logo Marcy Brook



Published 2020-04-15 18:15:00.191505 UTC

The way we view suicide as a society is fucked up. It is stigmatised as a concept in a way that makes the conversation nearly impossible, which is the one thing that bottlenecks any attempt to address it. I think there are a few key problems with the mainstream perception of suicide that need to be rectified for everyone's sake.

Firstly, suicidal ideation is othered. Part of that stigma of suicide is the idea that being in that state of mind is something that only obviously deeply troubled people can be. When we talk about this kind of depression, we talk as though the other people in the room are too well-off to be suffering, which makes it harder than ever for them to reach out for help if they need it. If someone is close to the edge due to loneliness and social dissatisfaction, then they're never going to risk jeopardising what relationships they have by being honest and forever changing how their friends see them. If we want to find people who are suicidal to help them, then we need to start considering that anyone could be. When you talk about heavy things like this, never imply "but I'm sure none of us are like that" to people listening because on the not-so-slim chance that you're wrong, you're making things a hell of a lot worse.

Next, suicide is neither simple to understand nor completely irrational. Consider for a moment that if you don't feel suicidal, then those who do understand something you don't rather than the other way around. It's time to stop talking down to people as though this means they lack some kind of mental aptitude that seemingly keeps everyone else from doing it. Suicide is a decision that a person makes based on their perspective of their entire life. It is not a medical symptom of mental illness, but rather mental health can sway the value of the each choice. A suicidal person is acting mostly rationally based on how they feel and what they know, so if you want to help, don't treat them like a child that you know better than; treat them instead like a human with a perspective that they understand, but just can't change the foundation of by themselves. I think the biggest assumption people make is that they can understand being suicidal solely based on what they know about the condition. You simply can't. Listen to these people and never be condescending.

Another point to make is that suicide is not selfish. Nobody chooses to be born, so nobody should be obligated to fulfil any perceived duty to continue living and contributing to greater society. Conversely, I believe it is incredibly selfish and unethical to demand that people continue to suffer from life's problems simply to make the rest of us more comfortable, and at the same time provide lacklustre institutional support and then socially oblige people to not talk about any of it in the first place. Suicide isn't an option someone takes because they can't handle the 'hard' bits of life, it's the option they take when they don't want to play this game at all, so saying suicide makes the balancing act of morality more awkward doesn't help things in the slightest. Moreso, the vilification of people who fundamentally 'want out' of a contract they didn't even sign is a disgusting show of what we simply expect other people to spend energy on just because we do, and is an insult to people who are at the edge. Shaming people into staying alive is straight up evil, and not only a terrible strategy to stop suicide if the victim feels alienated from society in the first place, but likely a lethally bad strategy at that.

Also, consider that the "solution" to all of this is not to pathologise suicide, but to acknowledge it's existence and that it is an option. Suicide isn't losing a life, but intentionally moving it's end to now. We do everything with any sort of urgency because we know we don't have forever to do it anyway. Death gives life meaning, so instead of viewing suicide as an exit button, we should view it as a tool that means you live your life on your own terms. If you control whether or not you have to fulfil life's obligations, then they have no power over you. So, if you're depressed because life is bloody difficult, give living under your own rules a go and try to make change because you say it should be changed. Only put in the effort that you think you'll profit from, and outright refuse to fulfil anyone's expectations but your own. Just remember that once you're at the bottom, you might as well wring out life for all that it's worth.

In summary: stop thinking that suicidal people are insane, selfish, or weak. Start viewing suicide as a failing of society as a whole rather than an individual, and if you're suicidal, demand that your problems are addressed.