4 Misconceptions About People Who Died by Suicide
I think we all know someone who has died by suicide or know somebody affected by someone’s suicide. We hear about the suicides of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, Robin Williams or Chris Cornell. For some, these events evoke an emotional and overwhelming response, both on social media and in person.
Unfortunately, when suicide does occur, there are some people who immediately blame the victim. They lash out with anger at the one who caused others pain by ending their own pain. It’s certainly understandable to be angry about a loss, but when anger is directed at the person who took their own life, it shows a significant lack of understanding of how mental illness works.
Nobody will ever know what was going on in the mind of the deceased, as we were not in it. I do know, however, how mental illness manifests and how destructive these thoughts can be as they seep through the brain. Mental illness can take many different forms, including anxiety, depression, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to name a few, but I believe every person who died by suicide had overwhelming depression. We think we can know what was going on, but ultimately, for the most part, we have no clue what that person was thinking or living.
Here are some answers to questions and thoughts that people may throw out after someone dies by suicide.
1. “Don’t they love their family and understand what impact their suicide will have on them?”
Absolutely! They might know it very well. They might hate the thought and are rattled by it. The hard part for them is that their brain is telling them that not being here and ending their pain is better than the outcome of their suicide — that living without them will help their family live a better life than living with them. Depression is a liar; it says things like “you’re a burden,” “you’re making things worse for others,” “they’d be better off without me.” The mind is the ultimate controller; it pushes us and pulls us into things we shouldn’t do but can’t help ourselves. It feels impossible not to listen to what your own mind is telling you.
2. “How could they do this? How could they leave their loved ones?”
Those living with depression can feel like they are already gone inside, so they don’t see it as leaving as they have been long gone for a while. They might not look that way or act that way, but they most certainly feel that way. They’ve been feeling this way for a long time. Depression again lies to the mind and tells them they are gone for good, even though therapy and medication can bring them back. Depression is the most convincing salesmen; it can sell you so much false information, making you believe it’s the truth.
3. “Why weren’t they more grateful for what they had?”
It may be hard to believe, but practicing gratitude can only make severe depression worse. This is contrary to popular belief in those without a mental illness, as their emotional state depends on reasons. So, focusing on all the good around you makes you feel good. Depression, however, doesn’t care if you’re rich, successful, beautiful or talented.
Depression is a parasitic worm burrowing around your brain. There is no “why” for those with depression. After all, they often have everything to be grateful for, right? Because of this, their feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness increase. They don’t feel worthy of your love. How could they be, when you see no worth in their depression? Many know how well they have it and yet still find themselves in a state of internal turmoil and emotional destruction. Again, depression lies. The more grateful a person is, the more monstrous depression makes them feel. No one in a remotely “normal” state of mind could understand this is possible. If you fall into that group, consider yourself fortunate.
4. “Every problem can be fixed, why didn’t they see that?”
There’s a quote I personally don’t agree with: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” You don’t need to have a reason to be depressed. Neurotransmitters don’t care about your problems. Many people with depression are not sad about any one particular event and in fact, might not even feel sad. They do often have feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or nothingness. They often feel empty due to nothing in particular, other than their own chemical imbalance. When the problem is in your own self, you don’t feel like you have a “temporary problem.” You just have you. Depression lies and says you cannot be fixed.
Sure, you’re now thinking, “how does he know this stuff? Is he one of those know-it-alls who just have to spout off about things?” Actually, I’ve lived it. I still live it. Depression used to have me, but now I have depression. I have had these suicidal thoughts many times. I have felt worthless and like a disappointment to others. I almost let the master manipulator of depression win, but with the help of a dear counselor and medication, I have been able to develop ways to cope with the thoughts.
If you’ve never lived with depression, I now hope you have a little more understanding and empathy for those who live with it every day and those who lost their battle with depression. Take the time to ask questions; don’t assume a person is OK because you think they “look” OK.
To those living with depression, I know you can relate. If you haven’t sought help, please do so for yourself and nobody else. It’s a decision you will never regret. You are much stronger than that liar depression is telling you. Find something to occupy your mind. I use music as my safe place to go when I need something to occupy my mind and silence the criticism depression is feeding me. Find a group to get behind that supports the cause. For me, this is Project Semicolon. The semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.
Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash