I read a post on Yahoo Answers yesterday asking, yet again, is suicide a selfish act? Most of the answers were a derisory yes; people who commit suicide are only thinking of themselves, it’s just a cry for help and so on.
Having attempted suicide myself, my immediate response was to fly in with a comment to the effect of suicide is not a selfish act; you have never been there so you have no right to judge.
I went to bed last night, still seething about the thoughtless comments and planning to write today what would have amounted to a justification for suicide.
When I sat down to write this morning though, I found that my view had changed. In the cold light of day with my self-righteous anger subdued, I find myself thinking that actually, yes, suicide is a selfish act but you can use the word selfish in a number of different ways.
To the unsympathetic responders on Yahoo Answers, selfish means completely uncaring about other people’s feelings; family, friends or even the emergency services that have to pick up the pieces afterwards.
To the person contemplating suicide, selfish means the only way of stopping the pain and anguish is to take their own life. It’s the one thing that they do have left that they can control themselves.
The tragedy is that the suicide victim doesn’t wake up the next morning and see things in a different light. They don’t get that chance.
Most suicides are not born out of logical thought. In the UK, over six thousand people take their lives every year with by the highest proportion of those being men. Out of those it is estimated that some 95% were suffering from some kind of severe mental illness, usually depression.
When you are suffering from severe depression it is like a continuous agony that simply won’t go away and, like all human beings, our natural reaction to pain is to make it stop. What you don’t realise at the time is that the pain can go away without the need for that desperate action of suicide.
Bipolar sufferer, Spike Milligan summed up the feeling in his usual way, with a joke: After hearing a woman scream in childbirth, he said: "She was howling in agony. Fortunately, it is a language I speak fluently."
Compare that to the flippant verdict on suicide victims from Jeremy Clarkson a couple of years ago when he said that anyone who committed suicide in this way (On a train line) was 'very selfish' for traumatising train drivers and inconveniencing commuters.
So, yes, strictly speaking suicide is a selfish act but not in the vindictive, nasty, dismissive way that some people suggest. First and foremost, suicide is a tragic loss of life generally caused by illness. We wouldn’t call someone who develops cancer selfish, would we?
If you are having suicidal thoughts, the best thing you can do is talk and, if you know someone who is feeling suicidal, the best thing that you can do is listen!
If you have no-one that you feel that you can talk to, call the Samaritans, they can’t solve your problems but they really can help you.
Don’t just leave it there though and think it’s all gone away. Go and see your GP. They are very used to dealing depression. They won’t judge you; they won’t lock you away and then can prescribe medication for you to help you with the depression.
I for one am now glad to be able to add suicide to the list of things I have failed to succeed at in my life, thank God.