Suicide isn’t selfish, so why don’t we all quit saying that?

There’s this cultural trope, this prevailing notion, that suicide is selfish. We are told that suicide is selfish because it leaves people you love behind, wondering forever what was wrong. The people still living will maybe wonder if it was their fault or what they could have done differently, and because they will be sad or uncomfortable, suicide is selfish. It could also be argued, in some cases, that suicide is selfish because you can leave a physical mess to clean up that is too harrowing and traumatizing for most people, or that the mess you leave could stain the carpet, a wall, some object, and become permanent. You’d be gone but your loved ones could never escape any trace of you.

This is complete and utter bullshittery, so let’s talk about why suicide is not selfish and why it is important that we change the prevailing discourse surrounding suicide.

I maintain that people should have the right to live and die as they choose. I don’t think the government should be making choices about our bodies for us, whether that be in regard to abortion, life support, euthanasia, seat belts, or any other things we can do to ourselves that harm and affect nobody else. It should be our choice. And as much as I think all people have a right to live as they please, I believe they should also have a right to die as they please.

As to the argument that your’e going to leave people behind and they will have all these unanswered questions? Newsflash: That happens ALL THE TIME, whether or not it is a suicide, a murder, a long and painful death from cancer, a car accident, a freak accident, a natural disaster, or whatever. For many people, when somebody dies, there’s going to be unresolved issues and questions, things that were never said or discussed, tensions unresolved. The answer then isn’t that nobody should die ever because people will be sad and confused, we can all expect to experience some sadness and confusion when the people we love, like, or even marginally care about die. If you’re able, work out your issues while you can and have the courage to get hurt and be sad or to take a risk so that if the people you do love die tomorrow, you aren’t left wondering.

My 93 year old grandmother will be passing away in the next few months. I’m sure some of her 12 children likely have unresolved issues with her, or things they’d like to discuss, but they probably won’t. Who is going to cause anxiety, agitation or disruption in the final months of their 93 year old mother? Even if you know well in advance that somebody is going to die, it doesn’t mean that you would actually ask them the things that you wanted or bring up things from the past. A lot of people don’t like to make other people uncomfortable, cause confrontation, or risk a relationship, so they would still have unresolved issues and questions about a lost loved one no matter the cause of death.

The ‘making a mess’ complaint is valid. I guess the solution there would be to not make a mess. I don’t know what else to say about that.

I have known two people who have committed suicide and I do not think that either person is selfish, nor should they be considered to be selfish. One of them had cancer. It went into remission and he had always said that if his cancer came back, he would kill himself. He couldn’t stand any more radiation or chemotherapy. He could not deal with it or suffer through any more of that pain. So I ask you, to whom does he owe his life? Why should people choose to endure and suffer when they don’t want to? If a person gets to the point where they want to commit suicide and they have the means and the gumption to do it, don’t you think they’re pretty miserable? If they thought there would be a rainbow shining over them tomorrow, a shiny new day, don’t you think they’d stick around? People who commit suicide are usually in a pretty low place. I think it is more selfish to hold a grudge against the dead because they left before we were ready for them to die than it is for a person to end their life when they don’t want to live it anymore.

In my feminist circles, so many of us argue for a woman’s right to govern her own body. I would argue that this shouldn’t stop at planning out when to become or not to become a mother, but that all people should have complete agency over their bodies, even in choosing the method and timing of one’s own death.

If you’re feeling suicidal, it is your right, as a person, to control your body and end your life if you please. I think we need to put to bed the idea that suicide is selfish because it doesn’t help anybody and it only further stigmatizes the memory of the person that is gone, or their still-living family and friends so that grieving for them feels shameful. When somebody commits suicide, there’s a feeling or sense of imposed shame that comes when family and friends acknowledge it, like the deceased has done something terrible. The only thing different between a suicide and any other death is that the person committing suicide has picked the time and manner of their death, as opposed to you and I who will likely be struck by death unawares, or go through a long, painful, drawn out medical process leading to death.

If we have lived a life of any social interaction, questions will be left unanswered, issues will be left unresolved, and family and friends will be left missing us, mourning for us, and grieving over us. Part of being human is having social interactions and building relationships. We will all leave people behind when we die. If I have a sudden heart attack and die, do you really think my friends and family are going to have any sense of peace or resolution with my suddenly being gone forever? No. And I think much of the feelings associated with suicide come from social stigma and play a part in determining how people feel they are allowed to react to the suicide death of somebody they care about. You’re barely even supposed to talk about it and the manner of death is shameful, how can one fully grieve when trying to hide their fear to appease others?

