In response to one of my recent posts about male suicide, my good friend published his own experiences and thoughts during his daughter’s teenage years. He wrote a comment that suggests the act of suicide is selfish but that it can sometimes be justified.
Fellow-blogger’s comments varied. “I have deep empathy for those who carry around so much pain in their heart that they can see no other option but ending their consciousness. It is tragic.”
“Suicide is selfish; what about those they leave behind? They suffer a lifetime.”
“Every person is different. In some cases, there may have been an obvious cause of the person’s unhappiness. But sometimes it is much harder to comprehend what has contributed to the hurt they carry with them.”
“I believe that people who commit suicide suffered a long time before, they just want to end the suffering. It’s a specific state of mind.”
“It brought the scale of life and death into my head. This would become an almost never-ending fight within my mind till the age of 30 maybe. It flares up, big time, during depression. The option is horrible, the fight difficult”, one blogger admitted. “We all struggle but we don’t know the struggle of others.”
My own response was:
While suicide must be devastating for those left behind, it’s not the first thought that enters your head when you’re considering ending your own life. Of course, they’ll never know why, and will always wonder if they could have done something to prevent it
Social media has a lot to answer for
Sadly, it’s become increasingly a symptom of our time and a downside of social media which highlights many teenagers ‘deficits’, ‘lack of’ and ‘must-haves’.
Social media and suicide is a relatively new phenomenon that’s swept around the world in the past decade.
Young people are using social media, admitting to being sad, lonely, depressed, and experiencing social anxiety or other anxiety disorders and eating disorders.
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, in the year 2020, approximately 1.53 million people will die from suicide. There is increasing evidence that this behaviour of using social media affects and changes people’s lives, especially teenagers, Wikipedia, 2018.
Kids’ lives are being determined by what they’re reading and seeing online, on t.v. and in glossy magazines. Unfortunately, these days our kids don’t want to work on building sites or in boring offices. They wouldn’t be seen dead working in coffee bars, high street shops, or Tesco’s. They all want to be footballers or WAGs, models and celebrities.
Youngsters feel under pressure to look a certain way, to buy clothes or make-up they can’t afford, and carry oversized and overpriced designer bags. If they feel they don’t match up to everyone else’s standards it reinforces their negative view of themselves. It impacts on their confidence, self-esteem and mental health.
And let’s not underestimate the added pressure, when they don’t fit in. There’s bullying both in person and on social media. In many cases, over the past ten years, cyberbullying has led to self-harm and suicide.
Young kids as carers
Also, lots of young people have to act as carers for their parents and siblings. Imagine having that stress as a youngster, and think about the effect that has on their mental state.
Some of our kids have to live with chronic pain or physical disabilities, and many have suffered various abuses – all of whom are/have experienced great trauma and often feel suicidal.
Suicide among our war veterans
My friend wrote about suicide among our war Veterans saying, “The evidence is just anecdotal right now because nobody has yet thought to measure such things.” I wanted to address this as it’s of great interest to me. I have family and friends who’ve been deployed to war zones many times and fortunately, they’ve all come home safe and well. I’ve also had the honour of instructing Mental Health First Aid courses to some support agencies who work with Vets.
I was on a break on one of these courses, and in the garden, there were six or so Vets. They temporarily lived in this particular hostel, having been living on the streets for up to five years. They were sitting separately with no eye contact and no engagement among them.
I instigated a conversation with one of these heroes and one by one, they all joined in. They told me, and each other how they felt about being homeless. They shared how they felt, about suicide, the lack of support, and the feeling of being let down. I could have cried when they said they all appreciated that I was there to ‘teach‘ their support teams as they felt their mental health wasn’t previously being addressed.
Veteran suicides have increased in the last few years and it’s not surprising considering what they’ve seen and had to endure. But even more than that, some have, and still are being prosecuted for doing the job they signed up to do.
Our veterans are being let down
In addition to my comments on my friend’s post, I wanted to add this short excerpt from a debate at Westminster in April 2019. Stephen Morgan, MP Labour read out: “I love my family but I hate my life. I need help. I’m scared now it hurts.”
Those are the words sent in an email to the mental health services by David Jonathon Jukes, who served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq twice, and Afghanistan.
Despite what he did for his country, David was let down in his time of need. He was let down in 1997, when he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but still deployed to a war zone. He was failed many times thereafter. On 9 October 2018, David Jonathon Jukes, a veteran of five conflicts, took his own life.
Morgan went on to say that there are about 5 million members of the armed forces community in the UK, and about 15,000 men and women leave service each year. It is important to stress that the majority of those individuals do not experience a decline in mental health upon their transition to civilian life, but we are here to talk about those who do.
Last year, 58 veterans took their own life. That’s a shocking statistic—but most importantly, a shocking loss of life.
Suicide doesn’t make sense
I know and appreciate suicide doesn’t make sense to many but if you haven’t walked a mile in someone else’s shoes……… if you haven’t seen their darkness……….. if you haven’t felt their pain……. or if you haven’t heard their cries……..
