This post has been sitting in my WordPress drafts for maybe 2 years now. Something must have triggered me to want to address certain misconceptions on this issue. However, since I composed most of these notes so long ago, I can no longer remember what the trigger was.
I’m drawing from personal experience here, so it should go without saying that I do not speak definitively for everyone who’s ever had a suicidal thought.
Here are my observations:
Suicide makes sense in the mind of the depressed-suicidal.
In my experience, it is quite a grave mistake to think that a depressed-suicidal brain is operating on the very same logic/reasoning that the same person’s healthy (i.e. not-depressed) brain operates on. The reality is, they may be on completely different poles. The healthy version of me thinks back to the depressed-suicidal version of me and simply cannot understand why she was so close to voluntarily leaving this world. On the other hand, the depressed-suicidal version of me could not remember at all what it was like when she was healthy; when the thought of suicide would have seemed completely uncalled-for. It is like my healthy and mentally ill selves are two different people.
If someone’s suicidal tendencies don’t make sense to you, I think it would be wise to consider that healthy and mentally ill minds work very differently, before you pass judgment or try to use logic to change a suicidal person’s thoughts (that is, when you aren’t a mental health professional yourself).
I know, from experience also, that suicide, to the depressed-suicidal brain, can continue to make sense and look like a viable option even if a person has experienced first-hand grief from someone else’s suicide. In the middle of the deepest grief, when depression is also playing a role, you can be as stricken and as horrified as ever by a loved one’s death and still think, “Yes, I understand why they did what they did. I’d have done it too.”
Suicide is often a lot more selfless than it is selfish, at least to the depressed-suicidal brain.
One of the most popular arguments against suicide is that it’s such a selfish move on the part of the committer. But in the mind of the depressed-suicidal, getting rid of themselves is literally the best thing they can imagine themselves doing for their loved ones and, perhaps, for themselves. It may seem, to them, better for their loved ones if they weren’t there at all than to be there and be a constant source of disappointment; or a drain on money and resources; or a person who simply cannot find it in them ever to do what their loved ones expect of them.
There’s another way suicide may not be selfish: when the self-centered problems may not be the only problems driving an individual to feel the way they do. One may be driven towards suicide by a hopelessness about the world in general.
I often hear people argue along the lines of, “Other people have it worse than you.” While that would almost certainly be true, it only reinforces the ugliness of the world that someone else would even have to live in so many worse conditions than the suicidal person does. So the knowledge that others have it worse does not necessarily decrease a suicidal person’s willingness to die; in fact, it may do just the opposite.
(Just as an aside, I think it’s its own type of sickness to expect demand that someone be grateful because of someone else’s suffering. I can see where it comes from, but to me, it reflects a profound lack of human empathy.)
Suicide isn’t quite always an attempt to solve any problems. Instead, it may be what happens when one feels that there aren’t any solutions.
Another anti-suicide cliché goes along the lines of “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Well. Sometimes, in the mind of the depressed-suicidal, the problem isn’t quite temporary at all. Or at least, it’s only as temporary as the span of their own life. But the thing is, many suicidal people aren’t actually looking to use killing themselves as a solution to a problem. Resorting to suicide may be an acknowledgement that there aren’t any solutions to their problems. And if there aren’t solutions, it can make all the sense in a world to a depressed-suicidal brain that they might as well not keep dealing with the problems at all.