Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My "Failures"

So...why do people kill themselves?

I can only speak from personal experience, but I suspect it is only when experiencing great pain - mentally or physically, and that there is no hope for relief of that pain.

After a suicide, one often hears "I don't understand why. They had everything to live for, and no reason to do this."

You never hear anyone say this about someone dying from a terminal illness. They have visibly struggled, and succumbed to an obvious sickness.

Someone who dies from a mental illness has put up a great fight. The will to live is strong. In dying, they have lost only after a long struggle with psychosis or severe depression.

My suicide attempts came after periods of great stress that eroded my resilience. I had initially been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and Darth Vader was a depression-induced psychosis. I really didn't want to die, but the voice I was hearing and the emotional pain I was feeling drove me to the brink.

I was scared what people would think, and hid it well from everyone. If I had succeeded in killing myself, people would have been baffled.

This is a good example of how stigma can kill.

One thing really bothers me, though. Why do people refer to my incidents as "failed suicide attempts?" I mean - holy crap - I somehow survived! How is that a failure? Talk about kicking someone when they're down. It really makes me feel badly - like I can't even kill myself properly. Wow.

Would we ever call a cancer survivor a "failed cancer victim?" Or someone who survives a car accident a "failed highway fatality?" I don't think so.

The next time you hear about someone committing suicide, or having attempted suicide, please remember these things:

1. Suicide is the end stage of an illness, not a "bad choice."
2. Rather than saying that someone committed suicide, say that they died of mental illness. (Suicide is not a disease, just a mechanism).
3. No matter how unexpected it may be to you, they had a long and difficult fight before succumbing.

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