Suicide isn’t selfish. It is selfish to expect people to live a life they don’t want to live, to experience pain they don’t need to or want to, or to sacrifice their quality of life and extend their existence simply to keep those they will be leaving behind from feeling sad, confused or uncomfortable.

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52 Comments

  1. You bring up a great point. I believe John Stuart Mill made a great philosophical breakthrough when he spoke of allowing people to do to themselves anything that does not harm others. I do believe suicide can be selfish under specific circumstances. For instance. I have two childhood friends, they are sisters, and their father committed suicide. The youngest was four, and her sister was seven. The reality is that once you bring children into this world I believe it is your sole responsibility to provide for them and shelter them no matter what your situation is. Once those children are old enough to take care of their selves, then do the deed.

    but, on the other hand there are many situations where I do believe suicide should be considered an honorable way to go. Like you said when a person is battling an illness which they will suffer severely over a long period of time, whether curable or not suicide seems like a valid option.

    I also agree that regardless of whether a suicide seems selfish or not the government should not have any say in the matter. Insurance companies should not be able to void a contract as a result of suicide. And, most of all, yes – how a person goes should never be the issue, but rather how they lived.

    Great post.

    Reply
  2. I agree. Suicide is often nothing more than acting on a philosophical conclusion. One doesn’t have to agree with the philosophical conclusion of another to recognize their right to self-determination.

    Reply
    • I think ‘suicide is selfish’ gets said so much and so frequently that people hear it and absorb it and believe it to be true without considering why, and how that actually affects people, both those who would commit suicide and those that loved the person that committed suicide.

      Reply
      • Yes–it almost becomes a cultural meme. I think most people are just unaware of the pain they cause others with what they say. Personal experience, of course, changes all of that.

        Peace.

  3. THIS. I know that’s not adding a lot to the conversation, but I followed you here from xoJane and now have discovered an amazing new wonderful blog to follow. Yay!

    Reply
    • Sara and Sarah! Founding the new Sara(h) coalition! NBD. As a fan of descriptive grammar, i am allll about THIS. Hi!

      Reply
  4. Well said

    Reply
  5. ecyl3

     /  October 23, 2012

    I definitely agree. I think people who say that committing suicide is selfish only saw the consequences of the action but not the reasons behind it. I think it is extremely selfish of THEM to pass judgment of that person without considering what was really going through inside of them.

    Reply
    • Yes, I completely agree. If it is just a selfish act, then the feelings of everybody but the person who committed suicide are being considered. Being dead doesn’t render your feelings, existence and experience inconsequential. All events, emotions, and decisions leading up to the moment of suicide were major components of the life of now deceased. Why do they stop bearing any weight or consideration when suicide is the cause of death?

      Reply
  6. I think some suicide can be selfish. And I think the method of self-ending is very important. Going six feet from your back door, while your minor grandchildren play inside, and shooting oneself is not a good way to do it, for instance. But I do not believe that selfishness is the usual intent, and I do not think the government or religions should have a say in the laws regarding suicide. I do believe that both physical and mental/emotional pain are equally valid reasons to wish for surcease of suffering.

    And yes, I do find it selfish that the relatives of a suffering person should heartlessly suggest that he or she stay for their sake under every circumstance. I have fought suicidal ideation since I was ten years old. My paternal grandmother suicided, as did my father. My father’s death did wreak havoc among his grandchildren to a degree. For myself? I swore I would not inflict such questioning and misery upon them myself in their youth.

    My children know there are circumstances wherein I would find continued life unendurable and that they are not to take it as a personal reproach, merely my own escape.

    Reply
    • I definitely don’t think selfishness is the intent. I’m in complete agreement on that. My argument is that the common discourse on suicide, how we view it, frame it and discuss it, needs to change so that suicide isn’t so stigmatized that people who are suffering feel the need to continue for the sake of others and also so that friends and family members are free to grieve without being ostracized, blamed, criticized or shamed.

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      • You are right, the public discourse is a pile of steaming politically/religiously correct nonsense. I frankly believe most people are unnerved by the idea of actually discussing the level of anguish that can move one to suicide.

        Especially, for instance, among military members and veterans. I mean, we would have to discuss how war was NOT a John Wayne movie, for starters….

      • I can’t remember the photographer, but there was a project released recently that was the face of soldiers, I think Dutch soldiers. A photograph was taken of their face the day they enlisted, halfway through their time in Afghanistan, and after they’d been back for a while. The changes were not dramatic or huge, it was a slight hardness to the eyes, a change in the set of the mouth and jaw-a firmness.

