May is regarded as Mental Health Awareness month in the US. With the untimely passing of football great Junior Seau, the act of committing suicide has thrust to the forefront of my mind.
2 people close to me have committed suicide over the course of my life. And like many, I found myself confused and disheartened that I couldn’t save them. I asked myself so many times “why didn’t I see it?”, “what could I have done differently?” As I navigated through the stages of grief, the anger set in and I wondered “How could you do this to me?”, “why didn’t you ask me for help?”. But my moment of acceptance didn’t come until last week. Sometimes when your precious loved one leaves you without answers, you get to the point of asking yourself, “can I love them enough to let them go?”
I was moved to tears watching Junior Seau’s mother plead to her God not to take her son. All parents, especially mothers, cannot bear the soul-wrenching feeling of seeing shovels of the loosened earth cover their child at an age far too young. Yet what we must realize is that suicide is a last resort that may be too heavy of a solution for loved ones to handle. Junior Seau’s death is a unique situation. But every day, people are living with mental diseases or fighting addictions that are slowly chipping away at their very mental fiber.
Society as a whole sees suicide as the single most selfish thing a person can do; to themselves and their family. We feel like we can dictate the lives of people whose journeys we aren’t at a vantage point to comprehend. We all talk about what they leave behind and how much damage it does. But what we don’t do is step outside of ourselves to think about the internal turmoil that individual is going through. We haven’t conditioned ourselves to be more empathetic and accept that even the most ardent individuals have pain that we can’t see. If you can’t see a problem, you can’t analyze it. And if you can’t analyze it, you can’t fix it.
The stigma that’s made suicide seem as a weak, selfish act has to be removed by facing the truth that we as functions of society can’t fix everything. There was a time in my life where things were so chaotic and nothing I was doing was right. I had lost my youngest brother, my father and my sister all within a year. I knew my family loved me, I knew my girlfriend and friends loved me. But I sat in my apartment one night, stared at a bottle of vicodin and really thought about life on the other side. The only thing that pulled me off the ledge was that I knew I still had some things I wanted to accomplish. It sounds cliche, but the little voice in my head was screaming “don’t be stupid, J”. I’m fortunate that voice was there.
Not everybody laments in that manner though. We have to respect that we can’t decide when someone else should’ve did more or tried harder. Even though emotionally we’re unable to process the act of suicide, know that for the individual it wasn’t a choice. It was their resolution.
Do you consider suicide is a selfish act? Why do you think society in general views suicide as “selfish”?