It is still unclear, when I write this, whether the death of actor Robin Williams, in an apparent suicide, is truth or a hoax. I would first like to say, isn’t it funny, perhaps odd is a better word that we live in a world where the trolls on internet forums can decide if we (virtually) live or die? What power rumors can hold over us even in adulthood? This is of far greater magnitude than middle school whispers that the kid at the end of the street made-out with his cousin or other ego-deflating lies.
I did not set out, in writing this, to speak about internet trolls and the effect they have on public perception. I did set out to talk about suicide.
Suicide is something that polarizes the population. “It is the most selfish thing someone can do.” I have heard this said many times in my 20+ years of living. I want to examine this statement. I do feel that there is an element of selfishness in the decision to kill one’s self. The word selfish is defined as: devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
To make a decision like suicide, I do feel you must put your own thoughts at the center of your world.
However, when I have conversations about suicide, I often feel the people who first use the word “selfish” have no knowledge of depression. I also find that these people have no sympathy for the people who “offed” themselves. Depression affects many people, and just because you have not truly experienced it, does not make it untrue.
You do not know the breadth of someone else’s feelings. How deep their sadness goes, how much pain they have had to endure and what they have seen.
I am not saying that suicide should ever be the solution. As my father once said, “there is no place for that much despair. You must think about siblings, parents and friends and the load you would be putting on their shoulders.” I agree with that. However, instead of first criticizing the deceased for their selfishness, I think we should think about the amount of sadness that is necessary to have those thoughts and focus our efforts on making individuals who struggle with depression feel better.
I believe words like selfish, self-interested and egoistic hurt people who have these thoughts of self-harm and push them further down the road of shame. At every turn, when we say those words, we are making people feel worse about themselves for their thoughts and what they think are solutions.
Let us look at two kinds of reactions we have when we see someone drowning. We either yell from the shore directions on how to swim better or we wade into the mucky water and physically try to help. The later shows the person that you are “in it” with them and it puts you on the same plain.
I want to be a person who wades into the muck and filth of someone’s life to show them that I am here for them and I am not going away until we are on shore together. Don’t be a person who yells from shore, “Just feel better” or “try not to be so sad all the time.” Show them how to live happier. Show them how they can experience true joy. Be their friend and live life with them.
If someone you know is contemplating suicide remember SLAP. S = Specific (Have they thought it through and know their plan) L = Lethal (is the plan lethal? How quickly could they die if plan was implemented) A = Availability (Do they have weapons or pills in their home) and P = Proximity (how close are they to helpful resources like a hospital, therapist ect.) Use these words when discussing with the suicidal person to determine how serious the person is.