        I found the link! Here it is: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/do-you-think-these-photos-show-the-impact-of-war-on-soldiers-faces/

        Some of it could be that they aged during that time as well, but the photo that always stood out to me the most was actually the one in the middle, the one where they were serving and active duty in Afghanistan.

        There’s a lot to be said about the healthcare and social services available to veterans, and how they are also a large percentage of our homeless population. It’s ugly.

      • Yes, the photos are a change, aren’t they. In some, the third photo looks like a man slightly unmoored from all he has known.

        Adrift is a dangerous place to be.

  7. completepolitics

     /  November 1, 2012

    I agree. If committing suicide is selfish, then seeking to be free of pain is also selfish. There’s an entire industry devoted to helping people be free of pain. Pain can crowd out everything else, and a person who commits suicide just wants the pain to stop.

    Reply
    • The fact that there’s an entire industry devoted to helping people be free of pain is a really good point. I think it couldn’t hurt to examine how much of our life is devoted to convenience and making things easier. For some people, life can be too much to bear sometime and they stick it out, miserable, a lifetime of misery, to keep from hurting other people. I just don’t think that’s a meaningful way to live.

      Reply
  8. Izza

     /  November 1, 2012

    Your comments on social stigma around suicide ring true for me. I would like to add though that many times when people commit suicide they are mentally ill and struggling with things that in that moment seem insurmountable and that they cannot find help in dealing with. I think mental health needs to be taken more seriously and community support like people actively fighting alienation by striving to connect with one another is essential in order to really make sure people have the choice to end their own lives. It is one thing to decide you would rather die than go through another round of chemo or radiation therapy, it is another thing to have been in an emotional black hole that you want to escape and can’t figure out how. There are some things that we are truly powerless to change, like the past or terminal illnesses, being paralyzed, or old age. But depression and other mental illness, burn out, and isolation can be dealt with. It is just a matter of having resources, support and willingness. If someone knows that an still decides that depression isn’t worth dealing with to survive than it is their choice. But the impression that I get is that many people don’t see it that way because no one has helped them see it that way. That is is okay to leave your job that you hate, or go to therapy or whatever. and that the community will support you.

    I think the main things people struggle with around suicide are “How did this happen?” and “What could I have done differently too prevent this?” Unfortunately we will often times never know when it comes to suicide, where as when we deal with illness or accident we do have some preventive measures that we can sooth ourselves with. “Wear a seatbelt” “don’t smoke” etc. with suicide the only thing we might be able to say is pay more attention to those around you. But even then sometimes things come out of the blue.

    Reply
    • I completely agree with you about mental illness. One of the people I mentioned was suffering from depression and anxiety and could not find reprieve. I do think that mental illness should be taken more seriously and that we also need to work to remove much of the stigma surrounding it, as we should with suicide. Mental illness has become such a taboo that people are ostracized and shamed for acknowledging that they have it, and this can lead to them not seeking out medical treatment, being misdiagnosed, or being shunned by family members. Further, it doesn’t help the situation that often times when a person who has been diagnosed with a mental illness has any sort of problem or issue, people around them will blame it on their illness which in turn then minimalizes and diminishes their concerns or fears.

      Suicide absolutely, 100% and without a doubt can be the end result of untreated and undiagnosed mental illness. I definitely would never intend to intimate that mental illness wasn’t a serious concernt or something to be taken lightly. As much as I’d love to see the discourse on suicide change, I would also love to see the discourse on mental illness change, and will be talking about that here in the future. Thanks for your feedback and input, I really appreciate it.

      Reply
      • I definitely agree with both Izza and your comments here. And it brings up a good point that people do commit suicide for different reasons, and maybe people’s feelings on suicide will be different depending on the specific circumstances around an individual case. In any event, I think this is a really interesting post and thoughts you have on this. One thing is for sure, I don’t think ANYONE can judge if they are not in that person’s shoes. There is no way to truly understand what they are going through if they are not. I do hope there is more done on helping those who may think about suicide and, as you say, a different discourse on both suicide and mental illness.

  9. This is an excellent post. It touches something I have honestly never given much thought to, but now that I do, I’d like to add a few points.

    Generally, the feeling of the post (and several comments) is that people are free to do to their body what they will as long as it doesn’t harm others. Suicide seems to straddle that line, as it doesn’t not to physical harm to others, but surely it does significant psychological damage to those affected (excluding suicide as an end-of-life decision as with old age/cancer/terminal illness/etc). Especially in the case brought up previously of a parent committing suicide and leaving behind children for others to take care of is likely where feelings of selfishness is derived, especially from the view of outsiders.

