Everyday, millions of people experience it. For most individuals, it is within reasonable limits and usually somewhat healthy. However, as the world continues to advance in technology and competition for school and work increases, stress levels are at an all time high. These levels of stress can be dangerous for all people. In some cases, immense stress can be fatal causing victims to commit suicide. From school to adulthood stress is everywhere. In historical sources and research studies, stressors in life will be uncovered and understood. Many authors write about suicide and many stories today have suicidal meanings beneath them. It is especially relevant in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
To really understand why someone would commit suicide, you have to understand what suicide is. Many cultures had different meanings to suicide. In some places, like early Japan, it was seen as honorable to commit Seppuku, or the action of suicide by disembowelment. However in others, like the United States and in Europe, it is a problem that has been rapidly growing for years. There are many approaches to breaking down why someone would commit suicide. One approach is sociological. Durkheim, a French researcher, “proposed four kinds of [sociological] approaches”,” altruistic, egoistic, anomic, and fatalistic.(“Suicide” 4:1653) Each of those proposed approaches share one thing in common: an exterior influence. Either because it is required by society or it is caused by society. Another approach to suicide is psychodynamic. Within this approach, there have been many different theories to why one would commit the act. Karl Menninger, an American psychiatrist, stated that there are three drives that sum up the motives behind suicide. Those three drives are, the wish to kill, the wish to be killed, and the wish to die. While these are only some theories, there are always some truth to them. There is however a more reliable source for figuring out why someone would commit suicide and that is the biological approach. There are some risk factors that can be identified beforehand. One major risk factor would be a deficit in serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that is responsible for your mood, having a low amount of serotonin is a sign that one may be depressed and even suicidal. However, even if a subject has none of those there are still some risk factors that can be identified that are not involved with any of those categories. Exterior factors like family environment, traumatic life events, and stress. A large amount of stress can cause someone enough pain that they feel the need to end their life. In the world today, millions of people work themselves through their life. They pile on stress and in some cases, never relieve it. Stress is a dangerous thing and in many cases, if left untreated, can lead some people to a premature, self inflicted death.
Immense stress in can start early in schools. Students are forced to learn the curriculum and master it for the illusion of success. However, not all students have the same focus ability and mindset for success. For instance, students with learning disabilities, such as ADHD, ADD, and deficits in social skills, may have a harder time adjusting to the fast paced settings of a classroom. Through their struggling, these students may find themselves failing classes and accumulating more stress. Students that lack confidence in their social skills may find themselves inducing anxiety over little things that may seem like nothing to others. Additionally those students may have a hard time making friends with their peers and can be isolated. They may carry the weight of their issues on their shoulders privately and may be in need of emotional support from their peers. Nonetheless, they may be afraid to reach out to get help from those around them because of the anxiety they subconsciously created for themselves and the stress that would come with them being rejected or humiliated. The inability to reach out for help and their continuous academic struggles, may lead them to more serious issues that require professional help. These factors turn into somewhat of a stress positive feedback loop for students with learning disabilities, and even regular students, which may lead to more serious issues such as depression and in some more extreme cases, suicide. The results of a study on stress in children, displayed that all students were found to be at risk of moderate to high levels of depression, and a proportionate amount were at risk of severe depression due to stress. Unfortunately these stressors don’t end in high school, they are easily available in everyday life afterwards.
The big leap to college isn’t complete without change. Some of that change is positive, and unfortunately there is some very negative change involved as well. As already stressed teens make their way to their respected universities, however their problems only get worse. As they learn to deal with the struggles of living on their own, they encounter issues like financial difficulties, loneliness, being homesick, and relationship troubles. These problems, which are numerous in many cases, can lead to underperforming in academics. In a study made in 2001, 76% of students felt “overwhelmed” and 22% were unable to function as a result of feeling depressed. This depressed state that many college students deal with can cause low self esteem, and feelings of no self worth. These feelings can also lead to dangerous behavior such as excessive alcohol consumption and risky sexual behavior. Following activities that cause harm to the mental state like those can end up with feelings of worthlessness. There are many cases of college students with low self esteem, tend to do less to take care of themselves and are more likely to pursue poor health choices Males and females both react to stressors in college differently. According to a study, men in college may actually have an increase of self esteem through adolescence and early adulthood while women are more susceptible to a big drop in self esteem. However in college, both men and women have a large drop in self esteem, even though women were more likely to report their depression. Adjusting to pressures in fitting in and lifestyle changes are a big factor to this drop. Stress, low self esteem and depression are big factors in suicide. Even as students adjust there will always be major stressors in their lives. Unfortunately, with life comes stress, and as students move into the working world, they will discover new stress all around them.
In the workplace today, stress is very abundant. Whether it comes from the boss or from the employees, there are so many different jobs that can cause stress. However not all jobs have the same risk level as others. Jobs like dentistry, auto mechanics, and carpenters tend to have a higher risk factor than jobs like cooks, clerks, and elementary school teachers. The stress to do a job well enough to be able to stay in business may be crippling to some people. For example, being a police officer is considered a high risk occupation. Police officers go to work everyday believing that they are there to protect the public. However, they are met with hostile behavior and agendas that show that police officers are evil. This constant hate can feel personal to some police officers causing them to feel worthless. That worthlessness that they would come to feel everyday would cause depression and stress. The stress that they can cause them to commit suicide.
