Sunday, October 14, 2012
Every forty seconds, someone takes their own life somewhere in the world (who.org). One of those people was Amanda Todd, a bullied Canadian teenager who killed herself on October 10th. Despite the fact that 30,000 Americans complete suicide each year and many others have attempted it, it is a topic that is still heavily misunderstood by much of the general population.
Fortunately, I have never lost someone that I know to suicide although I'm not unfamiliar with depression. What I know about suicide is limited to the books I read, health class, the media and the little yellow ribbons I see on the windows outside of the classrooms. I've also heard stories about people who have killed themselves near where I live; a neighboring school district had three people kill themselves in one week a few years ago.
The attitude towards suicide and depression is appalling to me. Many people call it "selfish" and "cowardly" and they tell these people to "buck up". Suicidal people are condemned and shamed for how they feel, so much so that they could never ask for help. When they do ask for help from loved ones, these loved ones often tell them ignorant things as they intend to help them even though these things often make things worse. Meanwhile, depression and mental illness are stigmatized despite the fact that 1 in 4 people have a mental illness worldwide. This climate towards it, if anything, will prevent suicidal people from possibly seeking any sort of help.
I don't understand why people call suicide selfish and I never have. I just don't get it. Much of the time, people who are suicidal aren't even rational but they are in severe physical and mental pain. They often see themselves as a burden to their loved ones anyway, even though most of the time that's not even correct at all. Why would you call people selfish for doing what they see as best? That's not selfish at all; it's just tragic. People often ask, "Why didn't they think of their family members?" What a ludicrous question! They probably did. If they didn't, why do they give all of their things away? Why do they often leave notes? When suicide isn't done on impulse, family members and friends often factor into much of the planning and thought process. If anything, I think it's selfish for the family members of these people to want those people to stay alive and keep suffering just for their sake.
It's not even cowardly, either. These people are often so determined to die that they kill themselves in ways that are excruciatingly painful and that goes against every natural instinct they possess. Suicide means fighting to die as your body fights to live. These people are in so much pain that they are willing to go through with all of that. They are in so much pain that they don't naturally shudder at the prospect of death as their bodies have been programmed to do. Suicide is a lot of things, of course, but it's not cowardly by any means. It's disturbingly.... bold.
On a final note, I don't even think it's always right to condemn suicide either. In the vast majority of cases, suicide is not the answer. Oftentimes, things will get better. Yet some of the time, this is not the case. Some people have depression that is too severe for medications to work entirely and those people would probably have to juggle a variety of medications for their entire lives (as their body's tolerance to the medicine increased). In the case of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, their medication often have serious side effects and they would have to juggle their symptoms for the rest of their life. In addition to serious mental illness, there are also people who are in serious situations that cannot ever be completely resolved such as certain physical conditions and emotional trauma. Who am I to say that someone's life is worth living? To make a blanket statement for a variety of situations? In the case of Amanda Todd, I cannot say her situation would have ever gotten better. She might have left school but that picture (and possibly the people who tortured her) would have followed her. However, suicide should be the very, very last resort and should definitely not be taken lightly.
My heart breaks for anyone who has lost someone to suicide and for the people who are or have been suicidal. For anyone in either of these situations, there is help for you and please seek that before you do anything drastic.
Suicide is tragic. Ultimately, that's the only thing that people should say about it because it really isn't anyone's place to say anything else.
1-800-273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-448-3000 Boys' Town Hotline
Note: If I triggered anyone with the above picture, I'm sorry! It was the least graphic picture that I could find.