Suicide: Is It a Selfish Act?

Since we have just passed through Christmas, the highest suicide period of the year, I thought it was time to address this taboo, yet all-too-common, topic. What do you think about people who commit suicide?

This is an interesting question and one that produces a variety of responses. Some people go through their entire lives untouched by the specter of suicide; others have been exposed to it through the deaths of friends or family members. Others still have attempted suicide and have lived to tell the tale. And then there are those who think about it, yet do not take action.

It is often said that people who commit suicide are selfish. I heard this as a child and I’ve heard it as an adult. I heard it just before Christmas. When I was younger I think that I agreed with the people who claimed it was a selfish act, because it seemed that those left behind suffered terribly and that is why the person responsible was held to be selfish. And those who are left behind do suffer terribly. There is no doubt that being emotionally close to a person who commits suicide is a painful experience. It is often an experience that brings up so many painful feelings: guilt, anger, unending grief, and the big one: “why?”

However, I no longer believe that people who commit suicide are selfish. And I wonder just what on earth I was thinking of when I did have these thoughts. Clearly I wasn’t thinking at all.

From my years of talking to and working with highly distressed people, I know very well why people commit suicide. And yet, just before Christmas this year, a friend of a friend committed suicide. I did not know the person who committed suicide but I did know a couple of the dead woman’s friends and it was interesting to note their response to the death.

Actually, I was quite shocked. Next blog, I will tell you why.

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