Stop Calling Suicide Victims Selfish

Culture
April 8, 2015

There’s no questioning that suicide is catastrophic. It’s absolutely incomprehensible to me and most others that a person would feel so terrible, so trapped, so desolate that she would want to end her own life.

Yet, it seems every time the topic of suicide comes up, someone attacks suicide victims by calling them “selfish.” I’ve heard it in real life; I’ve read it in articles; I’ve seen it on Facebook. But this attitude is disgusting and abhorrent, and completely misunderstands what it means to be suicidal.

According to a poll conducted in May 2013 by Gallup, only 16 percent of the country finds suicide to be “morally acceptable.” But the moral acceptability is not an issue. Suicide is the tragic, distressing result of severe mental illness. By definition, it takes lives. We don’t question the moral acceptability of other often fatal diseases such as cancer; we accept that they’re awful and terrible and search for ways to cure and prevent them. We certainly don’t attack cancer victims for getting sick. Suicide should be looked at in the same way — we shouldn’t be arguing the justifiability of the victim’s actions or the ethics of ending one’s own life — we should be looking for ways to stop it.

But every time a suicide occurs, some little self-assured voice is going to attack the victim. The same victim who felt inadequate enough to end his or her own life. The same victim who found solace in death. The same victim who assumed the world would be better off without them. This smug character will go out of his way to insult a suicide victim, calling them “selfish,” and “attention-seeking,” asserting that “everyone faces obstacles, they should have sucked it up like the rest of us.” I’ve seen it happen countless times.

What kind of arrogant, insensitive mindset causes a person to believe that he knows what is going on in a suicide victim’s head, to assume because that he sometimes feels sad, he knows what it’s like to actually want to kill himself? It’s a baffling attitude. A person just died because that seemed like a better option than living. I really can’t, and no non-suicidal person can, imagine feeling that completely hopeless and worthless and out of options.

I’ve felt sad before, yes. I’ve felt bad about myself before, yes. But I haven’t actively wanted to die, so why should I pretend to know what that’s like? I’ve had the flu before, too, yet I don’t know what cancer is like.

I’m tired of the victim blaming that makes light of one of the most tragic and upsetting scenarios imaginable. This attitude is shameful and does absolutely nothing to prevent suicides in the future; it merely diminishes mental illness and disrespects the deceased.

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