Anyone who has known an animal has likely seen grief or despondency, or at least what appears to be those kinds of emotions. But do animals actually go so far to commit suicide and purposefully harm themselves? History has given us numerous examples, from beached dolphins and whales to dogs jumping to their watery deaths.
That question isn't new, but over time the way we look at suicide has changed, with some professionals believing that suicide isn't a choice that someone is making to harm themselves. When someone, human or animal, becomes stressed to the point of mental and physical harm, is it even a choice? Or is it a reaction to surrounding conditions, like stress or abuse?
Humans have always had a tendency to project their emotions onto animals, and we have given animals reasons to kill themselves just as humans have had their reasons. What psychologists see today is that suicide is all over the animal world, and instances of animal suicide are often true self-sacrifice, where the animal is destroying itself to save the group as a whole. However, in other instances, where suicide appears to be emotionally driven as opposed to situationally driven, suicide in animals can be the result of biological imbalances and debilitating illness. It presents a fascinating case study that can teach us as much about humans as it can animals.
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