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Can money and fame deter depression, prevent suicide?

The pattern of highly accomplished and successful people committing suicide is stunning.

It assures the rest of us that a life of privileges and luxuries is not all that it seems to be and that achieving more will not make us happier.

While the tragedy of suicide occurs every day around the world (with one suicide attempt every 29 seconds that has been reported), the back to back deaths of worldwide icons Kate Spade — a famous American fashion designer and businesswoman.

She was the founder and former co-owner of the designer brand Kate Spade New York. She was found dead in her Manhattan, USA apartment on June 5, 2018. Her death was ruled a suicide by hanging — and Anthony Bourdain — an American celebrity chef, author, travel documentarian, and television personality who starred in programs focusing on the exploration of international culture, cuisine, and the human condition.

Kate Spade

He was considered one of the most influential chefs in the world by many commentators. On June 8, 2018, Bourdain was found dead of an apparent suicide by hanging in his room at the Le Chambard hotel in Kaysersberg, France — feel like the deaths of more than two people.

It represents the death of a dream and causes one to pause in confusion by the incomprehensibility that such renowned and well-off people could choose to end life.

Before them, not much time has passed since suicide of Avicii — a Swedish musician, DJ, remixer and record producer and died on 20 April 2018 near Muscat, Oman, at the age of 28.

His family released an open letter stating that he “really struggled with thoughts about meaning, life, happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.”

The cause of death was a suicide due to self-inflicted injuries by loss of blood after cutting himself with broken glass from a wine bottle — and Chester Bennington — an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. He served as lead singer for the bands Linkin Park.

He was found dead at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California, USA; on July 20, 2017. His death was ruled as suicide.

The widow of Chester Bennington has spoken out about the late singer’s battle with depression, and the impact of his suicide — and this list does not end here, it is a long one.

To most people, these legends appear to have had everything one could imagine—children, job and monetary security, achievement, and access to a lifestyle that many long for yet few will ever experience.

Because they represent the height of success and inspire so many, they have become role models to the masses, living a life that other dreamed of. So the frightening question that pierces the veil for anyone in despair becomes, “If they could not handle this world having all the luxuries, why should I?”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youths worldwide with rates increasing in many countries according to World Health Organization; Suicide Prevention (SUPRE) 2011 Report.

What is the cause of this malice? This a byproduct of our greed for wealth and material goods which is not driven by life’s hardship, but by our own inner dissatisfaction.

We are under an illusion that we can buy our way to happiness, that wealth is the only path to permanent fulfillment and well-being.

We still measure ‘success’ in scale of the quality and price of the material goods we can buy, or in the size of our salaries.

The curse of  materialism would be more justifiable if there was evidence that material goods and wealth do lead to happiness. But all the evidence fails to show this.

Study after study by psychologists has shown that there is no link between wealth and happiness.

The only exception is in cases of real poverty, when extra income does relieve suffering and brings security. But once our basic physiological needs — food, cloth, shelter, safety — are satisfied, our level of income makes little difference to our level of happiness.

Research has shown, for example, that extremely rich people such as billionaires are not significantly happier than people with an average income, and suffer from higher levels of depression.

Researchers in positive psychology have concluded that true well-being does not come from wealth but from other factors such as good relationships, meaningful and challenging jobs or hobbies, and a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves such as a religion, a political or social cause, or a sense of mission.

Another problem with the theory of materialism is that there is actually nothing ‘natural’ about the desire to accumulate and hoard wealth. In fact, this desire would have been disastrous for earlier human beings.

For the vast majority of our time on this planet, human beings have lived as hunter-gatherers – small tribes who would usually move to a different site every few months.

As we can see from modern hunter-gatherers, this way of life has to be non-materialistic, because people can not afford to be weighed down with unnecessary goods.

Since they constantly moved from one place to another, unnecessary goods would simply be a obstacle to them, making it more difficult for them to move. We evolved as non- materialistic being.

But still why we are so bend toward materialism? Our mad materialism is partly a reaction to our inner discontent.

As human beings it is normally for us to experience an underlying ‘psychological discord’, caused by the incessant chattering of our minds, which creates a disturbance inside us, and often triggers negative thoughts. Another source of ‘psychological discord’ is the strong sense of separateness many of us feel, the sense of being isolated individuals in today’s individualistic culture living in a world which is ‘out there’, on the other side of our heads.