    Yet, I feel that labeling the person as selfish is wrong in one sense, understandable in another. I think it’s wrong because, as you stated, it creates a stigma against those who are considering suicide, perpetuating the idea that there really is something wrong with them. Many times, these are already people who feel isolated from society. Further isolation will only push them away, rather than seeking help. Additionally, I do not feel that mental illness is adequately addressed in our society, and that we immediately rush to blame people for mental illness, rather than acknowledging the devastating effects of clinical depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, and others. This “blame the victim” mentality is so dangerous because it prevents the root cause from being identified and addressed, but rather ignores and continues to foment the issue instead.

    However, for those who are close to the victim, I do understand the accusations of selfishness. Yet, I feel that these accusations stem more from the anger, resentment, and pain of having to deal with such a traumatizing event. I think in the five stages of grief, that people go through blaming the deceased because they feel a sense of betrayal. Ultimately, I think these feelings come out because of the sense of failure on the part of their friends and family. The survivors will have to live the rest of their lives wondering if there was something they should have done, signs they should have noticed earlier, and what they could have done to prevent it. That sense of guilt, that they failed to help the victim in the most final of decisions, must be very difficult to handle. It’s much easier to blame others rather than turn the mirror on yourself.

    I think it’s this flux of emotional toil and uncertainty in which these feelings arise. Such decisions are simply not made in a vacuum but exist in the milieu of social and familial interpersonal connections. The fact is, death remains the singular most difficult subject for humans to comprehend and deal with. I think people resort to such things as blame, accusations of selfishness, and personal guilt, simply because they don’t know what else do to or how to properly handle such a situation.

    Anyways, just my thoughts. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    Reply
  10. Broadly I agree. No surprise there then.

    I’d like to add though, that suicide seems to increase relative to political and economic inequality. Especially where that inequality is highly visible, life limiting, and apparently inevitable.

    I haven’t researched this lately, so my references are a little dated, but cases in point include:

    The suicide epidemic in the former GDR in the latter years of ‘communism’ tended to be people who had no say in the political direction of the regime, yet were educated (or self-educated) sufficiently to be well aware of a world outside where having a political effect (or seeking to) was normal. The film The Lives of Others deals well with this.

    The suicide peak around the Brackla estate in Bridgend (Wales) around half a decade ago seems to have been related to economic decline, poor public transport, a lack of opportunity for social advancement and a political class more concerned with denying the bleakness of life there than doing anything about it.

    Similarly the Hebden Bridge area (Yorkshire) is split between conventional underclass poverty on the shady side of the valley (where the suicide peak happened in the same period) and bohemian prosperity on the sunlit side of the valley (where everybody was very puzzled).

    You get my drift.

    A final point though. Suicide is a profoundly social phenomena. Every suicide is an indictment of something wrong in society in some way. I would say this is -yet another – reason why we should reject the idiotic claim that it is simply ‘selfish’.

    Reply
    • You say ‘A final point though. Suicide is a profoundly social phenomena. Every suicide is an indictment of something wrong in society in some way. I would say this is -yet another – reason why we should reject the idiotic claim that it is simply ‘selfish’.’ and to me, that is the most striking and relevant point. I do think that people should have bodily autonomy, but my main point is that the discourse surrounding suicide and how people talk about it needs to change so that it isn’t so stigmatized. I think I did focus to much on the autonomy aspect of it in order to prove my point that everybody dies, so picking this one way of dying to describe as ‘selfish’ is stigmatizing and othering, and I should have focused more on language and discussion.

      Reply
  11. Hope you don’t mind I posted a link for this on my recent guest post: http://yourdailydoseblog.com/2012/11/01/lets-talk-about-suicide-volunteers-anyone

    Thank you :)

    Reply
    • Not at all! I appreciate it and thank you!

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      • Not a problem. It is quite an interesting and controversial topic that doesn’t appear to have any easy answers as I am finding out!

  12. anyeone

     /  November 2, 2012

    I’m just a random person following links to your blog, but I have some thoughts. I agree with some of what you say and disagree with other parts of it. I think suicide can be inherently selfish, as it is a decision usually undertaken with only the person’s own pain as the deciding factor – however that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is inexcusable or not the best choice under a person’s circumstances, nor do I think it should be illegal. I absolutely have no issues with suicide for terminally ill people (or people with chronic unbearable pain). Their decision may be selfishly motivated or not (maybe they are doing it so that their loved ones won’t see them deteriorate, so they’ll be remembered as they are). It doesn’t matter though, it’s a reasonable and understandable decision that should be respected.

