Let’s stop labeling suicide as “selfish”


I really loved this post on the Huffington Post this morning. It’s written by Katie Hurley, a psychotherapist who is also a survivor of suicide.

I, too, am a survivor of suicide.

Am I proud of this? No. But I have found it to be true that sometimes, you have to hit the very bottom before anything gets better.

Am I glad that I did not succeed? Absolutely.

But, do I consider this act selfish? Hell no. Why is that? I can’t say it better than Katie says it herself.

People who say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors. It’s selfish to leave children, spouses and other family members behind, so they say. They’re not thinking about the survivors, or so they would have us believe. What they don’t know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.

Until you’ve stared down that level of depression, until you’ve lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness… you don’t get to make those judgments. You might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings, but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won’t help the next person. In fact, it will only hurt others.

All I can add is a big amen. I know that people will disagree with this–especially people who have lost friends and loved ones to suicide. I think that there’s a lot of communicating that needs to be done between suicide survivors, and those who live every day with the pain of having lost someone to suicide. I think its very common–and even necessary–to be angry at someone who has attempted suicide.

All I’m saying is that, even in anger, it isn’t fair to make a judgement call that probably isn’t true.

Read Katie’s full post here.


6 responses to “Let’s stop labeling suicide as “selfish”

  • Grief Happens

    Thank you for writing this. I always take pause when I hear people say “stop labeling suicide as selfish.”

    As someone who has been suicidal and struggles daily with depression, nothing makes me feel more misunderstood than being told I’m selfish. But I also kind of get it. My behavior is all uninformed and inexperienced people have to go by, and from their vantage point, everything I’m doing LOOKS horribly selfish.

    My father committed suicide when I was a junior in college — nearly 20 years ago. My younger brother attempted suicide more than once, including a near fatal overdose. My mom survived a suicide attempt in 2011. I’ve worked in mental health. Intellectually, I’m very informed — that and my own suicidal attempts are WHY I truly get that suicide is NOT selfish. At the same time, my intellectual knowledge of mental illness are not where my emotions instantly go when once again I have to put my parent’s and sibling’s needs above my kids’s and my spouse’s to handle issues that they have been unable to handle because of their illness. I’m exhausted and I want easier answers. And as awful as it is, it FEELS like they’re being selfish, just as my mom FEELS like I’m being selfing when I tell her I can’t come to Christmas gatherings because I’m depressed and anxious and can’t deal with any family.

    I suppose I’m playing the devil’s advocate even though I very much agree with you. Fire brews beneath my skin when I hear those words — ‘People who commit suicide are selfish.’ But in the year after my father’s death as my mentally ill mother and brother and I picked up the wreckage, I FELT it over and over and over that my father’s death was selfish and I spent a very long time hating him for what he had done.

    I no longer feel that way. I know his pain more intimately now and I know what it’s like to believe that there are no other solutions.

    So even though I feel a stab of pain and anger when others label suicide as selfish, I try breathe and talk my way down before lashing out (which is what I feel like doing.) I guess all I’m saying is that we don’t know people’s experiences. Education and communication about mental illness and suicide in particular is SO important. I think you summed it up best with this:

    “I think that there’s a lot of communicating that needs to be done between suicide survivors, and those who live every day with the pain of having lost someone to suicide. I think its very common–and even necessary–to be angry at someone who has attempted suicide. All I’m saying is that, even in anger, it isn’t fair to make a judgement call that probably isn’t true.”

    Liked by 2 people

  • Alan Kravitz

    Grief Happens, thank you so much, not only for responding to my post, but also for sharing your experiences. I have been on the other side of the issue as well, and I completely relate to what you are saying.

    In the past year, I have become friends with several people who, like myself, have depression. That’s a good thing. But two of them attempted suicide this year. Luckily, neither of them succeeded. But when I heard about them, I felt the way you felt. And yes, I was angry at them. I wanted to say “My goodness, how could you do this! You have so much to live for! You have people who care about you!” All the logical reactions–as if mental illness is logical. I didn’t say this to them, though. I said it to my therapist. I figured, that way, I could get my anger out without being insulting to my friends.

    I also agree that it’s important to keep from lashing out. I don’t think people really learn that way. But it’s good that people are taking about this a lot more than they used to. I sure hope that continues.

    Thanks again, and Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Grief Happens

    Yes!! I love that you brought up your therapist’s office! In the years following my father’s death, I spent HOURS spewing venom and hatred about my deceased father and thankfully, she sat with me and guided and helped me as I SLOWLY worked through it.

    I, too, am glad more people are openly talking about suicide and mental illness. Baby steps, I suppose, but it’s something.

    Wishing you joy, hope, love, and healing in 2015. Your voice is so important in this conversation and I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Alan Kravitz

    Thank you for the encouragement, Grief Happens. I look forward to reading more of your posts as well. I’m glad we are following each other!


  • Steve

    Thank you, Alan, for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

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