Sunday, 17 November 2013

The supposed 'selfishness' of suicide

The M42 motorway was closed for well over 24 hours from 12pm yesterday (and well into this evening) following the news that a man was threatening to jump off of one of the motorway bridges.

Diversions were made and many motorists were urged to seek alternative routes but regardless, as can be imagined, traffic was ultimately brought to a standstill and commuters were left stuck for several hours.

As per, these people took to Twitter as their means of release, and posted comments on websites such as 'The Mirror' and other daily newspaper websites, outing what can only be described as foul and abhorrent language used to describe the incident, some saying that the man clearly didn't want to die otherwise he would have already jumped, that he was 'selfish' (a term I'll discuss later on), attention-seeking and that he should have 'just jumped'.

Waking up to this was obviously extremely disheartening and unsettling, I went about my day constantly worrying about this man, clearly extremely distressed and one seeing no other option than the option of suicide. (I must add that luckily, the man has now been talked down from said bridge and detained - and without the amazing support from the emergency services that would never have been possible).

We often hear of suicide being seen as a 'disruption' towards commuters. As a commuter myself, travelling to and from University, I read regular updates on how particular services have been disrupted because of a 'passenger underneath a train' or some similar incident. But I do not, and will never, approach these incidents with the same sort of vulgarity in which I have seen demonstrated across Twitter feeds this morning. I express compassion, heartbreak and empathy knowing that for that one person, there seemed no other option. And there's no turning back from it now and they'll never know the chances and the opportunities they would have to rebuild their life and turn it around for the better. And that's what I feel.

As most of you no doubt already know, I have experienced strong suicidal thoughts many times, especially during the November of 2010, shortly after my 18th birthday, and I have been struck with suicidal thoughts at least once a year since then, the most recent being the July of this year. I'll try and explain them the best I can, even though I find it difficult. As one who is suicidal, in my case, you feel nothing. Your head is fogged and unable to think clearly or put rationality into perspective. Pain, for the suicidal, has no limit until you're dead. You can continue self-injuring and numbing yourself for so long but in reality, the harsh reality is, you are still alive. And the depression, or whatever illness succumbs you, tells you that to be at peace, you must be dead. The thought of death can be the only pre-occupying thought you'll ever have. Sometimes you act on impulse. I know there have been times where I've stood and not even bothered to look before I cross a road because I don't care whether I get hit, I'd rather I get hit, I'd rather be dead. Your illness tells you that your family, they don't care anymore. They'd rather you rot into a hole in the ground and be gone before your very eyes. The burden of the illness is so strong, so weighing, so triumphing that the only way to eliminate it, is to eliminate your life. It's an all-consuming, horrid way to live, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

The last thing these people think of before jumping infront of that train or off of that bridge is whether you'll be able to get home from work this evening. And that isn't down to selfishness. Their illness is the one who is being selfish. I see my illness, in particular, as a separate being from myself, and whilst I know this isn't the case for all I know it is for many. I see my depression as someone entirely separate, that lives inside of me and occasionally feels like it is expanding, and growing upon me, a weight. Sometimes, the weight relieves itself, but when it rises, it rises so much that you're completely void of any action. It tells you, that death is an easy option. 'Fighting is pointless. You won't achieve anything if you fight. You're just fighting to end up right back at the beginning again. I'll keep weighing you down and weighing you down until you lose' and that's how it ends up. The force becomes too strong and that is when impulse takes over, when jumping in front of a train seems like the right thing to do. Just anything to exit this inner mental torture.

And that's why it grows on me so much when people refer to the suicidal as 'selfish'. How can they be selfish when all too often a lot of suicidal patients have the complete incapability to have any rational thoughts in the first place. Unless you have been in the situation of a suicidal person you have no RIGHT to acclaim that they are selfish or attention seeking. In a way, I feel pleased for the ones that have never had to endure this and the turmoil it places on it's victims. Yet this level of ignorance is not acceptable and I find it shocking to believe (although today has proven to be so) that we prioritise traffic over someone's innocent, fragile life. If you take yourself out of the situation of someone who knows nothing about mental illness and for one moment imagine that you'd received a phone call or a knock on the door from the emergency services saying that your son, daughter, parent, or other relative had been at the top of a bridge for over 24 hours threatening to jump and had been successfully coaxed down - I can imagine you'd be damn well grateful that the motorway was closed for as long as it was. Likewise, if you'd discovered that your son, daughter, parents or other relative had died after traffic was allowed to flow through the M42 after they were threatening to jump off of the bridge and therefore they had jumped, you'd be absolutely livid that it had been allowed to occur. Infact, the ones who accuse the suicidal of being selfish are selfish themselves for automatically assuming that their journey and their life is far more important and need not be disrupted to save the life of this man.

Another accusation plundered across the internet was that the act was cowardly. I honestly, and this is my personal opinion, find the act of suicide extremely brave. I have never been brave enough to go through it, though many times have been desperate to, and sometimes I hated myself for that. In some lights, I would argue that I have a fear of death, yet the power to die, is one that is so strong.  Your life was given to you, by whatever means you believe in, and to take it away means quite literally that everything you've ever known, is gone, in a flash. You can't take suicide back once it's been done. It takes one powerful being to make the decision to end their life and one who to me is rather courageous. What is done cannot be undone. It can't be the 'easy way out' for some. When you are so ill, there is no other way out.

People who end their own lives are ill. And that is what many of the ignorant and insulting fail to realise. If you have a broken arm/leg, the likelihood is that you're not able to drive or not able to play sports. If you have a broken mind, the likelihood is that the desire to live your life just simply won't exist any more. For some, that internal pain is too much to bear.

I'd like to thank you all for reading todays post. It was a difficult one, by any means, but I had to write it. I'd also like to give all of my credit to the phenomenal efforts of the emergency services for helping to achieve the conclusion that was met today.
Please remember that there is help out there if you need it and a life out there that is better than one you could ever imagine. If you are currently experiencing suicidal feelings or ideation, please contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.


  1. This is beautifully written and so, so true. Thank you.

  2. This is a great post. Fantastically written and clearly thought out. I agree with it being nothing but brave - the cowardly thing to do would be to jump xxx

  3. I've shared this post, I totally agree with you. Nicely written :)

  4. excellent post, and for one that has lost family members to suicide this gives me another layer a great depth to my knowledge base, very brave to share, thank you.

  5. Unfortunately, the responses that you saw on Twitter and in the papers are a sad reflection of society today. We, as a society in general, have become very "me" focussed. Is this going to disrupt my plans? When am I going to get to wherever? That sort of thing. And we do it so fast and on the spur of the moment that we don't think of the wider ramifications of the things we say.

    Maybe, the "me" thought should really be, "There but for the Grace of God go I" because a person doesn't understand what a person like the one in question is thinking until they unfortunately find themselves in that place.

    A case, most definitely, of engaging the brain before opening the mouth, or in today's instant society, pressing the "Send" icon.

    As usual, a thoughtful blog post.

  6. Love love love your blog and this is such a brilliantly well put post. Keep going! X

  7. Excellent piece. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry you have been to the depths as you have but you are so brave to come out of the other side and use your voice. What I saw on twitter yesterday and the day before sickened me. I am just relieved the guy is safe now and also that at least there were some compassionate, empathetic people out there trying to challenge the stigma and rife judgement of the situation. Will RT your piece (@cekxoxo)xxx