    People who are mentally ill and commit suicide should have our compassion, whether their suicide was ‘selfish’ or not is pretty irrelevant.

    However, there are some circumstances where there is really no way around the conclusion that the person who killed themselves really wasn’t considering the consequences to those around them. If you are dealing with kids and teenagers who love you and rely on you, there is a world of difference between them learning to deal with the unhappy fact that their mom died in a car accident (that had nothing to do with them in any way, shape, or form) – which is a horribly sad thing but not something they will blame themselves for in most cases – and trying to deal with the fact that their mom decided she would rather *die* than live with them anymore, where it is hugely likely that they will wonder forever if it was partly *their fault* that she wanted to die. Regardless of why she did it, the pragmatic fact is that it is going to seriously f* up her kids’ minds, self-esteem, and color their relationships in future. I’m not saying that I can’t feel any empathy for her, maybe she *was* mentally ill or maybe something really horrible was happening to her that I can’t even imagine how awful it was. But from my pragmatic viewpoint, she did in fact make a decision designed to alleviate her own suffering in favor of making a decision that would have saved her children from suffering. Whether it was justified, should be legal, what have you — I’m not arguing any of that. But it’s really not possible to say that she didn’t make a decision primarily based on her own self-interest. That is why people say suicide is selfish.

    That said, I do absolutely think we should have compassion for all involved and not be judgmental. I myself have gone through a couple of suicidal periods in my life – one where I actually attempted it and a couple more where I dwelled on it at length though did not act on it. Obviously I failed. I do have compassion for people who are suicidal, whether it is because of mental illness or something else – but I think it disingenuous to say that there is never any selfishness in the act of suicide.

    Reply
    • “I think suicide can be inherently selfish, as it is a decision usually undertaken with only the person’s own pain as the deciding factor”

      I disagree. People usually focus on someone’s pain as the cause of suicide, but that is often not the only or even primary reason for suicide. It’s pretty common for someone who is suicidal to feel like a burden, and I think it’s nonsensical to call a suicide selfish when one of the primary reasons that person killed themself was because they thought everyone else would be better off without them. Even if that conclusion was incorrect.

      Personally, I have gone through several periods of suicidality (both chronic and acute), and feeling like a burden is almost always a major part of that. A combination of pain and hopelessness which reaches a point where I don’t think I can take much/any more and I can’t imagine things improving is also a major factor.

      Also, the view of suicide as selfish totally ignores people who go out of their way to make their suicide minimally painful for their loved ones, such as someone who chooses to commit suicide in a way that looks like an accident. If they can pull it off, then they still get to die, and their family and friends don’t have to deal with any extra stigma/trauma on top of losing a loved one.

      Also, just because someone is mentally ill doesn’t necessarily mean that their assumption that things will never get any better is wrong. If someone has dealt with mental illness for many years while trying to do everything they can to get better, and they still keep relapsing, over and over and over, then the conclusion that they will just keep having to go through periods of mental illness is pretty logical and may well be correct. Mental illness definitely can lead someone to believe that nothing can ever get better when they actually are dealing with problems that are only temporary, it’s just that that’s not always the case.

      In some societies it is socially acceptable for a father to commit suicide if he can no longer support his family and has become a burden. It is also acceptable in some societies for someone to kill themselves to preserve or restore their honor. In fact, this may not just be seen as acceptable, but as admirable. This viewpoint seems to be uncommon in Western societies, though, where we instead (as a society) see suicide as selfish, cowardly, sinful, and shameful.

      @Sara
      I think I just fell in love with your blog. I love it when people fight against the stigma of suicide/mental illness.

      Reply
      • Midori, that’s really nice and I appreciate it. The topic of mental illness and the discourse surrounding it and positive opportunities for change will absolutely be coming up here in the future. I hope you continue to participate in the discussion.

      • anyeone

         /  November 8, 2012

        I get what you’re saying, and you make a lot of good points. However, I think it’s just as incorrect to say that suicide is NEVER selfish as it is to say that it is ALWAYS selfish. There are very few instances of black-and-white in life and suicide is one of those. That’s really the main point I was trying to make – sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, though I don’t think that whether it is selfish or not is really the most important consideration and regardless of whether it was compassion is key.

  13. Gaby

     /  November 4, 2012

    I love your article.  I agree with your sentiments that every individual should have the right to choose whether to live or die.  It irks me to no end when a suicide happens and someone carelessly makes a comment saying, “that was selfish.”  Selfish to whom???  Selfish to YOU, perhaps — because you want that person to continue living — to YOUR own benefit?  Now who’s being the selfish one?