What is a ‘mountain’ for some is a ‘molehill’ for others. People have different levels of coping skills; some don’t have any at all, and often for some, the various pressures build up, one on top of the other — until they feel they just can’t go on when they can’t see any other way to relieve their suffering.
There’s often outcry that it’s a selfish act or a bad thing but I, like many others, have twice seriously considered taking my own life. Once after the breakdown of my relationship with my sons’ father (which led to psychotic depression) and the second time when I was struck down with this damned illness, Transverse Myelitis because I felt like I couldn’t live if I was left paralysed.
Thankfully, I regained the ability to walk but still had to be medically retired from the job that I loved as a Mental Health Nurse/Ward Manager and Mental Health First Aid Instructor. The one thing that stopped me from dying by suicide was that I didn’t want to leave my sons and my now-partner of 11 years with that legacy.
In hindsight (isn’t it a wonderful thing), of course, I’m really happy to have seen my sons through University, watched them receive 7 degrees, 3 Masters and 1 PhD between them (proud mama moment), to have witnessed one getting married recently (hopeful of the next one – my other son that is) and to have spent some amazing times travelling with my partner.
Am I selfish
I still experience terrible flashbacks, nightmares where I’m woken by my own screaming, shouting and kicking out, depression and anxiety, constant automatic negative thoughts (ANTs)), suicidal thoughts and ideation but I don’t have the intent. I don’t want all of this and despite my mental health training, knowledge and skills to teach and support others, the counselling I’ve had and the medication I still take — all these things still occur! Like it or not, I’m stuck.
The real tragedy of suicide is that it’s a permanent solution to what should be a temporary problem.
Note: I use the term ‘die by suicide‘ as opposed to ‘commit suicide‘ which smacks of a crime (which, incidentally it was up until sixty years ago in the UK).
Did you have any thoughts or feelings (psychologically or physically) as you read this post? I’m really interested in what you think and feel about suicide.
If you think someone might be suicidal, ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don’t be afraid to do this, it shows you care and will actually decrease their risk because it shows someone is willing to talk about it. Make sure you ask directly.
Seek professional support
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please seek professional support. ITV This Morning programme recently put together this useful list of helplines where you can find more information and advice.
NHS Choices – Suicide
Comprehensive help and information from NHS Choices with links to external websites.
Tel: 116 123
Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however, they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123 email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.
Text Shout to 85258
Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.
MindInfoline: 0300 123 3393
Elefriends online support community
The MindinfoLine offers thousands of callers confidential help on a range of mental health issues. Mind helps people take control of their mental health. We do this by providing high-quality information and advice, and campaigning to promote and protect good mental health for everyone. They also provide a special legal service to the public, lawyers and mental health workers.
HOPELINEUK – 0800 068 4141
Support for anyone under 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide, or anyone concerned that a young person may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Helpline: 0800 58 58 58
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) works to prevent male suicide and offers support services for any man who is struggling or in crisis. CALM’s helpline 0800 58 58 58 and web chat are for men in the UK who need to talk or find information and support. The services are open 5pm–midnight daily and are free, anonymous and confidential. For access or to find more information visit thecalmzone.net
Helpline: 0800 11 11
ChildLine is a counselling service for children and young people. You can contact ChildLine in these ways: You can phone 0800 1111, send us an email, have a 1-2-1 chat with us, send a message to Ask Sam and you can post messages to the ChildLine message boards. You can contact ChildLine about anything – no problem is too big or too small. If you are feeling scared or out of control or just want to talk to someone you can contact ChildLine.
is an online counselling service that provides vulnerable young people, between the ages of 11 and 25, with advice and support for emotional or mental health problems. Kooth.com offers users a free, confidential, safe and anonymous way to access help.
Helpline: 0808 802 5544
Parents’ Information Service gives advice to parents or carers who may be concerned about the mental health or emotional well-being of a child or young person.
Helpline: 0808 808 4994
Life’s tough, we know that. It can throw a lot your way and make it hard to know what the hell to do with it all. So, welcome to The Mix. Whether you’re 13, 25, or any age in between, we’re here to take on the embarrassing problems, weird questions, and please-don’t-make-me-say-it-out-loud thoughts you have. We give you the information and support you need to deal with it all.
Students Against Depression
Students Against Depression is a website offering advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources, it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves – after all, who are better placed to speak to their peers about how depression can be overcome.
Tel: 020 7263 7070
At Maytree, we provide people in the midst of a suicidal crisis with the opportunity for rest and reflection and give them the opportunity to stay in a calm, safe and relaxed environment. We can support four “guests” at a time. The service runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our warm and friendly volunteers and staff team spend up to 77 hours with each guest over their stay, giving them the opportunity to talk through their fears, thoughts and troubles.
20 thoughts on “Many people think suicide is a selfish act”
I’m sorry if I suggested that suicide was selfish because that was not my intention.
I do think, though, that if we break the law, we should expect to be prosecuted. Whether we happen to be wearing a uniform or not doesn’t really come into it. So, if a soldier acts illegally, I have no problem sending them to jail. Sure, it puts them under pressure to make the correct decision in possibly just a split second, but that is absolutely what they sign up for.