We look to external things to try to relieve our inner discontent. Materialism certainly can give us a kind of happiness – the temporary joy of buying something new, and the ego-inflating excitement of owning it afterwards. And we use this kind of happiness to try to compensate for the fundamental unhappiness inside us.

In addition, our desire for wealth is a reaction to the sense of lack and vulnerability generated by our sense of separation. This generates a desire to makes ourselves more whole, more significant and powerful. We try to ‘bolster’ our fragile egos and make ourselves feel more complete by accumulating wealth and possessions.

It doesn’t work, of course – or at least, it only works for a very short time. The happiness of buying or owning a new item rarely lasts longer than a couple of days. It depends on comparing yourself to other people who are not as well off as you, and diminishes if you compare yourself to someone who is more wealthier than you.

And no matter how much we try to complete our ego, our inner displeasure and incompleteness always regenerate, creating new desires. No matter how much we get, it is never enough, desires are inexhaustible. The satisfaction of one desire just creates new desires, like a cell in our body multiplying.

In 21st Century – era of modernity, the menace of materialism is getting hold of us at initial stage of our beginning – our childhood. Children in the West and other parts of world are becoming increasingly depressed because they are too materialistic, say researchers.

A study of youngsters aged between 9 and 12 years found those who believed happiness was linked to money, fame and beauty were more likely to suffer depression.

Among a group of 400 children, 16 years of age reported levels of clinical depression while 112 were found to be vulnerable to depression in future, experts told the British Psychological Association’s annual conference in Bournemouth.

The research, led by Dr Helen Street from Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre in Western Australia, focused on children’s beliefs about happiness and how these related to their goals in life.

A significant relationship was identified between the children’s understanding of happiness and their vulnerability to depression. Depressed children were more likely to believe that happiness was something achieved through the acquisition of money, fame and beauty.

These children wanted to be rich and famous above all else in life. But Happier children were more inclined to believe that feeling good was about healthy attitudes and the experience of pursuing goals, whatever the outcomes might be.

They were more likely to seek positive relationships with others and to feel that they were developing personally through life.

Dr Street says “it is suggested that unhealthy conceptions of happiness as an outcome dependent upon the acquisition of wealth, fame and beauty are contributing to increasing levels of childhood depression in western society”.
This rising phenomenon is result of our too much reliance on materialism –our physical/bodily desires — and rejecting the need of spiritual part of us — our nonphysical/soul harmony.

It can be better explained through Law of Variable Proportion. Law of Variable Proportions occupies an important place in economic theory. This law is also known as Law of Proportionality.

This law suggests that the quantity of one variable input in a production process is increased, with quantities of other inputs remaining fixed, the productivity first increases, then after reaching a maximum, starts decreasing and finally becomes negative.

Our life is a ongoing continuous process which have both material and spiritual requirements. Our materialistic wealth is increasing but out spirituality stand at constant and even worse decreasing which is generating dreadful repercussions on our life and humanity.

Materialism focuses on material well-being and progress. It gets reflected as the desire for material possessions and the incessant struggle to attain them. It also focus on all types of physical pleasures.

Spiritualism is recognizing the immaterial reality and the soul. It is letting go of our worldly desires. It is connecting with our inner self. It is recognizing that we were made for a higher purpose than living a life just satisfying our materialistic wants.

Indeed the basis of human endeavour and progress lies in materialism. We have to live in this world, following its rules and behavioral pattern, but not have to be entangled with desires so much that we only focus on outer progress, and neglects the inner progress, the progress of our soul.
Material needs is also necessary but problems start when our needs turns into greed.

We set it as only priority of our life and do whatever required to achieve them.

We earn money, fame, position and possessions. However, the happiness of achievement does not stay with us long and we are again moving towards fulfilling of next desire.

As human desires are endless and we get trapped in a vicious cycle and lost our inner joy and peace due to our greed.

We need to make connection with our inner self. In our inner self rest great powers and clarity of thought that our outer self cannot access. Our inner peace which results in permanent and long lasting happiness does not need the excesses of materialism.

The law of variable proportion is telling us that continuous increase in one input — materialism — without increase in other one — spirituality — in our life will at some point result in negative output — depression, anxiety, dissatisfaction with life, rising suicide rate.

We have crossed the point where increasing material input in our lives will not bear positive result but it will cause negative impact as we can observe around us. It is causing us dissatisfaction with diminishing happiness in our lives which makes our life non meaningful.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent ARY policies or opinion.