    Let me share with you a story of a dear friend’s dad who passed away last year. The man was on his deathbed, ready to go.  He even wrote a will to say that he refuses any life-saving devices that will only prolong his misery.  Somehow his adult children veto’ed that will (not sure how that could happen but it did) and begged doctors to make their Poppa’s heart continue pumping. So the poor poppa was suffering, and he was just ready to GO.  One day, doctors tell the family, “Your man is ready to go now.”  But the doctors get a call from one of the adult children saying “No! I don’t allow that to happen.  He has to wait for me. I just got off work and I am stuck in traffic, so please delay his death.”

    WOW. And you say the old man is selfish for wanting to die?  I think the selfishness goes to those who try to prolong his life/misery for THEIR sake.

    Reply
    • That actually happens with surprising frequency. Sometimes, even having a DNR is not enough, or an Advanced Directive, if the people handling our affairs treat it with disregard. Obviously, this is something that needs to change. I’m sorry about your friends dad. That really is awful.

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  14. How many people are suicidal or would like to die but cannot or would not attempt suicide? Those are different things in the current legal and medical framework. 3000 people commit suicide daily (1,94% of human deaths, 1 in 50 commit suicide, twice the number that get murdered and 6x number of humans dying in war. source who.int/mediacentre/events/annual/world_suicide_prevention_day/en/index.html). There’s a lot of anti-suicide propaganda, don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see real measures not window dressing such as at the end of http://www.care2.com/causes/depression-an-epidemic-among-the-poverty-stricken.html This happened to be in my inbox while I was trying to find time to comment here and maybe the stigma and practical issues attached to poverty is something we can all understand?

    Any radical person reading the above can spot the mechanism in the rest: poverty is caused by capitalism and institutions, the same ones who encourage more consumers in the system, where people have been stripped of land and resources, for which there is a fierce competition and all that is legal. Sure the church helps alleviate poverty a bit but isn’t that too little too late as if radiation affected populations get a little healthcare compensation from Nuclear plant facilities.

    What is selfish (but most would find it an outrageous statement) is putting a baby in the system, when furthermore there are millions of children in orphanages or who need fostering. In that sense, if one has done that then kills oneself, that would be a selfish suicide, the only kind.

    The status quo is such that we don’t even question why we don’t have a right to death with dignity, whatever the reason we don’t wish to be a part of this madness anymore. Even old people like that Martin in the UK who lost a case with the one who was reported about whose case was rejected but luckily he died of pneumonia. That is the first world.

    Suicide isn’t easy, it’s a big risk that suicidal gets desperate enough to take (they may find themselves much worse off), the desperation has often been building up long enough whether or not they used the word ‘suicidal’, whether or not they were conscious of the process. The fact that they may have been ostracised, ill, mentally ill is enough to warrant extra and unconditional support from loved ones (because who else?). We are the selfish ones and, by we, I mean the whole system with us as pawns.

    Speak the eff out for minorities if you don’t want to play a role in their oppression, don’t add voice to the oppression instead and call suicide selfish. I mean that @those who call suicide selfish.

    Reply
  15. *I mean ‘old folks and people with locked-in syndrome like Martin’. P.S. I know about Second Thoughts who just got Masachussets to vote on assisted suicide, I’m saying death with dignity should be available to everyone who wants to die, except it’s understandable that there’d be an age limit so a teenager can’t get it. and there should be structures to actually help people and from a certain age they should be free to refuse help if that’s their wish.

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  16. Anyone who would say that is so self-centered and unempathetic that they are the last people who should accuse others of selfishness.

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  17. It’s good to come across this conversation! I’d like to add that we don’t often hear from people who’ve been through a suicide attempt, but here’s a site that has collected almost 30 interviews with people like myself who’ve chosen to speak openly about the experience. Talking About Suicide: http://whichtools.wordpress.com/
    I’m happy to hear from others. This issue is far too quiet. Thanks!

    Reply
  18. emmamulligan

     /  November 19, 2012

    This was the post that made me want to read your blog :) The closest I’ve ever heard to this position is the defense of euthanasia, which I think ignores the reality that some people who want to die aren’t necessarily chronically (physically) ill.

    When exactly does telling an extremely depressed person that their desires and thoughts are selfish make them feel better, anyways? NEVER.

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  19. claire

     /  March 7, 2013

    Loved this read…..however I think that before we publicly give “permission” to anyone having those thoughts today or tomorrow…it is important that we sggest seeking help first. Having a medical condition that is terminal is very different from a kid with gumption galore jumping from a bridge!! Just another good reason to tell your loved ones that you do In fact love them……C

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  20. After all, this could be an interesting disagreement that might entice me to take one side or the other.

