Okay, I’ve finally had enough. After more than a week of sitting quietly and simmering through the “let’s normalize suicide” posts and memes on social media, I’m going to speak. Take it for whatever you think it’s worth, and do with it whatever you please.
I’ve been there. I’ve walked the walk. Both on my own and with others who were in that space. In my own case, I started ideating when I was thirteen years old. I’ve been on medication, gone through therapy, did a stint of in-patient treatment. And I hope that one of the reasons I’m still here is to tell you that you don’t “die by suicide.”
Suicide is an act. It doesn’t happen to you, it’s something you choose to do. If you don’t choose to take those pills, use that weapon, or tie that final knot, you’re not going to die. If you “die by suicide,” you will only die by the actions you chose to take.
Suicide is also self-centered and self-focused. When you are ideating, you are consumed by thoughts of your own pain, your own worthlessness, your own despair. You don’t give a crap about anyone else. To the extent you think of them, you reassure yourself that either they “don’t care” or will be “better off.” The very fact that you are focused entirely on yourself, especially when it is not normal for you to be self-focused, ought to be a warning sign to be heeded.
Now, keep in mind that I firmly believe that depression is an illness, and that those who commit suicide (yes, “commit”) very likely have impaired judgment. I don’t believe a loving God will punish anyone for the acts they commit, even the grave acts they commit, that are the result of mental illness. I hope for the salvation of all who were not as fortunate as I was to survive suicidal ideation, and I trust in God’s mercy for them. I know all too well that it is no credit to me personally that I survived—I can only thank God and medical intervention for getting me to the other side.
But I also firmly believe that all this talk of “dying by suicide,” and how suicide isn’t “selfish,” and how those who commit this act are not “weak,” is gravely harmful. There may be some truth to the assertions against selfishness and weakness, since suicide is most often an end result of mental illness, and mental illness can happen to anyone, no matter how selfless or strong they may be. But, in my opinion, the cumulative effect of the platitudes is to normalize suicide as just another way people die. No harm, no foul.
Had you told me when I was thirteen that I wouldn’t have been responsible for my own death, that suicide wouldn’t have meant I was weak or selfish, that my family shouldn’t be angry with me for doing what I wanted to do (and may even have been at fault for not “checking in” on me), I may well not be here now. It was the thoughts that I would be doing something wrong, something I’d be in some way responsible for, that contributed to saving me.
I pray for the repose of the souls of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I pray they found both mercy and peace with God. I also pray for the comfort and healing of their families, who must live for the rest of their lives with this—especially the young daughters of Spade and Bourdain.
Lord, have mercy.
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, please seek immediate help from a physician or mental health professional. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information, visit the NSPL web site (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).
(Image: Woman with hands pressed to glass, looking out window at rain; Pixabay.)