The world has lost some beloved people to suicide in the last several years, including very recently Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Love, grief and prayers were shared by hundreds via social media as people absorbed the sadness of such losses.
Not surprisingly given how they died, some people commenting lamented that they were “selfish” to end their lives prematurely. Time Magazine quoted Actor Val Kilmer as “claiming that a ‘spiritual guide’ told him that suicide is the ‘most selfish act a human can execute,’ and said he ‘rhetorically questioned’ [Bourdain,] the Emmy Award-winning host of [CNN’s culinary travel show] Parts Unknown, about the circumstances and methods of his suicide.”
Others focused on the young daughters each left behind. “How could Kate be so selfish as to subject her 13-year-old daughter to dealing with a trauma like this?” “Bourdain recently said of his 11-year-old daughter that she was ‘a reason to live.’ So how could he then choose to die? Was he also just being selfish?”
To someone who’s not depressed, it can seem logical to label taking an action one knows will cause one’s own child trauma “selfish.”
But are people who choose to end their lives really being selfish? The answer is no – they’re not selfish, they’re desperate.
Depression is one of several mental health challenges most at risk of leading to suicide if undetected and untreated. When severe, its sufferers become detached and isolated, stuck in a mindset of constant defeat and despair, feeling worthless and loathing themselves.
They are so engrossed in their constantly cycling negative thoughts that they can’t imagine any positive solutions. They can’t see anyone else in their life, including even those closest to them, let alone believe they could help and reach out to them for support.
Oblivious to everyone and everything positive, they feel hopeless and trapped, with no options – constricted, as though unable to breathe. They can’t cope and need to escape before they suffocate. An endless future of that feels unendurable! Battling their demons alone, desperate to stop the pain, they may feel suicide is the only way to get relief.
We cannot judge. They are not selfish, they are battling alone with their demons. We need to understand and empathize.
And it doesn’t matter how fortunate or successful someone is; depression doesn’t discriminate.
If you know someone who’s withdrawn, and you’re worried they’re depressed, reach out and offer them your support in any or all the following ways:
- Give them a hug and an ear…just listen, don’t argue, preach or give advice.
- Ask if you can help them find a mental health professional.
- Get them walking – exercise is the best antidepressant!
- Help them find a cause to volunteer time to – helping others ends their isolation and gives them a purpose outside themselves that’s healing and uplifting.
- Most importantly, if they talk about feeling despair and thinking about suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline for advice on next steps at 800-273-8255.
Susan Greif (www.ArtMendsHearts.com) is a Creative Transformational Expert and Healing Arts Professional who uses the expressive, creative and healing arts to help women and children find emotional freedom from anxieties that kept them feeling paralyzed, panicked and in pain. Her clients learn how to let go of anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, relationship issues, eating disorders and learning disabilities. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org