‘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)

Robin Williams and the tragic sadness of suicide; how you can help.

Everyone at Harmless and The Tomorrow Project are really sad to hear of the tragic death of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams.

Many will question the motivation for his ‘apparent’ suicide, with reports saying Williams was suffering a dark depression.

The reality is that if such darkness can strike down one of our comedy legends and turn such laughter into such sorrow, then we are each vulnerable to this. Enabling ourselves to help our loved ones, or feel able to ask for her should it be needed is vital.

The following may help us take the steps to protect or help the ones we love.

If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry? In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help—the sooner the better.

Talking to a person about suicide
Talking to a friend or family member about his or her suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:

“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”
Questions you can ask:

“When did you begin feeling like this?”
“Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
“How can I best support you right now?”
“Have you thought about getting help?”
What you can say that helps:

“You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.”
“You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”
“I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
“When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.”

When talking to a suicidal person

Be yourself. Let the person know that you care and he or she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair and ventilate anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, and accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his or her feelings.
Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in in your loved one’s head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take him or her seriously, and that it’s okay for them to share his or her pain with you.
But don’t:

Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.”
Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy; a life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
Offer ways to fix his or her problems, or give advice, or make your loved one feel like he or she has to justify his or her suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.

Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.