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  21. Courtney

     /  May 5, 2013

    Suicide isn’t selfish . Making someone stay and suffer just so you don’t have to mourn them is selfish

    Reply
  22. Al

     /  June 10, 2013

    I agree wholeheartedly, especially with Courtney’s concise comment. I’ve been hearing a lot of bluster lately from people with no perspective on the matter trotting out the old line and It’s frankly making me sick to hear people demonizing those who are suffering so deeply to be considering such a drastic measure.

    Reply
  23. Adam

     /  July 16, 2013

    I dislike your argument as some of the points made to counter the normal things said about suicide being selfish evade the reason those things are actually said. For example the issue of unresolved questions about whether you could have helped a suicidal person as a result of the person’s suicide isn’t the major issue, it is that suicide happens by ones own hand as opposed to murder which is beyond their control. It is mainly for that reason people say it is selfish which I disagree with, although no support for this is shown with your argument. I came here biased as I want reasons to end my life and am somewhat disappointed with the argument here, if you could address the major reasons behind the stupid things people say rather than evade them it would be far more persuasive. :l The last paragraph was good though and I only mean my criticism in a constructive manner, I do not intend to offend or upset you.

    Reply
    • I’m not offended or upset, but I’m also not going to help you reason out your suicide. I wrote this after two people I loved committed suicide, as a response to hearing the word ‘selfish’ surrounding their deaths. I wrote this to try and decrease the stigma, so that life could maybe be easier for the people left behind, as suicide will always exist in one form or another. But I’m not trying to help people rationalize or logic out killing themselves.

      Reply
  24. Sam

     /  August 12, 2013

    Why do you condone suicide as if it were a good (or neutral) thing?
    I agree that suicide isn’t selfish, and I completely support euthanasia in terms of terminal diseases, but suicide is clearly not a good thing. If someone is that miserable, they need support from other people who want the person to live a happy life. We should be working on helping the depressed, not telling them it’s okay to kill themselves, because there are people who’ve attempted and/or contemplated suicide without committing the act that are much better off today, now that they recovered.
    Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

    Reply
    • AR

       /  August 15, 2013

      It isn’t “temporary” I suffer from depression. It always. Every day. Suicide is a permanent end to a pain that feels more than forever.

      Reply
  25. Victim of power games

     /  September 13, 2013

    Your logic is incomplete. Intentionally hurting people is selfish. Hurting yourself as a vehicle to hurt the people around you, or just to get attention is selfish. I’m not saying that every suicide is like that, because that clearly is not the case, but just as clearly, not everyone that commits suicide does it because they are actually better off dead. It’s one thing to talk about a terminal cancer patient’s situation, but the existence of an exception to the phrase does not mean that no suicides are selfish acts. Sure, you should be able to do whatever you want with your body, fine, but what if what you want to do with your body is ball up your fist and hit someone in the face with it? It’s your fist, so you should be able to do whatever you want with it, right? Oh but wait, you said you only believe in it so long that it does not “harm (or) affect (anybody) else.” So if your teenage child eats a bottle of aspirin to punish you for grounding them, do you really think that doesn’t affect anybody else? Do you really think that isn’t a selfish, aggressive act? What about an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse that does it because you broke up with them? You’ve mentioned some great examples that aren’t selfish, but just because I can point to 3 people with XYZ ethnic background that have never committed a crime doesn’t mean that I can say that “XYZ people don’t commit crimes” anymore than you can say that suicide is never selfish just because you have a few examples of death not being selfish.

    Reply
  26. denise

     /  February 5, 2014

    This is the only post I have ever read on suicide that I 100% agree with! Thank you for wording it perfectly imo. Here is my dilemma, I have a mental illness; most people think because a person is mentally ill they are not able to make the decision to kill themselves. I disagree with that thinking as well. Mental illness is a life long struggle. It is painful, possibly worse then cancer because we carry it with us every day and for many of us there are no medications that work.
    Mood swings, anxiety, hallucinations, psychosis, migraines and more. Most people do not see the pain we hide from the world because we often hibernate in our homes, away from people out of fear, paranoia, depression . . .
    We are judged when people find out we are on SSDI ($630.00 a month, who wants (or can) to live on that!), that we don’t work (as if it is a choice), and we are seen as mooches, lazy, leaches to society, losers. With all that, we become more and more depressed and often consider and or attempt suicide. We are made ot feel guilty and ashamed for being sick.
    I have been in the hospital several times. I spent 4 days in ICU and was angry as hell when I woke. One nurse I had said I, “wasted resources that could have been used to help someone who was ill”. hate and shame
    .
    I wish that I could say goodbye to the people I care about, i wish I could tell them it is not their fault, that they did nothing wrong! I wish I could have my friends with me when I die so I could explain to them how painful it is to live. Many of us cannot share these feeling before we die.
    It is not selfish for me to die, it is selfish of others to force me to live.
    Thank you for letting me share and comment. I wish more people felt the way you did.

