among the ruins, for he sees different and more things than the others; after all, he is dead in his own lifetime and the real survivor.” – Franz Kafka

Ever gambled with the idea of suicide? It’s like playing Russian Roulette: the one idea glares at you from the inside of a barrel, ready to be cocked at any second.
To be or not to be: that is the haunting question… It’s a fact that humans all react differently to stress: some freak out, some cry, some get angry and some get increasingly depressed. With the challenges of varsity-life forever increasing – keeping up your good marks, getting your assignments done on time, balancing one’s social life and academic life, fitting in with the crowd and dealing with the making and breaking of intimate relationships, it’s no wonder that suicide is on the increase amongst students.

suicide note

LAST WORDS: Only 15% of people who've committed suicide leave suicide notes. PIC: Online

Facts about suicide:

  • Three times as many men kill themselves as women.
  • Three times as many women as men attempt to kill themselves but do not die.
  • Suicide is especially frequent amongst psychiatrists, physicians, lawyers and psychologists.
  • No other kind of death leaves friends and family with such long-lasting feelings of distress, shame, guilt, puzzlement and disturbance.
  • Men usually choose to hang or shoot themselves. Women are more likely to use sleeping pills.
  • Suicide ranks second as cause of death amongst varsity students, after car accidents.
  • Many more students commit suicide than their peers who do not attend class.
  • Hungary and Japan have the highest rates of suicide in the world.

According to Mintz (1968), motivations for suicide may vary: aggression turned inward, efforts to force love from others, efforts to make amends for past mistakes, sexual attraction to members of one’s own sex, the desire for re-incarnation, the desire to rejoin a loved one, the desire to escape from stress, deformity, pain, or emotional vacuum.

Freud agreed with Mintz’s theory on “aggression turned inward” as the most common cause of suicide. He claims:

“When a person loses someone whom he or she ambivalently loved and hated, and introjects that person, aggression is directed inward. If these feelings are strong and murderous enough, the person will commit suicide.”

However, many other scholars have disagreed with Freud, claiming that the majority of suicide notes express affection and gratitude, not hostility. Yet, only 15% of people (statistic of the United States) leave suicide notes.

Kurt Cobain

27 Curse: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are just a few musical artists who committed suicide around the age of 27. PIC: Online

According to Durkheim (1897), there are three types of suicide:

Egoistic suicide: when a person has too few ties to society and the community. These people feel alienated from others and cannot function adaptively as social beings.
Altruistic suicide: the opposite of above, is a response to societal demands, where self-sacrifice is seen as an honourable act amongst certain cultures. Examples include freedom fighters in the old South Africa, the hara-kiri of the Japanese and modern-day suicide bombers.
Anomic suicide: when there is a sudden change in someone’s personal relations. public humiliation.
During the 1970s, various tests were done around the world to see how suicide could be controlled. It was found that depression was not as much a cause as hopelessness for one to take his/ her own life. Many genuinely suicidal people believed that nothing would get better in their lives at that present time. Suicidal people were also found to be haunted by a sense of physical disequilibrium, in that they couldn’t control things around them. Such people also had problems in challenging their energy, were more rigid in their approach to problems and less flexible in their thinking.

“Like one who keeps afloat on a shipwreck by climbing to the top of a mast that is already crumbling… from there he has a chance to give a signal leading to his rescue.” – Walter Benjamin (1931)

brain depression

PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE: A lack of Serotonin (a neurotransmitter involved with 'happy feelings') may cause one to feel depressed and suicidal. PIC: Courtesy Medical Look (online)

How to get rid of suicidal thoughts:

  • Stay in contact with your friends and family. Tell them what you are feeling: a problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Avoid being alone at all costs.
  • Keep active – exercise releases endorphins which make one feel happy.
  • Keep busy – watch comedies on TV, listen to uplifting music, go out with friends.
  • Genuinely believe you are strong enough – that this too shall pass.
  • Avoid negative or pessimistic people in your turmoil – they only pull you down.
  • Appreciate and reward yourself by participating in new social groups, charity work or team sport.
  • Find a sense of belonging by participating in a religious group who practises your needs and beliefs.
  • Join the gym with a reliable friend – this will motivate you to go.
  • Contact your campus psychologist (normally free) to talk to if no one else is available.

Important telephone numbers (in South Africa):

The Depression and Anxiety Support Group: (011) 783 1474
FAMSA (for trauma debriefing): (011) 788 4784/5 or (012) 460 0733


Davidson, G.C. & Neale, J.M. 1982. Abnormal Psychology: an experimental clinical approach. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

2 thoughts on “Playing Russian Roulette

  1. The objective of the game roulette is always to guess which number the spinning ball will drop on the roulette wheel but russian roulette is totally different from this.

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