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I Wish People Would See Suicide Isn't Selfish

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Whenever there’s a prominent public suicide, I always brace myself for what follows. Shock, sadness, disbelief and then the inevitable sentiment that the person who decided to take their life “committed” an intensely “selfish” act. I guess part of me can’t say anything. I used to think it was selfish too, until I was in a place where suicide seemed like the only option to end my suffering. The time I attempted suicide and the times I contemplated and planned it out — I wasn’t being selfish. I just wanted the pain to end. I wanted to stop being a burden. I don’t think that’s something most people understand. If you’ve never been so deep in the spiral of depression that suicide is an option, you can’t comprehend how it could seem like a kindness to yourself and everyone around you.

I remember when Robin Williams died. People would say it was so tragic. It was such a loss. If only he’d gotten help. The thing is, he did get help. He reached out at several points in his life for help and eventually it just wasn’t enough. He struggled and fought for years and for anyone to call him selfish… well, it blows my mind. You wouldn’t say the same of a person with a physical illness.

And yes, I know there’s a difference. Depression and other mental illness can almost always be helped, but when you’re in it deep, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like you will never be better and every second you’re alive you’re a drain on those you love. Everything is black and painful and your world will never get better so why continue to exist? I do not mean to condone suicide in any way. I still have my bad days, but more often than not I am grateful every day that I did not die in my attempt, and that I do get to keep on living. Some days, things still suck beyond measure, but other days I find something to absolutely relish, even if it’s just a cup of perfectly brewed coffee or a sunrise that lights up my drive into work.

What I do mean is to convince people to change their language when it comes to talking about suicide and suicide attempts. Having survived one, I think the hardest thing for me was overcoming the notion that I had been selfish or that it had been for attention. There were people in my life more focused on how it had hurt them, rather than asking what had led me to be at such a desperate point.

I’ve studied biology. Humans and all animals want to live. We have a drive to survive. Suicide is against every instinct in our bodies. To be at the point where killing yourself seems like an option suggests huge amounts of emotional pain and I don’t see wanting to escape that as selfish. Rarely do people attempt suicide without signs. I know that in most cases there are friends and family members who do reach out and attempt to help, and unfortunately in some of these cases, it’s too little, too late. But that doesn’t mean blame needs to be assigned to anyone. We don’t say loved ones weren’t doing enough. Why do we blame the person who died by suicide then? The act is painful, yes. Selfish? I don’t think so.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via alexandralarina

Originally published: October 3, 2017
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