    Reply
  27. Soulless1

     /  February 15, 2014

    I completely agree with you .

    Reply
  28. I used to think suicide wasnt selfish, but then my father committed suicide having 3 young kids all under the age of 14, me being the 14 year old. After dealing with people screaming at me “how can you live with yourself , you caused your dad to do kill himself”, getting threated constantly by people and not even being able to go to school anymore I now think how the hell could somebody do this to his kids. It was such a selfish thing, he didnt think about how it would effect him or anybody around him. Just because things aren’t going the way somebody want them to does not make it ok for them to kill themselves.

    Reply
  29. Emera

     /  March 18, 2014

    I just had a friend commit suicide. People are calling it selfish and I am not surprised. He left behind a couple of children, and while I do feel awful for them, the idea that his act was selfish just makes me want to scream. As if he just woke up and “lalalala” I think I’ll hang myself today. Perhaps people should consider that if you are in so much pain that you would leave behind your beautiful daughters, it might be a pain that cannot be beared. If he had had cancer, everyone would be lauding him for his bravery, blahblah. (Actually, not aleays the case. I once listened to my mother say how this guy was selfish for not doing chemo because he had kids. No words can express how awful I thought that was. Like anyone has the right to judge another person’s terminal illness). But typically, physical illness isn’t judged. Apparently many people are still in the dark ages with their understanding of mental illness. They just don’t get that it can be as deadly as heart disease or cancer. Sorry about the rant. I enjoyed reading your blog, thanks for putting this out there.

    Reply
    • You're wrong.

       /  May 17, 2014

      I nearly committed suicide during a particularly dark patch about three years ago. But then I thought of the loved ones I’d be leaving behind, and I couldn’t go through with it. It was a good thing I realized I was being selfish and decided to seek help instead of taking the easy way out. Other survivors I’ve spoken with in support groups and such have had similar raisons d’etre. It’s just morbidly amusing to me, that people who have never been suicidal themselves seem to think they know everything there is to know about it. The simple truth is, suicide can indeed be a selfish act. Not always, good heavens no. But sometimes it can be the most selfish thing a person can do. And I thank God every day that I realized that before it was too late.

      Reply
  30. HmnmNo

     /  April 15, 2014

    While I’m happy you’re this positive about the matter, your logic is extremely incomplete, which pisses me off because this is an extremely delicate subject and one to be dealt with in a responsible manner.

    Nobody should point the finger, that’s a truth. When you are personally involved however, things aren’t that simple. 1) Don’t blame the people who feel hurt because they have unsolved feelings. It’s like they’re at fault because they’re still alive and kicking. They’re not. It’s not their fault they’re suffering. They should not bite their tongues.
    2) Don’t glorify suicide. It’s not a thing to be celebrated. Watch Sala Samobójców.
    3) You say “suicide, murder, cancer, a car accident…” One of those words does not fit the list. It’s obvious, don’t act like it’s not, it weakens your argument.
    4) You say “all people should have complete agency over their bodies”. While I agree, in reality this does not always count. Some people are irresponsible, some people are childish, some people are criminals, and SOME people are bad people and incredibly, incredibly selfish.
    Everybody suffers, it’s a part of life. Some people’s suffering is a fate worse than death, so suicide seems like the only option. Nobody has a right to judge them, however it is unjust to say that suicide is never a selfish act. When you hurt others and don’t make things right, that is selfish, full stop. It just is. GIVING MONEY TO CHARITY CAN BE A SELFISH ACT, if you’re doing it for your own glory, satisfaction, salvation… What makes you think every suicide is perfectly unselfish? If you’re going to defend a point, do it right.

    And to the people looking at this article, who are thinking about wanting to commit suicide: You deserve to live. You are precious. Other people know it, now it’s your turn to figure it out: you’re loved, don’t give up, seek help. There are people around you who want to help, because you are worth it. Look for them, they’re everywhere! You are precious and you deserve to rediscover how beautiful the gift of life can be.

    Reply
  1. Let’s talk about suicide. Volunteers anyone? | Your Daily Dose

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