‘Suicide is selfish’ – the things we say. Re-posting in light of the death of Robin Williams

Yesterday I was reading an article about a young gay man. He’d been bullied for his sexuality and then made the irreversible decision to end his life.

Campaigners are using the tragedy to raise awareness about bullying and homophobia. Well I want to raise awareness about suicide, too.

How can we ignore the fact that this young man’s fate was to ultimately die because of abuse and silent suffering?

In the thread of thousands of comments on social networking sites about his death, there were comments of support and compassion. There were also comments like this:

‘Its so selfish to commit suicide’

‘He could have asked for help- just imagine what he’s done to his family. Selfish!’

Comments like this are common, but they make my skin crawl. Suicide isn’t selfish- it’s desperate. When people make that decision to end their lives it is because they have hit a point in their world where it ‘feels’ as though there are no other options.

Often people descend into a place where they truly believe that there would be no impact if they ended their life. Can you imagine how bad you must be feeling to believe that no one would notice if you died?

Selfish doesn’t come into it, because if you truly believe you are better off dead and that no one would miss you, there’s no reason to even consider the impact on others when you are gone.

For others, the pain of living is so intolerable, that they do not feel that they can stay alive in spite of how this may effect others. It’s an unbearable place to be.

To label someone as selfish after their death in such tragic circumstances is the ultimate cruelty; not only had that person suffered in life to the point that they ended their life- they are taunted in death for their decisions.

Yet there is a part of me that is glad of those who can still call someone selfish- their lack of understanding and compassion means that these people have never suffered in the same way. They might think they have, but they haven’t – and for that, despite their ignorance, I am glad. I would not wish that suffering upon anyone!

Suicide is not selfish. It may not consider the impact on others, but that is because suicide is a desperate choice, made by desperate people at a desperate time. We don’t think clearly at these times.

It also doesn’t have to be this way. If we reach someone at these times there is always the possibility of change. If we can influence that desperate state, we can change the outcome.

There is always hope.

Caroline Harroe (Harmless and Tomorrow Project Manager)

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