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Stop Saying Suicide Is a Selfish "Choice"

Our society has come a long way in understanding the importance of taking care of mental health. Although there have been many improvements in how mental health is addressed, there is still a stigma involved, especially when it comes to suicide. One common misconception that leads to the further stigma around mental health, is that “suicide is a selfish choice.” 

Is Suicide Selfish?

To be frank, no, suicide is not a selfish act. People who contemplate suicide are often in such a state of emotional distress and pain that they don’t feel they have many choices to help end their suffering. There are many complex factors that could contribute to someone attempting suicide, but the bottom line is that people do not commit suicide out of selfishness. 

If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one to suicide, it is normal to feel guilt, anger, and loss. These feelings often make people feel as though their loved ones intentionally inflicted this pain on them. It might even feel like they didn’t consider how their death would affect others, but that is far from the truth. Many people who contemplate suicide consider deeply how their death could affect others. Many people actually attempt suicide because they feel their existence is a burden to their loved ones. They think their loved ones will live more fulfilling lives without them in the picture. As heartbreaking as it is, this means they truly are not acting selfishly but genuinely think the world is better off without them.

Suicide is Hardly a “Choice”

Often, people talk about suicide as though it is just another wrong choice to be made. Suicide is hardly a choice. It’s easy for someone on the outside looking in to consider how many different options another person has. Unfortunately, someone experiencing a mental health crisis can’t usually see their available options clearly. Intense hopelessness and emotional pain can hinder a person’s ability to think rationally. Thoughts can continue to loop and focus on the negatives while in a mental health crisis. If someone attempts suicide, it is likely because they saw that as either their best or only choice to deal with their pain.

It’s Time to Change the Way We Talk About Suicide

The way we talk about suicide as a society is important in breaking the stigma around it. Those who are struggling and are in a difficult place where they might contemplate suicide do not want to be experiencing such overwhelming pain. For people to talk about it like it’s a simple choice to be made undermines the complexities of struggling with a mental illness. Making someone with a mental illness feel like they are choosing to be that way will only add to the burdens they carry.

Practicing sympathy for those with suicidal thoughts can go a long way in helping others get the help they need. You should refrain from casting any judgment and let your loved ones know that they are not a burden. Instead of trying to find fault in who is to blame for someone feeling suicidal, it is important to accept that there are too many complex variables to comprehend how a person became suicidal. What is more helpful than casting blame is remaining compassionate and reducing the burden that those with mental health conditions feel.

How To Change The Conversation

You can work to change the way you talk and think about mental health by viewing those with mental health conditions the same way you would someone with a physical impairment. Just as someone with a heart condition may need a doctor’s care to help them stay healthy, so does someone with severe depression. 

Here are other ways that you can help change the conversation around depression:

  • Educate those around you about mental health. If you hear someone speak incorrectly about mental health, politely take the time to address any stereotypes or misconceptions by providing the facts. For instance, if you hear someone talking about how selfish suicide is, advocate for those who are burdened with mental illnesses and share how complex the topic is.
  • Talk openly about mental health. If you have a family history of depression, talk openly with your loved ones about how that might affect each of you. You never know if a family member is fighting a secret battle but is afraid to feel like a burden by opening up. Encourage conversations about mental health and regularly check in with those you love.
  • Address how the media portrays mental illness. If you are watching a movie with a loved one and notice that it might cause misconceptions about mental illnesses, talk about that. For instance, the media can often display those with depression as reckless and even violent. This inaccurate depiction of depression can make others feel embarrassed to admit they are struggling. Nobody wants to be perceived differently for their mental health. 

The Takeaway

If you take anything away from reading this, remember that suicide is not a selfish act. Those with depression are fighting with their inner demons, who make them feel isolated and like they are a burden to others. Someone in a mental health crisis who is contemplating suicide is facing a distorted perception of reality. They cannot see many options before them and just want to unburden themselves and others. 

If you or someone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, now is the right time to seek help. In a crisis, where someone is in immediate danger, call 911. If you are in a state of crisis, you can call the suicide prevention hotline at 988. The suicide prevention hotline has a network of over 200 crisis centers with trained mental health experts who provide help 24/7. You can also call us at Jackson House with any of your mental health concerns. We are here to meet you where you are and get you the help you need. Reach out to us anytime by dialing 888-255-9280.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.