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Why You Should Never Say Suicide Is Selfish

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I feel the need to write something. I’ve never felt the need to write something so much that the words, getting started, just won’t come. In a way this feels cliche. A celebrity dies. People mourn. Suicide. People speculate. People analyze. Out comes the “what a tragedy,” the “we should have known,” and the most dreaded one, the one that cuts to the core: “What a selfish thing to do.”

I feel so strongly that those who say such things, those who really, truly are mystified as to why someone would attempt suicide, have no idea what real depression feels like. What being at the absolute lowest low feels like. How saying such things can have a lasting effect and make things worse for people who might be struggling in silently.

Depression is a mental illness. It’s not feeling sad about a life event. It’s not having low self-esteem. It’s not being pessimistic. These things can make it worse, but real depression is more than that. Most people struggling legitimately lack the physical ability to break out of the darkness. They might put on airs and they might still be jovial in ways, and people around them could not even see what is going on. It’s not a matter of trying harder, because they probably desperately don’t want to feel the way they feel. But sometimes their body will not physically let them do it.  People struggling can get so fatigued that they can’t make themselves get up. From the outside, they might look lazy or like they just have no motivation or don’t care. But inside, they might feel as though a dump truck is parked on their chest. It can take every fiber of their being to do the simplest of tasks.

Like I said, this whole thing can become a spiral. Once someone is in that major depressive state, they might start feeling guilt over that depression. They might feel like a failure. They could wonder what’s so wrong with them when everyone else makes life look so easy. This can make someone feel even more worthless, which could bring them down even further.

What I just described about depression has been spread around more and more as awareness of depression and other mental health issues have increased in recent years. I have a feeling that most people, especially those who have endured loss or have loved ones battling depression, could recite basically everything I’ve said before I said it. But there is still this disconnect with all of the things “we know” and how people react. Knowing that depression isn’t a choice, then how is suicide, however tragic, so surprising? Knowing depression isn’t a choice, how do so many people, most people in my experience, still talk about how they can’t fathom the selfishness of it all?

This is what always seems to strike me, and this is what I’m trying to combat. Lets say your vision is bad. Better yet, lets say you’re blindfolded. Now someone comes up to you and tells you to read something. Maybe you can make out a little light through the blindfold, so you try. You really try. The person says, “Come on, read it! It’s so easy! It’s a book from a 1st grade class, why can’t you read it?” You try and you try, but there just isn’t any way to make out the words. Can you really be blamed for hitting a point where you just stop trying to read? How would it make you feel if people were constantly telling you to do something that was impossible for you?

“Suicide is so selfish. What about all the people left behind?”

What about those people? The families. The friends. The children. Hell, even the pets. I think that for someone who has died from suicide, every moment that they lived up until then was because of, and for those individuals. When someone is depressed, I think they are fully aware of that reality. They are leaving people behind. They might have people that depend on them. They have people where their death will so affect them, who will never be the same again. Can you imagine, then, how absolutely soul crushing someones depression would have to be to still feel the need to end their lives? Where at the time, the weight on their chest and the pain in their stomach is so intense that they weigh out the collateral damage and decide that not existing in the world is better than the ripples it will cause for those they love?

Instead of talking about selfishness, we need to be talking about strength. The strength it took to get as far as they did in life. For that one day where they hit so low there was no way out, lets talk about all the days where they felt exactly the same, but survived. Lets talk about that strength. Lets talk about how impossible it would feel to swim to the top of an 8ft pool with a 20lb weight stuck to your leg, but every single day, they managed to get that breath of air to continue swimming. Do you know why we need to talk about that strength?

People who are depressed and considering suicide are hearing what you say.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Alexy M.

Originally published: October 16, 2017
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