Undoubtedly, suicide has become a serious problem in society: 30,000 people commit suicide in the United States each year, while 750,000 people attempt it. Regardless, there has been endless debate on whether or not suicide, in its entirety, is selfish. Shortly after Robin Williams’ apparent suicide, Katie Hurley contended that there is nothing selfish about the course of action, predominantly from the perspective of the clinically depressed and other mental disorders. Maybe, but maybe not: how can there be nothing selfish about suicide?
The most common argument links suicide with depression: “The black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming. Feeling like a burden to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression.” For some of the clinically depressed, suicide is seemingly inevitable: the risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population, and approximately 2 of 3 who attempt suicide are depressed.
While such statistics remain intact, numbers cannot merely be used to illustrate the humanity of people. These are still human beings, and there is still something selfish about the choice of taking one’s life.
I, too, am a survivor of suicide.
But I was the other third, the third that turned out to be “just fine.” I was a so-called “normal looking” girl who was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar emotions that wrestled in her head. I was the girl who wanted to be released from unprecedented. I was the survivor who used to see suicide as catharsis.
For me, choosing suicide was selfish. Agreeably, “People who say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors” – this is perhaps the most generic argument one can have against the suicidal. However, my circumstances saw suicide as an escape from self rather a loss of self. It was a selfish act against the only one who could actively stop it: me.
My reasons for suicide back then were subtly different from those who are depressed. Although suicide is the result of completely skewed perceptions of reality, I was in touch with my reason that was gradually controlled by feelings, feelings, and more feelings. Many who are depressed typically don’t choose that path: it can be inherited, it can be health-related…it can just happen.
On the other hand, those who, like me, do not suffer from mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder seem to actively choose that path to suicide. It’s a decision made based on the problems tackled in life, ranging from academic difficulties, social struggles, family conflict or economic hardship. Suicide becomes the product of countless emotions that overshadow reason, thereby making suicide the “most viable option” in order to escape from the hellhole they have created for themselves.
For those who suffer from depression, suicide is the result of the way they understand the world that encompassed them; for me, it was the other way around. I didn’t choose suicide for attention; how could that even be an option, when you’re only convinced that “nobody would notice that I’m gone.” It’s because we didn’t even want to give life a chance, even when that “judgment” was always at our disposal. We wouldn’t listen to those instinctual words of hope, “what if I hang in there for just one more day?”
Perhaps it’s not the case for depression but, for people like me, suicide is equivalent to taking life for granted. It’s choosing to continue being ensconced in the shadow of self-pity, despite the commonality of your problems. It’s like trying to shut out the difficult, inevitable but solvable issues like it’s a revolving door. It’s the fact that you’re trying to justify your death with the events that the next-door neighbour you never talk to goes through. It’s convincing you that your situation is different when it isn’t, which suffocates you further. It’s giving up.
For people like me, suicide may have set us free, but at what cost? At the end, with that one reckless choice we made, we end up losing the most. How much more selfish to yourself can you be than that?
American Association of Suicidology. “Some Facts About Suicide and Depression.” Dartmouth College. http://www.dartmouth.edu/~eap/library/depressionandsuicide.pdf.
Counselling and Psychological Services. Depression and Suicide. http://caps.ucsc.edu/resources/depression.html#Chapter7.
Gallucci, Alexandra. Economic Hardship Causes Suicide-Rate Increase, Experts Speculate. February 28, 2012. http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=201455.
Henick, Mark. “Why We Choose Suicide.” TEDx. October 2, 2013.
Hurley, Katie. There’s Nothing Selfish About Suicide. August 12, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-hurley/theres-nothing-selfish-about-suicide_b_5672519.html.
Lester, David. “An Essay on Loss of Self Versus Escape from Self in Suicide: Illustrative Cases from Diaries Left By Those Who Died By Suicide.” Suicidology Online. April 11, 2013. http://www.suicidology-online.com/pdf/SOL-2013-4-16-20.pdf.
Special thanks to Ada Tam and Toni Airaksinen.