Of course there are other factors than just the job that may be causing stress. Problems at home may also be a cause. If there is struggle in a marriage, it can cause extra stress on top of the workload stress, as someone would feel betrayed by the person they believed they could spend the rest of their life with. As divorce, may not only lead some to lose their family, but their belongings, they may find themselves being useless members of society and see themselves as worthless. Another example would be if someone is losing their home, the stress of looking for a new home, and finding one that they can afford could be too much on someone who is struggling. It can make them feel like a worthless member of society and can cause them to commit suicide.
Economic factors such as the great depression can be the cause of some stress. “Suicide declines during prosperity and rises during a major economic depression” For example during the great depression, money was scarce and many people were struggling. As jobs were harder to find and money was becoming more scarce, people started to lose hope in the world and in their lives. This caused immense stress and feelings of hopelessness. Those untreated feelings developed into something more major over time. First was immense depression and then it rapidly turned into suicide. During the Great Depression, suicide rates rapidly increased. The rate went increased about 20% during the great depression.
Another factor that influences stress is age. According to reports, the suicide rate rises to almost four times as high over the age of 60, than that of someone under the age of 20. This can be caused by the need of having more responsibilities. As an older adult, it is expected for one to be able to understand what they are doing and have everything in their life under control. However, when expectations are not met, feelings of being a failure flood in and that can be very fatal to some people. For example, if someone is still working at age 60, while all of their colleagues and friends have retired, they may feel like they have failed in life, even though they have to work to maintain financial security.
Gender can also play a role in suicide. A study found that “male suicides outnumber females about three or four to one.” This could be caused by the need for men to be the dominant and stronger gender. The role of the man in 20th century America was to be the breadwinner and the leader of the household. Despite that, it may not always work out that way. When the ‘man of the house’ feels like he is not a man he may feel emasculated and worthless. Another reason is that as a man it is not socially acceptable to express emotions in the same way. Some men go their entire life without expressing their emotions and it may cause them to feel depressed in the process.
A fourteen year study was conducted throughout the late twentieth century following female nurses, aged 30 through 55, and monitoring their stress levels and life habits. Nurses were chosen for this study because, like physicians, they have high occupational stress and have a large access to many different drugs. Throughout the study, these women involved were given questionnaires and interviews that would asses their stress levels and make mathematical predictions about the nurses’ health. In the study, many of the nurses were using a drug called diazepam. Diazepam was a stress and anxiety suppressant that was used so the nurses could keep on working through long shifts. In the study, the researchers discovered that after long periods of time, some of the nurses had many characteristics of chronic stress including enlarged adrenal cortices. Through the findings they also discovered that stress was a huge factor at work and at home for calculating the risk of suicide. For many of these nurses, they claimed they had a low stress level at home but almost all of the ones that said that were using diazepam. Heavy smoking and/or heavy drinking was found as a common trait for those nurses higher levels of stress at home. The stress at home could be stemmed from any issues at home, financial problems and other struggles within the household. A large factor in high stress levels was divorce. However, suicide was not only prevalent in cases with high stress ratings. Low ratings of stress can be linked to denial of stress. Some of the nurses refuse to believe that they are under immense stress and choose to underreport it. Which usually stems from any level of social isolation and depression. All of the factors the nurses deal with can lead to suicide. Unfortunately, during the study, about eight percent of the nurses involved ended up succumbing to suicide. After going over the data that was reported by the nurses, the researchers discovered that the nurses that did end their life, reported low amounts of occupational stress and at home stress. Many of them were confirmed to have used diazepam to combat their stresses. Through the study, they could confirm that suicide is caused by many factors, however stress was one of the most relevant factors.
In Mary Shelley’s life, suicide is a common theme. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, attempted suicide twice before she was born. Shelley’s knowledge of her mother’s life must have given her reason to think about suicide and what it meant. “The views of suicide published by her father […] would certainly have been known to Mary” (Sanderson 51). Since she was raised as an author, she had many of her parent’s finished works at her fingertips and could have easily learned more about suicide. This would have helped her create those dark thoughts about suicide at an early age, which have translated into her writing.
The theme of suicide is prevalent in a lot of literature throughout history. In the novel, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, there are many parallels to modern day life with stress and suicide.
Shelley depicts stress in Victor Frankenstein through the monster he created. Frankenstein’s monster symbolizes his fears and his wreckless tendency. Throughout the novel, the monster destroys everything that is close to Frankenstein. He does this to get vengeance on his creator for abandoning him. It leads Frankenstein to go and hunt down the monster and dedicating his life to making sure no one gets harmed by the monster ever again. However, once the monster learns that Frankenstein is dead, he too states he will end his life. The monster carries thoughts of suicide with him through the entire book. His hope for life is for victor to create a companion that will keep him company. Much like those suffering from social isolation, the monster desires for company, and he is met with stress from the world around him. Since Victor, his creator is alive and suffering, the monster finds satisfaction and a reason to live. However, the extreme stress on Victor caused by the monster, causes him to lose his humanity. Victor tried to hunt him down but ends up dead in the process. With nothing left to live for, the monster sees no reason to live. The attraction between the two characters parallel real life situations. In this example, Victor represents the person and the monster represents that person’s job. As they work, they become stressed, and it can take a toll on the person. As they try to work from paycheck to paycheck they lose sense of who they are as they work. Like how victor decided to dedicate his life to hunting the monster, he lost himself and eventually died in the process. The man understands that his position can be easily replaced by anyone else qualified, and he can be forgotten. Another way that Frankenstein relates to the topic of suicide is the stress he gets from losing his friends. When the monster threatens him by killing his friends and tells him to watch out for his wedding night, he is completely afraid and stressed. He contemplates suicide because of his immense stress on the situation.