No worries Pete. I guessed I might have taken it out of context. With the soldiers, we might have to agree to disagree – it’s that split second 🙁
In fact, I was thinking more about this selfishness aspect. If anything, it could, *could*, go the other way. We know that in life, somebody is going through a sufficiently bad time that they wish to end it. And yet, we’d like them to stay alive and endure some more. *That* might have its roots in selfishness, far as I can see.
I get ya 🙂 Yep, if one of my loved ones wanted to die by suicide, I’d be selfish in not wanting them to. Caz x
As I blogged about last year, I had strong daily suicide intentions between middle of August to October. After that it was not as strong and often. My last suicide intention was December. But it was just more a 5 minute thought, then anything. I have not had one since.
During the strongest point, I was scared. It was first time feeling like this after all that went on last year.
What stopped me was that I wasn’t going to put my friends through what my mum has put me through.
I get it Liz. Mine often fluctuate too and thankfully, I have no actual intent. So I try to let them pass…
This article is oh so true. I am hanging onto this article in my archives . Suicide is definitely at a high rate and getting higher. I problem that does need to be addressed. Is suicide selfish no I don’t think so.
Glad you found it useful 🙂
I would occasionally make threats of suicide when I was younger and really upset, but realistically I think I was just crying for help and/or attention. I don’t know that I would have ever had the guts to go through with it.
One time, let’s see, I remember which class I was in when this happened, so it would have been early 1991, I was 14… I was having a bad day at school (I forget why, probably something silly), and I said that I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t have a plan or anything, I think I just wanted attention. There were three girls and me sitting at the table where I said this, and one of them I really liked but she was way out of my league (Kim Jensen, I’ve mentioned her occasionally in my blog, that’s not her name in real life and we aren’t still in touch). I wanted her to have pity or act like she cared or something. The next day, the school counselor called me in and asked if I was okay, because someone had told her that I said I wanted to kill myself. I’m pretty sure I knew which girl sitting near me had said something. I felt bad for wasting everyone’s time, since I wasn’t really going to do anything. But in hindsight, I’m so glad she said something, because you can never be too careful when someone is going through stuff like that.
I didn’t stay in touch with any of those people after high school. The fourth one in our group, the one I haven’t mentioned yet, she was the first one to find me in the social media era. She had stayed in touch with the girl who said something, and maybe five years ago I recognized that girl (with a different last name) in a comment on our mutual friend’s Facebook, and I got to thank her for saying something, a quarter-century later.
You’re right, whether you meant it or not, it was great that someone told a teacher/counsellor. Who knows? The girl concerned was worried enough to tell someone. It’s best never to ignore it.
Nope, I don’t believe suicide is selfish. Well written post!
I’ve never made suicide attempts but to even want to die and then even have the intent — that distress needs to be met with compassion. I’ve had passive suicidal ideation for a very long time, since I was a child. It’s only started getting significantly better in the past 5 years thanks to getting the help I needed
Thank you for your kind comments. Sorry to hear you too have experienced suicidal ideation. I know how frightening it feels, always on the edge, wondering whether to do it, when. No one wants this 🙁
I’ve said it all in your post already 🙂 Due to Pete’s post and yours I told my partner for the first time about my thoughts. It’s easier to tell because the thoughts are a bit on the back burner now.
He was a bit shocked but very understanding. Ideas are not the same as a plan of action.
My doctor counted the pills he prescribes to me for the first time. I have nothing more than I need. I guess I am maybe in remission now.
AAaaww, that’s good news that you’ve told Pierre and I got the feeling that he would understand 🙂 Like you said Kacha, those thoughts are on the back burner for now but I guess it’s always easier to explain to someone if we say suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation which is a bit different from intent. It’s less frightening for them to listen too. Well done my lovely 🙂
Of course, we didn’t know all this when we were younger. And it’s only when I went into therapy and the psychiatrist asked: “If we could take away all the negative thoughts, would you still want to be dead?” I didn’t actually want to be dead, I just wished all the problems were gone and the only way to explain it was to say “I wish I was dead.” or “I want to kill myself.”
Conversation and sympathy go a long way. Thank you for continuing the conversation, x
Big hugs x
This was a really ….needed post . Yup people do feel suicidal at times but what stops them is thinking that they won’t want some loved one to go through same mental prisons as them , so many unanswered questions , them not being at fault , just the situations and own thoughts to be blamed but still those left behind will suffer , just try to be in the shoes of those who you are leaving behind , you won’t want to loose someone you love , would you ? ☺
Glad you found it useful Anshika. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Caz x
Thank you for addressing this complex topic with an aim towards being compassionate for the suffering that leads too many people to death. That’s a very good way to put it, that suicide is “a permanent solution” to problems that may yet change. Extreme suffering can lead to the illusion that nothing will ever change, despite the fact that in this world, all is in a constant state of flux. Or maybe a change happens and we desperately want to go back but can’t.
Thank you for your kind and well thought out comments. I appreciate you taking the time to respond and I’m so looking forward to finding out a bit more about you if you accept the Sunshine Blogger Award 🙂